The frightening thing about the Coronavirus pandemic, is the rate of infection; how extremely contagious it is. That is why the strategy from the very beginning was to try and stop the spread of the virus by decreasing our social contact and increasing our sanitary habits. Consequently, when we hear the word ‘contagious’, we have extremely negative connotations to it. However, not everything that is contagious is negative; kindness is also contagious.
Just as, on the one hand, we need to protect ourselves and others from spreading the Coronavirus, we need to make a point of spreading that which is good and can make a positive difference to the world. To put it another way: there is power in one act of kindness, because we never know how many people will be touched by it.
In the year 2000 the movie, “Pay it forward” was released. It’s about a boy, Trevor, who is given an assignment by his 7th grade social studies teacher to come up with an idea of how to change the world for the better. Trevor then suggests the concept of ‘paying it forward’, which means that one person starts with doing favours for three people; something the recipients are not able to do for themselves. Each of them is then supposed to, instead of paying it back, pay the favour forward to three other people; and so, kind deeds to others keep on increasing. It’s a brilliant idea, that has been used by so many people since this movie was released, as it is definitely something that can change the world for the better.
In fact, since the start of the first lockdown, many people have been imploring others to ‘be kind’ – and one of the biggest reasons for this is probably because we all recognise the levels of frustration going around at the moment. No-one likes being locked up in their homes or having their freedom severely limited. Everyone misses interaction with friends and family. The situation is definitely not ideal and as a result of these feelings, many people are a little more snappy than usual and a little bit more irritated than they’d normally be and therefore we are often reminded to ‘be kind’.
People who are kind apparently have 23% less of the stress hormone, cortisol, than the average person and our brains produce more endorphins, which makes us feel good, when we engage in acts of kindness. However, the reason why we are kind to others, is not because it makes us feel good, but because it can truly make a difference to their lives. Therefore, as you strive to be kind to those around you, keep these three principles of kindness in mind:
1. No act of kindness is too small
You may think that giving someone a cup of water is nothing, but to someone who is dying of thirst it will be the difference between life and death. You may think that giving someone a jacket is not a big deal, but to the person living on the streets, it could be the difference between life and death. You may think a word of encouragement or a sincere compliment doesn’t cost you a thing, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be priceless to the person hearing it. No act of kindness is too small, because kindness in itself is never small. It is like being in total darkness; whether you have only a small flashlight or a big one, both will overcome the darkness. Therefore, the size of the kindness doesn’t matter; it just matters that you do it.
2. Kindness does not depend on the identity of the recipient
Kindness has nothing to do with the recipient’s identity, and all to do with yours. The famous Rabbi, Harold Kushner, put it like this: “Do things for people, not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”
Your kindness does not depend on whether someone deserves it or not, but on who you are and whether they need it. If you are a person of faith, that means that you are kind towards others, not to try and earn some Brownie points or even to feel good about yourself. You are kind, because God has bestowed His kindness on you in abundance and He filled you up with kindness and that is why you cannot help but also show kindness to others. It is simply part of your identity.
3. Kindness is not dependent on your feelings
You don’t have to ‘dig deep’ to be kind to others, because it is not based on how kind you feel at any given moment; it is based on your identity.
Therefore, even if you don’t feel kind, that is still who you are called to be. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy, especially when you have been hurt deeply or when you feel betrayed. It is hard to be kind or forgive or be gracious and merciful towards others in those moments. However, if you are a Jesus-follower, it means that you have a new identity, and instead of trying harder to be kind, you surrender and let God be your strength. Thus, you are kind, not because that is what you feel like, but because that is what it looks like when you are following Jesus.
Kindness is indeed inherently contagious; it can soften one’s heart and help them to see the need in others, just as someone saw the need in them. Hence, kindness towards us, naturally compels us to also be kind to others.
Remember that it doesn’t take a lot of skill or resources to be kind to others, yet it can truly change the world. Therefore, let us all endeavour to spread kindness wherever we are.