The Case for Radical Kindness

Posted 11.09.2016

As I write this, it’s 6:30 AM on November 9, 2016, and, I think it’s fair to say, hundreds of millions of people around the world are asking themselves, “What  next?” Millions are asking that question with excited anticipation and millions more with overwhelming anxiety. Whether you’re on one end of the spectrum or the other, somewhere in between or haven’t figured out yet where you are, it feels pretty safe to conclude that the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States represents a seismic shift in the world.

So, what’s next? Who really knows? I think, though, that there’s another, more immediate question for each of us to answer — “What do I do now?” My humble suggestion is to, starting today, practice radical kindness.

No matter where you were on the presidential campaign, you likely agree that it was not our best experience as a country. Name calling, opinion shoving, sarcasm, condescension, and other behaviors that would embarrass most of us if we were watching a tape of ourselves doing those kinds of things became all too common over the past year. Families, friends, and co-workers have had wedges driven between them because of the campaign. It’s all amplified of course by the steroidal effect of social media.

As a country, as a world, we need to heal and reclaim the better angels of our nature. That’s where practicing radical kindness comes in. We all know what kindness is. Let me explain what I mean by radical kindness. It’s practicing kindness as an intentional behavior to bring people together rather than drive them apart. It’s so easy, but can be such a powerful force for healing.

Late last night, just before I went to be in the hotel I’ve stayed in the last two days, I called room service to order breakfast for this morning. I spoke with the same lovely Latina woman that I had spoken to the night before and began ordering the exact same meal — eggs over easy, ham, potatoes, gluten free toast and English breakfast tea. She laughed and asked, “How about the glass of water with no ice? I remember you from last night.” With a little spark of warmth in my heart, I smiled and replied, “Thank you. I remember you, too.”

As I hung up the phone, I wondered what was going through her mind and heart last night as the election results came in. And then I thought about how her simple act of kindness in remembering my glass of water touched me in the way it did.

That’s radical kindness, folks. It’s so simple to do and is so desperately needed. Please join me in practicing it today and every day. If you’re wondering what you do now, start there.

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