AND Kindness Is a Gift

December 7th, 2014

As we enter the holiday season and start rushing around to buy gifts and send cards, I want to pause to reflect on gift giving. What strikes me these days is how list-driven and over-scheduled we have become as a society. Heaven forbid that we pause to collect thoughts and change our plans to accommodate what is happening in any given moment that is not on our list. We rush past people and don’t even see them.

As I was standing outside in the cold last night, wandering around the property as the electrician tried (unsuccessfully) to get the security lights to pick up my movement so he could set them, a neighbor walked up the beach to say hello. I had only met her once before, as she doesn’t live in the nearby house and only returns occasionally in the summer to visit. She stopped to talk, thinking we were hanging Christmas lights.

It was cold and I had been outside for close to forty minutes trying to help the electrician do the lights. And while I answered her questions to be friendly, I was definitely focused on getting the task done so I could go inside where it was warm. And as I felt torn between casual conversation with a neighbor and the electrician, I felt a desire to respond kindly, even as I told the neighbor that I really needed to get back to the electrician. She expressed appreciation and wandered back home.

And it struck me that there is one gift every one of us can give, because it is within the reach of the humblest and requires only conscious intention. That gift is kindness. Kindness is not self-sacrifice. It is not only other-directed. It is a way of being with ourselves and with others.

Kindness requires that we stop to respond with gentleness and generosity of heart, to see and acknowledge, and to meet people wherever they are—with no expectation of response. Kindness has no strings attached. It is generally wrapped and delivered in a pleasing package—a smile, focused pause, eye contact.

In this holiday season, may we each be kind to ourselves. It’s time to skip the critical judgments and guilt over things we cannot control or wish we had done differently. May we also pause to be kind towards others. A little more patient, a little less rigid, a little more gentleness delivered with a little more smile and eye contact. A warm greeting can feel like a great gift to someone who often feels unseen. An understanding smile towards a young parent with a screaming child can alleviate stress and make the parent feel welcome and valued.

The words from a verse of the Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy, include I have no gift to give…May I play for Him? These words are a great reminder that the gift we can all bring that may mean the most this season is kindness. And it is truly a gift when given consciously.

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