Life is hard. I've told my kids this dozens of times. I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer parent, but I do think I owe them honesty. And honestly, life is hard.
I think it's supposed to be.
What we get caught up in, sometimes, is thinking that life is hard for only us. We see smiling faces on Facebook. People are taking exotic vacations, going to posh parties, eating at fancy restaurants and attending concerts and sporting events far beyond what our budget would allow.
Not everyone makes the team. Not every interview ends in employment. Love doesn't always work out in the end. The scale never lies and that can suck. Sometimes there are more bills than paychecks. Illness rears its ugly head at the most inopportune of times. Cars break down.
People can be judgmental and even cruel. The weather hardly ever cooperates with our own life plans. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Adulting is hard.
Life, my friends, is hard.
And although I usually try to refrain from handing out unsolicited advice, I have something to say about this particular subject. Not about when life is hard for us, but about when life is hard for others. Because it is. Even though they may not talk about it, post it on Facebook or even show it, people struggle. You know it because you live it. But I'm not here to make life easier for us.
I'm here to make life easier for them.
My message is basic but the ramifications and outcomes can be complex.
It's a simple concept and not at all hard to implement, yet we ignore opportunities for kindness all the time. Me included. We get busy or self-focused. We've got problems of our own and don't have time or energy to reach out to others. But we should.
It's cliche, but kindness can cure many of the problems in our world. A kind word at the right time can mean wonders. A kind gesture just might be the bright spot to someone's day. And you don't even have to know the person you reach out to. Kindness works on strangers as well as friends. It even works on spouses. Crazy, I know!
We all have the ability and the authority to choose kindness, yet I fear many of us don't ponder this important fact on a daily, or weekly, or ever basis. Especially and most consequentially with our spouses.
Kindness, however small or large, can have excruciatingly significant positive outcomes. First, it causes us to put someone else's needs before our own. It takes the focus off "me" and puts it on "we." In my humble opinion, we need more of this in our self-focused, self-esteemed, overly entitled culture.
Kindness brings about a shift in perspective. An anonymous warm body becomes a human being — a relevant human being, someone with wants and needs and pain and desire — just like us.
That brings with it another shift. When someone is like us, it is difficult to be critical.
Kindness is basically incompatible with passing judgment on someone. Talk about a bonus.
I shall shortly exit my soapbox, but today, I am selling kindness. Please, take a free sample. For an investment of zero dollars — You read that right! — you can give someone one of the world's greatest gifts. Everyone needs and appreciates it. It's always the right size. No need for returns — ever. It's a gift that keeps on giving. And to top it off, it's like a boomerang. Kindness bounces off the other person right back to you — making you happier as well.
Seems too good to be true, but it isn't. Life is hard. Yes it is. But when the buggers have you flat on the mat, don't go down for the count. Instead, try being kind.
Trust me on this one.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.