Guest column: Be kind: Respond with grace and space

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

Guest column by Sue Abderholden

World Kindness Day is Nov. 13. It’s a day that needs to be recognized more than ever before. What many people have witnessed during the pandemic is frustration, anger, short tempers and more. We see signs at fast food restaurants saying, “be nice — these are the employees who showed up,” or in stores saying, “we’re doing the best we can.” But even the signs reminding us to be nice aren’t working. We’re seeing anything but kindness.

Sue Abderholden

Here at NAMI Minnesota, we’ve been promoting “space and grace.” It means giving others space to err, to be upset or mad. It means giving others grace so that our response to them is not filled with anger or frustration. We give grace when instead of being upset at someone, we jump to the conclusion that this person is having a bad day, that they are in a hurry and cut you off because they are racing to get a sick child, that they didn’t go when the light turned green because they were responding to an urgent text, that they are grieving and just weren’t thinking of anyone else in that moment. When we respond with grace and space we actually feel better — because we have responded with kindness.

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Grace and space also apply to us as an individual. It’s a reminder that we’re not perfect, that we make mistakes, that we aren’t always at our best. It’s accepting ourselves as who we are and loving ourselves unconditionally and that we will do better next time.

The Greek author Aesop wrote that “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” After a tough two and a half years, we need more acts of kindness towards individuals and our greater communities. We can make a difference to one person, and for the greater good.

This year, the theme of World Kindness Day 2022 is “Be Kind Whenever Possible.” According to their website, the theme is taken from a Dalai Lama quote: “Be kind whenever possible,” His Holiness says. “It is always possible.”

So, what is possible? Focus on individuals. Send a kind note to someone. Bring someone who is struggling a meal or rake their leaves. Ask the cashier, clerk or waitperson how they are doing, thank them for their work — especially if you can see that place is understaffed. Bring items to a food shelf, donate blood, place a book in a free library,

So, what is possible? Focus on the greater community. Encourage an elected official to fund important programs that bring people together or support them living in the community. It could be funding youth programs at the park, arts in the schools, in-home supports for people with disabilities, fighting NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) for programs serving children and adults with mental illnesses. Donate to a nonprofit that does good work.

The important thing is to do something to make our communities a little kinder. Stop and think before posting a mean meme on social media, yelling at someone who cut you off on the freeway or being impatient with a person struggling to pay for their groceries. We control how we respond, and if we respond with grace and space, and show kindness to others, we will feel better too.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota.