By: Marta Rusek
Kindness is a superpower. Just ask a volunteer of the American Red Cross! Kindness can transform a bad mood, de-escalate tense situations, and assure someone who has experienced a devastating event, like losing their home in a fire, that they are not alone.
I’ve honed my kindness superpowers through different service roles in my life, from my stint as a Girl Scout to my Peace Corps service and now as a volunteer for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
For World Kindness Day, here’s some of my top pro tips for making the world a little kinder.
- Learn the names of the people taking care of you. Whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee, going to the DMV, or talking to a customer service rep on the phone, it makes someone’s day when you ask their name and remember it while you’re working with them. It’s a gesture that communicates respect, and for folks who work in industries that attract angry customers (like insurance companies), their day becomes a little less stressful and much happier when the person they’re serving treats them like a human being.
- Greet everyone. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, I learned early on that greeting the people around me was an essential custom. Greetings involved multiple questions, like asking how someone was doing, what was happening with their family, how work was going, and so much more. At first it was a time-consuming activity, but I realized very quickly that it was an essential step to building new relationships and working with leaders in my village to get projects off the ground. Plus, it made me feel very safe – people knew me and my routines because we took the time to chat with each other, so my friends and neighbors knew immediately if I wasn’t feeling well or something was wrong. And vice versa.
Back home in Philadelphia, greeting has become a really fun habit for me. As a result, lots of people in my neighborhood (and my local coffee spot) know my name and I know theirs, which makes our corner of the universe a little friendlier and safer. If that doesn’t convince you, consider the relationship-building benefit from a different angle. Case in point: a former co-worker met his future wife after he asked her “How’s your day going?” while they were waiting in line at Starbucks.
- Treat yourself the way you treat people you care about. Kindness toward others begins when we practice kindness towards ourselves. If a loved one was tearing themselves down or expressing feelings of self-doubt, you’d be the first to tell them how awesome they were, right? Well, you deserve to be celebrated and have your awesomeness validated, too! Jot down empowering phrases you’ve shared in the past with the people in your life, and refer to those affirmations the next time you’re experiencing negative feelings or doubt. And if you’re the kind of person who brings food over or suggests a spa date at home to your friends when the going gets tough, bring that energy into your personal self-care plan. Order in and watch your favorite movie, or take a hot bath and listen to a podcast you love.
Self-kindness can also take the form of compassion. We’re living through a pandemic, and many of us are working full-time AND parenting or caregiving full-time, too. Together, these factors can bring about chronic stress, which impacts short-term memory and depletes energy levels. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not as productive as you were before the pandemic dramatically changed everything. Doing your best means doing your best right now, with the circumstances and energy you have at the present moment.
Now that you know the secrets to cultivating your kindness superpowers, go out there and put them to good use. Better yet, think about using your skills as a volunteer for the Red Cross!