“Kindness Matters” is the theme at my daughter’s elementary school this year. The teachers recognize students who have been “caught” by another student performing a random act of kindness. They are teaching students to look for kindness in everyday life. As adults, it’s important for us to notice when we see acts of kindness.
We may need to walk into or stay in an uncomfortable situation–maybe hang out with someone who is a little different from us. We may need to engage in a dialogue with someone and ask them questions about their life. We may need to “just listen,” to be present with someone while they are going through a difficult time. We may even get “burned” if we open up to someone or ask them to open up to us. They might take us for granted, or take advantage of our kindness in some way.
Does this mean that we take back our kindness? Or do we stop offering kindness?
We don’t let the fact that we have been burned keep us from offering light to those who may be lurking in the shadows. We continue to believe in the goodness of people.
Does this mean that we become a doormat and let people walk all over us?
Part of showing kindness and compassion is setting boundaries. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is set boundaries. The challenge is often found in the ability to set boundaries AND to show kindness AT THE SAME TIME. In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says, “The most compassionate people I interviewed also have the most well-defined boundaries. It surprised me at the time, but now I get it. They assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don’t put up with a lot of crap.”
This is a lifelong process for all of us. It is especially true for those of us who have chosen a career as a mental health professional, whether a teacher or social worker, nurse or therapist, doctor or law enforcement officer. We face circumstances on a regular basis that could cause us to question our faith in humanity. I hope that we will remember the lessons being taught in my daughter’s elementary school. I hope that my daughter will “catch” me showing acts of kindness in my everyday life. I have to remember that it starts with a choice. It starts with a simple choice to shift my focus, to notice the good in others, and to realize that a simple act of kindness can make a difference.
It’s ok to set boundaries. It’s actually NECESSARY for us to set boundaries. One way we set these boundaries is by taking time for ourselves. We need time to recharge our battery. When we feel renewed, we are more able to see clearly, to see the good in others and to see those who are in need.
So whatever it takes for you to refill your cup, rekindle your fire, recharge your battery and rest your weary soul–do it. Please, please, please – do whatever it takes. We need you out there on the frontlines and in the trenches and in the shadows. We need your light. We need your love. We need your kindness. We need you at your best.