Public shaming has become a widespread disease across the web, infecting comment boxes, blog posts, Facebook statuses and tweets. People are not just politely disagreeing; they are name-calling, ridiculing and taunting. They are bypassing the path of customer service support and instead blasting companies for human error on Facebook, getting their friends to join in and essentially creating an environment that I thought we were trying to keep our children safe from. They are alienating groups of people, hanging them up by their toes and virtually tar-and-feathering them.
As a highly sensitive person who can't easily shake off the things I find disturbing, I have a tool that prevents me from dismissing the human race as a self-destructive waste of time. I have something that I hold tight to in an effort to enjoy and appreciate life instead of find fault in every experience.
That "something" is kindness. Now, I'm no Dalai Lama, but I do spend a fair chunk of my time thinking, writing, speaking and reading about kindness. By conscious effort, I also practice kindness in more ways now than I ever have before; I have somehow morphed into a Kindness Ambassador. That's fancy speak for: an ordinary human being who believes in this virtue and seeks to live it.
As a child, I was drawn to human rights issues and felt the world's problems like a tonne of bricks on my shoulders. As an adult, I am now making my own opportunities to work with organizations that strive to better the lives of others and have been able to incorporate my love of writing on this journey. Being a part of charitable organizations and groups that strive for good keeps me in touch with the best side of humanity.
Image by Taslim Jaffer
For the purpose of this blog post, I am simplifying things and dividing the world into kind and unkind people. Truthfully, I believe that all people are born as compassionate, loving beings and it is a multitude of factors that may later define their choice to behave differently. (Another blog post entirely.)
Are the actions of those who commit to kindness, futile? Do the "unkind" people outnumber the Kindness Ambassadors?
It can feel that way, sometimes (read: It can feel like banging my head on a brick wall sometimes). When it does, and when I let it get to me, it can put me in a real spin. I question why I do what I do. Am I just spewing feel-good nonsense on my blog that simply vaporizes the minute I publish it? I question if making a conscious effort to foster empathy in my children is worth it. In the end, will they just be hurt by someone who takes advantage of their 'goodness'. I question if a random act of kindness is really all it's hyped up to be. Is kindness just a buzz word?
And I always come back to the same thing: My world without kindness would really suck. My world without supporting something good would be a world without hope. I would have nothing beautiful to leave my children. I would have no purpose for being here.
We know that kindness makes us feel good; science has explained why. Performing, receiving and witnessing an act of kindness increases the serotonin level in our brains. Serotonin is a natural 'feel-good' hormone that has the same effect as an anti-depressant. Read here for some interesting studies.
Perhaps that is why when Tasneem Damji, a fundraiser and Chair of the Community Outreach Committee at QSI International school in Dushanbe, Tajikistan thanks donors for their financial contributions, she is met with the response, "No, thank YOU for this opportunity to help!"
Kindness makes me feel good -- I'm a bit of an addict -- and as long as I am actively involved in being kind, encouraging others to be kind, teaching my children about being kind, I can't get 'taken in' by the negativity of the flip side. When I am feeling good, I am better able to care for my family and my community and so the cycle goes.
In writing this article, I turned to one of my great teachers for some perspective. I asked my six-year-old daughter, "Who do you think is more powerful? Someone who does kind things or someone who does unkind things?" Without hesitation she responded, "A kind person because when we are kind our bodies feel good and when our bodies feel good, they get stronger." I see her logic in the organizations I work with. I see resilient characters who can take meagre circumstances and create large waves of change. They are fuelled by something.
Danisha Bhaloo, Manager of Fund Development at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area, has raised over half a million dollars in charitable funds for various non-profits in numerous capacities. When asked if she ever feels discouraged by the enormity of the work in the field of social change, she stated, "The work is huge and I don't think I can solve the world's problems, but if I can make a difference in one person's life, that's what it's about." She also mentioned being motivated by the hope that comes with doing this kind of work and how that hope spills over into the way she views the world and life in general.
Do the good guys ever really win? Yes.
While the world's problems may be far from eradicated, the good guys win. They win in health, in happiness, and in the satisfaction that they receive from knowing they have shown up in this world and offered it the best of themselves.