Some words are easier to use than explain. Kindness is one of them. I recognize an act of kindness when I am the recipient of one, but trying to explain it has been difficult. It is not so much what someone has done that makes it feel like kindness, but the context in which it happens. For example, when I was still able to drive and had my own car, friends would swing by and pick me up so we could go do something together, I never thought twice about them doing that. It was just something we did for each other. Now that I can no longer drive and I have lost my paratransit services, when my friends offer to come take me and my manual wheelchair so I can go somewhere with them, I experience the effects of their act of kindness. In a poem called Kindness by Naomi Shihah Nye, she explains that kindness is an inherent part of who we are. We become kind and gain an understanding of kindness when we understand what it is to have been in that space of deep sorrow and loss.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
Kindness is also defined as the state of being kind. Kind, in most spiritual traditions, is viewed a spiritual gift and a quality of love. For example, 1st Corinthians 13:4 in the New Testament says, “love is patient, love is kind.” So what does it mean to be kind? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines kind as being “of a sympathetic or helpful nature.” The Greek word for kind is chresteuetai. Kindness, during Biblical times, was seen as the possession of a spiritual gift, which allowed a person to remain gentle in their interactions with others. During this time, a kind person was thought of as one who was affirming, gentle; open and willing to do good things for others. They were also thought of as willing to do good in the world when the opportunity presented itself and one who searched for opportunities to share their spiritual gifts with others.
Kindness is not only a valued spiritual quality, but it is good for you. Studies have shown that performing acts of kindness stimulate the part of the brain, which releases chemicals associated with personal gratification. Being kind to others relieves stress, improves one’s mental health, and enhances one’s level of happiness, and can reduce one’s chances of developing Alzheimer's.
Perhaps this is one reason so many organizations have begun to promote kindness in this world. The Pay It Forward Foundation encourages people to do a good deed for others, for each good deed they experienced in their life. The Random Acts Of Kindness Foundation inspires people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. “The Human Kindness Foundation, founded by Bo and Sita Lozoff, is a non-profit organization which stresses a way of life based upon three common principles taught by the great sages of all religions: Simple living, a dedication to service, and a commitment to personal spiritual practice.”
While we tend to think of performing acts of kindness in our interaction with others, it is also important that we treat the environment and other inhabitants of this world (animals, birds, fish, etc.) with kindness. “Until we reflect basic kindness in everything we do, our political gestures will be fleeting and fragile.” So today and every day, do something kind for yourself, others, the animals in your life, and the environment.
 Nye, Naomi Shihah (1995). Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, Portland, OR: Far Corner Books.
 PR Newswire. Stress Relief Expert Lauren E. Miller Shares Benefits as We Enter the Month of Thanksgiving: An Attitude of Gratitude and Random Acts of Kindness Can Release the Stress in Your Life http://www.sys-con.com/node/1592701
 K J Mullins, Random Acts of Kindness Help Mental Health, http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/247960
 Pay It Forward Foundation http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/
 Random Acts of Kindness Foundation http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
 Human Kindness Foundation http://www.humankindness.org/