Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It is all of those things, but it is also much more.

Kindness is sometimes viewed as a sign of weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. It takes strength to exude kindness to others, especially in a society that tends to be self-centered and too busy to pause a moment to perform an act that does not directly benefit themselves.

There are many ways to be kind. You can do it by celebrating someone else’s success, or by offering them honest feedback in a gentle manner. You could cook a meal for a busy young parent, or give someone a ride to work. Perhaps you know someone who has recently had their heart broken and in need of a shoulder to cry on, or experienced advice on how to move forward. Humans are by nature social and caring beings. It is only when we neglect the well-being of others that we become self-centered, cold, and emotionally unavailable. Kindness builds community, and more importantly, it builds people who care.

Kindness isn’t random, it is a way of life, and one that is responsible for a plethora of world-changing deeds. When you extend compassion to someone who is hurting, or are generous to someone in need, you create a ripple effect that goes on indefinitely. Through serving others, your impact and influence is felt where it is most needed-in the lives of fellow human beings. 

Can you remember a time that you were on the receiving end of an act of kindness? I bet the next time you encountered someone going through a tough time you were more inclined to help. Why? Because you remember how it felt to be in need, and then have someone fill that need. 

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about kindness is that it affects the giver and receiver with equal power. Each person is left with a memorable experience, a happier heart, and a lighter burden to carry. Imagine the difference this makes in the world around you, and be open to a lifestyle of being kind.

One of the most memorable things I have ever experienced was the act of kindness from a nurse who was caring for my dad as he lay dying in the hospital. There were many doctors and nurses caring for him during that time, and all were great. However, there was one that stood out from the rest. She exhibited a kindness that went far beyond her role as a professional. There were many times, even after working epic long shifts, that she could be found consoling my mother. Once, after her shift, she left the hospital, went to the grocery and purchased a cake. It was my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. She had the cake decorated, drove back to the hospital, and delivered it to them. She knew my dad’s time was short and she made sure that my parents got to celebrate their anniversary. The impression this woman made upon my family can still be felt today, seven years later.

I have experienced firsthand the life-changing power of kindness, and now I make sure to keep my eyes open for opportunities to pay it forward every chance I get.