Keep in Mind – Be Kind

Now Brewing: The Original Donut Shop Coffee. I’m on a mission to get rid of my remaining K-cups in the name of being more environmentally-kind. I’ve got a few of these gems left and intend to enjoy every last drop before going entirely reusable K-Cup with my Keurig. 

Let’s talk about kindness.

When’s it defined “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”—kindness doesn’t sound that difficult. But, we’re all human—and sometimes, being friendly, and generous, and considerate is hard.

I’ll be the first to admit that some days, the last thing on my mind is paying attention to how I’m treating everyone I encounter and there’s people that being friendly and generous to is extremely difficult. Unfortunately, lately I’ve realized I’m not the only one that struggles with being mindful of this.

There’s a quote I’ve seen on social media that goes like this:

“The boy you punched in the hall today? Committed suicide a few minutes ago. The boy you called lame? He has to work every night to support his family. That girl you pushed down the other day? She’s already being abused at home. That girl you called fat? She’s starving herself. The old man you made fun of because of the ugly scars? He fought for our country. The boy you made fun of for crying? His mother is dying. You think you know them? Guess what…you don’t.”

The quote is meant to be shared to stop bullying, but it also speaks volumes to the importance of being aware that not all differences are noticeable.

I’m lucky to know a truly inspiring, beautiful little girl with Down syndrome. Being considerate of others is a value that’s deeply ingrained in me and in my family. We’re extremely fortunate that our friends and family love her just as much as we do. However, I’ll also be the first to admit that it’s often easier to treat people who look, or act, differently with a little more care. The real challenge comes in being friendly, generous, and considerate to everyone we meet.

I also know a truly inspiring, strong boy who from the outside looks like a normal 16 year old. He’s a musician, a tennis and volleyball player, a snowboarder, a business and marketing scholar, a self-proclaimed history-lover. He is a junior in high school. And, he’s also one of the youngest people on the planet with Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).

Essentially with PNH, some or all of the body’s red blood cells are destroyed. This is called hemolysis and in PNH, it happens constantly and at high rates, which puts him, and other PNH patients at risk for serious health problems.

My friend fights this battle on his own, preferring to keep his condition private so that people won’t treat him differently. Unfortunately, because of his condition, he’s unable to do many of the things that most teenagers consider normal. PNH patients struggle with chronic fatigue as part of the disease, making sports of any kind challenging. To add to this, my friend ‘s doctors gave him a no contact sports rule for  much of the last seven years, leaving him off of the pedestal that high schoolers in Wisconsin put football on. He’s made fun of for not being a member of these teams and has been called un-athletic, even though by all definitions of that word—playing (and winning) a tennis match the night before going into the hospital for a blood transfusion qualifies him as extremely athletic. What sticks with me about the way my friend is treated by his peers is the fact that we really can’t know why people are who they are, or what they’re going through, from the outside.

A few weeks ago, my aunt shared a copy of The Optimist’s Creed with me during a tough week. One of the lines of the creed encourages readers to:

“To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.”

Promise yourself to do this, not just for your friends (although you should treat your friends with a special compassion), but also for everyone else you meet. There is nothing more meaningful, or important, than treating the people around you with respect, compassion, and understanding. Although you might not understand, or know, what others are going through—your kindness shouldn’t depend on anything other than your own commitment to being a genuine person.

After all—no one wants to be known as an asshole, right?

I challenge each one of you to say something kind to someone today. Go out of your way to make their day. Take the time to be mindful of how you treat your friends, your family, and the strangers you meet in the elevator. You never know how much your kindness might mean to someone.

Kindness counts,

Kathryn E. Weast

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