The world is in dire need of more warmth and tenderness lately, don’t you think? Since it’s actually World Kindness Month, I’m challenging all of you (and myself) to be the reason someone believes in good people. What does that mean, and how can you do it? Keep reading to find out!
What Does it Mean to Be the Reason Someone Believes in Good People?
“Be the reason someone believes in good people.” It almost sounds kind of trite, doesn’t it? Like something you’d find on a mug. But it’s so much more than just a t-shirt slogan or a cutesy cliche. It’s a way of life and a complete philosophy all tied up in just eight little words.
What does it mean? Well, that’s the thing, it can mean different things to different people. To me, it’s all about striving towards kindness. Not just in February (where we have Random Acts of Kindness month, week, AND day), but every single day in both big and small ways.
It means putting ourselves into a more compassionate mindset and looking at the world through a more empathetic lens. It means assuming the best of others (at least until they prove otherwise). Mostly, though, it means doing our part to help make this often-bleak world a little bit brighter, even if it’s just for one person at a time.
Let’s discuss those first three things in a bit more detail because they’re really the “pillars” of kindness in general. Then we’ll talk about some of the little things we can do every day to be the reason someone believes in good people.
Compassion, empathy, and faith in people: the pillars of kindness
Simply put, compassion is our capacity to recognize and feel sympathy towards those who are suffering. I know it may not always seem like it these days, but it’s actually something that comes naturally to us since it’s a vital element of a species’ survival.
After all, if we don’t care about each other we can’t care for each other. Since every single last person on this earth has needed someone to take care of them at some point (and not just when we’re defenseless babies), you can see imagine how quickly our species would come to an end without at least some sense of compassion.
Empathy and compassion go hand-in-hand. When you adopt a more compassionate state of mind, you’ll naturally start looking at the world through a more empathetic lens. That, in turn, leads you to assume the best of people. This is best described through an example.
Imagine that you’re driving home from the store, and a guy cuts you off in traffic. He just pulls right out in front of you, forcing you to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting him. Your first thought is “What a jerk!” You return his guilty look by flipping him off and screaming expletives at him.
Now, look at the scenario through a more compassionate and empathetic lens. Why do you think he cut you off? Maybe he just got a call saying that his child was injured at school and on the way to the hospital. Perhaps his wife just called saying that she’s in labor. Maybe he just lost his job and was lost in his thoughts about how he’ll afford to keep a roof over his kids’ heads.
There are so many potential reasons that have nothing to do with “because he’s a jerk.” No, it doesn’t’ change the fact that he almost caused an accident, or that you’re feeling a bit shaken from that near miss. But it does change how you respond to the incident.
Instead of flipping him off when he gives you that “I’m so sorry” look, you respond with a smile and a wave. At that moment, at a time when he is expecting the worst response from you and instead gets gentle forgiveness, you become the reason he believes in good people.
That mindset, that way of looking at the world and treating people, is really the heart of living a life filled with kindness. It’s how we become better people and create a gentler society.
Now let’s shift gears and talk about some specific things you can do to help others believe that there are still good people in the world.
21 ways to be the reason someone believes in good people
I promise you; this isn’t another “pay for the car behind you at the drive-thru” random act of kindness list. In fact, I prefer to think of these things as “deliberate acts of kindness.”
- Genuinely smile at people as you pass them on the street. It sounds cheesy, but a simple smile from a stranger can really brighten someone’s day.
- Let someone out in traffic, especially if they’re turning left. I can’t even say how much I appreciate it when someone does this for me.
- Don’t just mumble “you too” when someone tells you to have a good day. Look directly at them, thank them, and tell them that you hope they have an amazing day.
- Find a place that desperately needs volunteers and offer your time. Everyone wants to volunteer at an animal shelter or their kids’ school, but very few people offer up their time to, say, pick up garbage in a park.
- Leave notes on community bulletin boards with things like “You are an amazing and worthwhile person,” or “I’m glad that you exist.” Someone out there needs to hear those words, I guarantee it.
- Find social media posts that have no engagement and give a quick like or even a comment. People just want to feel like at least someone out there notices them.
- Speaking of social media, be that person who always posts cute and funny memes just to brighten up everyone else’s news feed.
- Don’t say “Let me know if you need help,” ask “What can I do right now to help you?” Better yet, if you already know what they need, just do it.
- Reach out to your favorite teachers and thank them for helping to shape who you are today. Now more than ever, teachers need a bit more appreciation.
- Thank people even if they’re doing something that they’re expected to do. For example, delivering your mail or ringing up your groceries.
- Raise kind and compassionate kids who go on to be the next generation of reasons others believe in good people.
- Hold the door for more than one person.
- Let someone have “the last one.” The last slice of pie, the last carton of milk at a grocery store or even the last word.
- Stop and help someone who is clearly struggling. For example, a mom trying to load her groceries into her car while also keeping her toddler from running off.
- If you’re tall, offer to get something off a high shelf for a stranger in the store (my short friend said this is probably the nicest thing a stranger could do for her).
- Forgive someone who has wronged you.
- Make or print out bookmarks with positive messages and leave them in library books (ask the librarian if that’s okay first, though).
- Share in others’ joy, even if it comes at your expense. Example: be genuinely happy for a co-worker who got the promotion that you wanted.
- Be the person who says, “It’s no problem” instead of, “This is ridiculous!” when your waiter says your food is taking a little longer than expected.
- Include everyone in a conversation. If you notice someone being left out and you can clearly see that they want to join in, say to them, “I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.”
- “Rescue” someone who clearly doesn’t want to be included or someone who looks uncomfortable with a conversation.
- If you see a stranger crying, give them a tissue and ask if they need help. Chances are they’ll tell you that they’re fine (people are uncomfortable accepting help from strangers sometimes), but at least they’ll know that someone cares enough to ask.
- Always give others the benefit of the doubt. Just like the example earlier with the driver, assume the best of people even in the worst situations.
- Share wonder & beauty when you see it. Point out rainbows, 4-leaf clovers, clouds that look like hearts, and the sun shining through the trees in a majestic sort of way.
- Create beauty and wonder for others. Write, paint, draw, knit, sew, sing, dance…whatever you want. Just do it, then share it with others.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Jasmine Guinness. I think it sums everything up perfectly: “Be kind, don’t judge, and have respect for others. If we can all do this, the world would be a better place. The point is to teach this to the next generation.”
Like I said earlier, being the reason someone believes in good people is a whole philosophy and way of life. It’s not really something that you can do by following a checklist. If you just open up your heart and choose to live a life filled with compassion & empathy, though, the rest will come naturally to you.