Teaching and Recognizing Kindness Helps Me Remain Grateful
“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
My life has been very uncertain lately. There are days when things seem to fall apart, then get put back together, and then fall apart all over again. I am dizzy from the waves of emotions that have accompanied the ups and downs in my physical and mental health over the last few months. During times of uncertainty, worry, fear, physical stressors, and distress, I recognize things for which I can remain grateful, such as small acts of kindness.
When I worked as a special education teacher, I taught my students the importance of kindness. I valued compassion and sympathy in my classroom above all else. I instilled in them that kindness matters. My classroom was an open space to share struggles and triumphs and to talk about emotional difficulties. Without a space filled with kindness and acceptance, these conversations would not take place.
Sometimes, what’s really important gets clouded by the difficulties faced during a day, a week, or a month. Focusing on my struggles makes it feel impossible to see the positives. It makes it hard to remain grateful, especially when it seems like there isn’t much hope. Acts of kindness get overlooked, displays of care and love go unnoticed, and positive energy is not received when the mind is closed off from it.
In unexpected ways, life reminds me of the positive energy that surrounds me. The other day, I was leaving a preoperation appointment with my primary care doctor and feeling nervous about my upcoming surgery. My mind was filled with thoughts of lab work results, testing, my recent emergency room visit, and anxiety.
A woman stopped me in the parking lot and said, “Excuse me, I need to tell you that your hair is gorgeous!”
This stranger didn’t know how worried I was. She didn’t know what I was up against in the coming week. She chose to share her kindness and compliment me, and it instantly put me in a better mood.
I needed this reminder to pay attention to the small parts of the day that make me feel the best. The more I recognize helpful moments — rather than giving so much thought to moments that are not — the better equipped I am emotionally. I became happier by turning my attention to the care, concern, compassion, and unexpected ways my appointment day was made better.
Just as I taught my students, a simple act of kindness should not go unnoticed. The more I pay attention to the kindness and love surrounding me, the more grateful my heart becomes. Having a grateful mind and heart allows me to feel emotionally capable of taking on any challenges that lie ahead.
My students learned that everyone they meet is fighting an invisible battle. The truth is that nobody knows the sadness, anger, frustration, or anxiety that may be taking up space in someone’s mind. Given the choice, always choose to be kind.
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