Suburban Snapshots

A Guide to Practical Kindness

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I love that so many people are taking part in the 26 days of kindness that's been going on in the wake of the Newtown tragedies. Friends have been covering the tolls and drive-thru orders of strangers behind them; everyone is trying to bring a little more peace and light in the wake of such a massive heartbreak.

I haven't bought coffee for a stranger in line or paid another driver's toll, mostly because I'm cheap but also because I know there are things I can do consistently, all the time, to help spread good will and reduce some of our collective negative energy pollution. Here are 10 ideas for practical kindness:

  1. Compliment a stranger - if you like that sweater, or hair cut, or the way that dad just comforted his kid, tell them.  
  2. Honk less - some people are bad drivers, some are just confused. Let the guy who didn't merge until the last possible second get ahead of you, and thank the woman who let you cut over in traffic.
  3. Make small talk - the mom sitting alone at gymnastics is probably intimidated by the regulars. Ask her how long she's been coming, or which gymnast is hers.
  4. Give the benefit of the doubt - sometimes, people do inconsiderate things on purpose, but more often it's out of ignorance. Forgiveness feels better than a grudge.
  5. Be a good guest - show up with wine, and don't leave before helping with the dishes.
  6. Be patient - yes, the person in front of you has too many items in express, the guy in the fast lane is doing the speed limit. If you're not in late-stage labor, you can wait.
  7. Hug hello - I love a good hug, and I will hug the hell out of you. If ever there were a time to be more affectionate than usual, this is it. Just don't get all Creepy Uncle.
  8. Have company - open your home to new friends, make someone feel welcome. Comfort goes such a long way.
  9. Wave to your neighbors - the old man who walks his dog past your house, the kids on their bikes, the mailman. Don't feel weird, I'm from New York and I manage to do it. 
  10. Put your gadgets down - your attention is more of a gift than you know. I am such an offender here, but I promise to try.
Let's all just be a little bit better to each other, for a very long time. Merry Christmas to all of you.

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