Kindness is NOT a Bad Word

Kindness isn’t an ally of foolishness or gullibility, but rather an ally of wisdom and courage.

I found this quote from  Sharon Salzberg over on the Beliefnet and found it a useful reminder to plod on in my kindness evangalism.  There have been times when I have said the word kindness that I have seen people roll their eyes, anticipating something unpleasant or perhaps automatically pegging me as flaky or whatever.  When did the word Kind come to represent a concept that is worthy of eye rolls?  When did the concept of kindness become a synonym for weakness or flakiness or something inappropriate to discuss?

I like to think that only goodness can come from an act of kindness.  Cultivating kindness at work makes us better at our jobs.

Danish Police Hug Bicyclists! Spread the Love!!!

The most excellent bloggers over at Boing Boing recently posted this amazing video of the police in Denmark stopping bicyclists who were not wearing helmets, hugging them and giving them free helmets.

There are so many things right with this idea.  Can you imagine this happening here?  I wish it would.  I would love to see the police in Portland, OR or any other bike loving city, stopping cyclists, hugging them and handing out helmets and lights.  It would accomplish mutliple goals:  it would raise awareness of bicycle safety, help mend the sometimes strained relationship between the police department and the cycling community and it’s just great PR for the police department.  It sends the perfect message:  Hey, we care about you, please wear this helmet!

We probably can’t go around literally hugging our customers; but, how can we show them we care?  We can take the time to really listen and help.  We can try to say yes.  We can make requests politely and kindly.  We can make “going the extra mile” just normal practice.  We can smile and greet them.  We can thank them.  We can be fully present.  We can meet them where they are.  We can listen to their suggestions.  We can ask them what they need.  We can get rid of rules that are unnecessary.  We can create policies that expand service, improve atmosphere or in some way make it easier for customers to have a positive, satisfying experience at the library.  We can start our days with good intentions.  We can make a grouchy coworker laugh.  There are at least a million more things we can do to show them we care.

Also:  As a person who survived a scooter accident because I was wearing a helmet, please, please, please where a helmet when you are riding a bike, a scooter, a motorcycle, a skateboard, etc.  I care about your safety, well being and quality of life.

D’oh!: The Joy of The Simpsons

photo: hiro008

photo: hiro008

The Simpsons are in their 20th season and were recently renewed for another 2 seasons, helping them surpass Gunsmoke as the longest running, prime time television series.

I was surprised that they’ve been around for 20 years.  It really didn’t seem that long ago that the world was introduced to the wacky family from Springfield.  I am no Simpson’s expert or even passable trivia buff; but, I am a fan and in my fading recollections, the early episodes were dominated by a surlier Homer and bratty Bart.  In fact, much of the protesting about the Simpsons was about the violence between Homer and Bart and the naughtiness of Bart.  People predicted the downfall of the family and the eroding of our religious institutions.  But, the brillance of the Simpsons is that it is a cartoon filled with good neighbors, love of family, faith and kindness and it is painfully funny.

I particularly like Ralph and his odd little comments and Marge and Lisa’s unending well of goodness and faith in their fellow humans.  And I love the church signs and the occasional appearance of the Springfield Public Library.  One of my favorite scenes is when the Simpsons go to the public library’s book sale.  There is a banner that says:  Library Book Sale.  Yes, we have pornography! And this nugget from Homer:

A library selling books?  If I don’t want ’em for free, why would I want to pay for ’em?

This is the absurdity of the Simpson’s that is so brilliantly funny and thought provoking at the same time.  Any librarian that was around for Dr. Laura’s assault on libraries and the American Library Association, would find the Simpson’s subtle dig deeply satisfying.

I was musing on my last post about the mopefest it seems we have all been participating in, myself included and I realized that there are times when I turn to the Simpsons for comfort.  I don’t own a TV (not because of some highbrow ideas about the quality of television shows…simply because I can’t be trusted with one….i’d never get anything done.) and when I’m particularly bummed, I find myself watching Simpsons episodes on my laptop.

I’m instantly transported to Springfield.  My mood lifts.  Laughing is almost guaranteed and we all know how good laughing is for us.  Norman Cousins relieved himself of arthritis pain with doses of the Marx Brothers.  Harvard recently released a study that confirmed what we all kind of knew anyway–smiling is contagious.

You may not partake in the joy of Homer as i do; but, go find your own version of my Simpsons induced joy, laugh a little or a lot!  And pass it on.

Mopefest 2009: Are you blue?

Photo: Megan Ann

Photo: Megan Ann

It’s been a mopefest around here.  The headlines are depressing.  Our customers have seemed stressed and sadder than usual.  We have sadness in our ranks for various personal reasons.  I’ve been moping around myself.  I actually took a personal day on Monday just to sleep (long story).

How do I best serve the public when the general consensus is sadness?  How do we bear witness to their problems (as many are eager to share) without it taking the shine off of our own attitudes?  A question about getting a vistitor’s pass to the internet turns into a story about trying to apply for a job online though the person has never used a computer.  What seemed like a skill of convenience last year (learning how to surf the internet), now all of sudden seems like a necessity.

And all the people trooping in to apply for unemployment though they have little internet experience.  The number of people asking for advice is way up: what form should I use?  How do I answer this question? How long will this take?  And yet, they ask questions we can’t answer.  We can refer them to free tax help, social services, job search workshops, even our own in house drop in job search tutoring sessions; but, it is little solace in that moment.

I’ve been asking myself these questions lately because I can feel the sadness when I enter the library lately.  Job loss, sickness, death hangs in the air and even the most patient of the staff seem kind of short and grouchy.

In Buddhism there is a form of meditation called Metta, sometimes translated as “loving-kindness.”  It is a practice that has the meditator cultivating loving kindness first for themselves, then a loved one, then a neutral party, then someone they struggle with and finally all beings.  I’ve been in groups where someone has questioned the first part of this practice.  Why focus on ourselves first?  Isn’t this selfish?  Shouldn’t we be praying for others?  Each time the teacher has talked about caring for one’s self first so that you will be most able to send loving kindness and compassion out into the world.  One teacher likened it to being on a plane when the oxygen masks drop.  You always put yours on first so that you may help others.

I think about this now.  Taking care of my physical and mental health in these times of stress will enable me to be able to help people at work and listen harder to those in my life.  Taking care of me helps me spread more compassion, more love, more kindness when it is needed most.  There are many forms of this “prayer” that can be said.  I would like to share with you the one I say.  It is one that my ex-partner wrote on a piece of paper and hung next to my hospital bed while I was recovering from a scooter accident.  I know she said it a million times for me and having it there with me reminded me to not only have loving kindness for myself; but, also those around me who were suffering with the worry of having a loved one injured.

May you be happy.

May you be free from physical pain.

May you be free from mental pain.

May you live your life with ease.