Seven months ago I started a journey I never thought I’d experience. My husband left this world after a brief and unexpected illness, and I found myself drowning in grief. I’m still surrounded by water, but I’ve gradually pulled myself to the surface; most days I can keep my head above it all.
In enduring this struggle that has been greater than anything I’ve ever lived through, I’ve come upon some universal truths. The complexities of grief have brought life into focus. And the truth, believe it not, is as simple as seven basic words. You may want to add a couple more to your list. But if you begin with these seven, you’ve got a great start.
Get these seven words and you get life. If that isn’t profound, I’m not sure what is.
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These words to live by are beyond important — so much so that each deserves its own column. They aren’t presented in order of importance, because they all are not only significant but necessary — although perhaps some more than others. At this point don’t concern yourself with rank or order. Concern yourself with: kindness.
What are we put on this earth to do if not to be kind to one another? And kindness doesn’t only pertain to fellow humans. Every living thing deserves our kindness. Pets, plants and people — all are equally worthy, now possibly more than ever before.
We are living in historic times. In a world of COVID, especially in a world of COVID, we desperately need kindness. The last year has caused isolation and fear and uncertainty about the future. Kindness plants us in the here and now. In the moment. The future still exists, but kindness softens it.
Kindness is warm. It reaches beyond the "me" to include the "we." Kindness can’t happen in a vacuum. It requires another. Kindness is a bridge, a human bridge. In a world sometimes overflowing with chaos and separation we need to build bridges.
Kindness touches the heart of the recipient, but it does much more. Exuding kindness fills the heart of the giver, quite literally. Whether on the giving or receiving end, kindness raises your mood and your outlook. Kindness promotes good will from you to me and vice versa.
Kindness is often quick and easy. It need not be a life-altering gesture. It doesn’t require commitment or even a whole lot of time. It can be as simple as a smile or a hello. It can be holding the door for someone or letting them take the parking space or allowing them to change lanes during busy traffic. It can be as small as a kind word or a compliment. A moment of kindness can alter days, or weeks or even lives. That is nothing short of miraculous.
Not convinced? Kindness begets kindness. It grows exponentially. A recipient of a kind gesture is more likely to repeat something similar and pay it forward. How awesome is that? You plant a seed of kindness and a forest ensues.
And like any habit, kindness gets easier with practice. Smile at others at the grocery store. Offer to fill a co-worker’s coffee cup while you are filling your own. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Call an old friend who you know might be lonely. Wave at a neighbor from across the street. Tell a young mother (or father) how cute their baby is. Reach out on a human level. Pay it forward. Plant the seed.
And watch the forest grow.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.