Last week I blogged about A Safe, Welcoming Space, but a recent event coupled with some personal experiences has made me think about the face we present to the world. I see people in the supermarket, restaurants, and other places, and more often than not their faces seem closed as though they don’t want to let anyone in. Sometimes it’s because they are focused on their smartphone, other times it’s just that they are in their private world.
We need to be more mindful of the face we show the world. If we want kids to feel comfortable in approaching us, we have to be present to them, not lost in our thoughts. It’s hard sometimes when there is so much to do, but I have been finding that having a welcoming demeanor and showing kindness will open you up to a richer world.
It has been scientifically proven that humans need contact with other humans – face-to-face. As much as social media can keep us connected (personally I use Facebook and Twitter a lot to stay in touch with friends and family I can’t see often), for too many of us it has become our main or the most relied on source for social interaction. When we smile at others and speak with them, there’s a double-sided bonus. It makes us feel good and allows us to be kind. And when we smile and are kind, everyone around us benefits from the connection.
I had a dramatic example of this while at the recent AASL Conference. I was standing by the ALA Store preparing to go to the general session to hear the opening speaker when I saw a man walking past me with dreadlocks, a headband, and a long white smock that went past his knees. I said to him, “I love your hair. I love seeing different hairstyles and colors as I am not able to do much with mine.”
He immediately stopped and began a conversation with me. We began walking and talking and as we did I asked him if he had a purpose in life. He said his was to bring kindness into the world. In return, I told him mine was to reflect back to others the greatness I see in them, and when appropriate help them manifest it.
Watching the time, I said I need to start heading out to hear the speaker for the morning, which is when he told me he was Dr. Adolph Brown, the speaker. The dreads and the outfit he wore to go with them were part of a persona he dons to test the reactions of people he meets. Because of our interaction, he mentioned me in the talk he gave and afterward said to me that I saw him.
In his talk with us, Dr. Brown said, “Stop believing everything you think. Any time you have to deal with another human being, challenge your brain. What you think about others says more about you than them.” We do make judgments about people based on their looks and other surface indicators – and then we act as though they are correct. Instead, try Dr. Brown’s purpose and work at “bringing kindness to the world.” It’s a world that needs it greatly. Your students and teachers will certainly benefit from it – and so will you.
In her Harvard Medical School post, The Heart and Science of Kindness, Melissa Brodrick gives seven ways to give and receive kindness.
Kindness starts with being kind to yourself – You’ve heard this many times. But you can’t be kind when you are being hard on yourself. And certainly, it is difficult to do if you are working so hard, you don’t take care of yourself.
We feel happier when we act in service to others – The old adage, “It is better to give than receive” is at play. Being kind to someone gives you an inner glow that helps you through the day.
Choose kindness – Most of us would respond with “Why wouldn’t you”, but the truth is kindness needs to be an active choice, and when you are having a stressful day or in the middle of yet another crisis, the choice isn’t just a good idea, it’s an act of courage.
Give to give, not to receive – If you give with an expectation of getting something, it’s a trade not an act of giving. Let the giving and the possibility that creates be your reason.
We become kinder with practice – Like choosing kindness, being kind is a practice. The more we remember to act with kindness the easier and more automatic it becomes. The result is a library where people expect and act with kindness.
Kindness begets kindness – When an act of kindness makes someone’s day a little lighter, they feel better about themselves. In turn, they are more likely to be kind to someone else – or to themselves. This is how we change the world.
Kindness is lasting – Melissa Brodrick recalls someone telling her forty years ago that she has a pretty face. That simple act of kindness stayed with her all these years. We often think someone is wearing a nice blouse or whatever. If I think that, I say it. Invariably, I get a smile in return and sometimes a conversation starts. I love making someone’s day.