‘Tis the Season of Cultivating Kindness and Goodwill
When the local drugstore called to say I had dropped my wallet in the parking lot and would I like to come pick it up, I was 1) shocked that I had even come home from the drugstore not knowing my wallet was missing; 2) profoundly relieved that my wallet had been found/turned in and my life heading into the holiday season wouldn’t be disrupted by canceling credit cards and replacing my driver’s license, etc.; 3) amazed that anyone would be so kind and integrous to turn in the wallet (with nothing missing whatsoever).
I’ll never know who that person was that generously kept my life on an even keel. I know my gratitude to that one person opened to a larger gratitude that people can be and ARE kind, generous, thoughtful, helpful. And I realized I wanted to carefully, intentionally pay more attention to cultivating my own acts of kindness and goodwill in this season of kindness and goodwill as well.
As this all happened as we’re heading into a holiday season celebrating the hope of the possibility of aspiring to universal peace on earth, goodwill toward all people – I thought of one of my favorite carols from my childhood, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,”
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
It’s faith in that goodwill that I want to affirm in this post. And offer a practice that helps us cultivate kindness and goodwill toward all people – regardless of circumstance, country or culture.
This practice comes from Mark Coleman’s Make Peace with Your Mind. Based on cultivating loving kindness for others through honoring our common humanity, I find it an excellent practice for making peace with our fellow human beings as well.
JUST LIKE ME
This is a practice you can do as you go about your day and encounter people. It helps you cut through the barriers that make you feel separate or different from others and pro-actively cultivates kindness and goodwill toward others. It is a way you can actively sense your connection with other people, partly by focusing on shared human experiences.
The next time you are talking with someone, in a meeting at work, looking at others in a café or on the street, or interacting with other parents at your children’s school, reflect on these phrases:
Just like me, this person wants to be happy.
Just like me, this person wishes to be free of pain and stress.
Just like me, this person has a body subject to aches, pains, and aging.
Just like me, this person has had many joys and successes.
Just like me, this person has felt sadness, loss, and pain.
Just like me, this person desires to love and be loved.
Just like me, this person aspires to do their best in life.
Just like me, this person wants peace and happiness.
You can repeat this practice with many different people, coming to sense the shared humanity underneath the differences. This practice can shift your perspective from one of fear, caution, or anxiety to one of greater warmth, interest, and positivity. It strengthens the “muscles” of kindness and goodwill as we move through our shared and troubled world.