I hope everyone had a great 4th! The 4th of July is always a reminder to me that I have a lot to be thankful for: having autonomy over my mind, body and behavior, living in a place where I feel safe, having the ability to be myself, and above all, having a reason to spread kindness.
I emphasize on this last one because believe or not, having a reason to be kind is a privilege in many ways. Often times we look down on the people who are not kind to us. It’s so easy to judge them and to look at them differently, when the real problem is a lack of understanding on our parts. Those who are kind to others are those who have seen what kindness can do, and those who have not been can become mean because of it, and since they are cast away because of this, the cycle can continue perpetually. I know that I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely had my moments when I could have made a different and better choice. But all the same, I’m grateful to have realized that kindness is infectious; you can spread it by showing kindness as much as you possibly can.
You might wonder, how is kindness relevant to health? In my opinion, kindness is one of the easiest forms of practicing community health because it is so infectious. Often times, we see people struggling with mental illnesses like depression, anorexia, bipolar disorder, among others, and behavior disorders, like autism. Many of us struggle in figuring out how to speak to people who these disorders in a way that is not disrespectful. This usually comes off as the awkward shifting around, untrustworthy glances, and often very rude behavior. The underlying reason of this is that we are unable to understand their behavior. After all, we can only view the world through one pair of eyes, right? It’s expected that we aren’t going to understand everyone that we see. But it’s undeniable that the behavior of the people around a person can influence their thoughts and behavior. This is a crucial realization in order to be able to engage in community treatment.
Engaging in community health with kindness is not as simple as it sounds. Above anything, it requires you to be patient with yourself and with other people. It requires the realization that it will take time for you to get to know and try to empathize with those who you cannot understand, and it’s very likely that along the way, you will make mistakes. It’s also very likely that the people you interact with might have trouble putting their trust in you, might be mean at times, especially if they often feel misunderstood, and might make mistakes in this process, too. In the end, one thing that you and they have in common is that you are both good people, and you both lead unique and different lives. All good people have moments of unkindness, even though who are lucky enough to have caught kindness in their lives.
So, if you make a mistake, DON’T beat yourself up for it. DO take a step back, reflect on it, and learn from it. At times, it will be hard to face your mistakes, and it might be even harder to continue and try to show kindness to those who might always be unkind to you. But kindness does have its payoffs, and that’s why it’s worth it. When someone finally returns your kindness to you, you will know that you have done your duty of giving someone else to be kind, so that they can now give someone else a reason to be kind. You’ve started a chain reaction that can’t be stopped. You’ve shared your wealth, and that rewarding feeling makes you realize that even if kindness was all you had to offer, you would still be able to make a difference in the lives of others.