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Have you felt it lately? I know I have for months now. Many of my friends and family agree that something feels heavy, negative and disconnected.

I am referring to the energy surrounding how we have been treating each other as if a heavy cloud is lingering over our communities and penetrating our relationships. We are more quick to judge and accuse, quick to fight and insult, and, in many cases, quick to forget one of the simplest things is right in our reach – kindness.

Kindness exists in all of us, and it cost nothing to give. I believe kindness has the power to bring us all together, even the worst of enemies, if only for a moment. I’ve been contemplating kindness a lot lately, and I was reminded recently how the lack of it in difficult situations can affect each of us beyond belief. I know how the lack of kindness affects me.

While driving to work on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, my car shut down suddenly, and I lost my power steering. I was immediately forced to pull off the busy street onto a residential street that just happened to be a one way. I was heading the wrong direction and instantly found myself in a precarious position. I immediately became the brunt of countless drivers who had neither the patience nor the understanding to notice my distress. An angry chorus of drivers began honking, yelling and angrily gesturing at me. The most disturbing moment was when a man walked by my window and said sarcastically, “Hey, don’t you know this is a one way street?” I said, “Yes, I know I look like a jerk, but my car has broken down.” Instead of saying, “Can I help, or are you okay?” he laughed, kept walking and said under his breath “Yea, right, your car broke down.” That’s when I started to cry… and a full-on meltdown ensued.

The thought of being kind was absent that Monday morning in the hearts of those men and women. Maybe they were all late for work, or possibly they were annoyed with me for blocking a lane and slowing them down. Perhaps they simply didn’t care. Whatever the reason, their behavior affected me in a big way, and the experience forced me to look even closer at the concept of kindness, and how it can change lives. We cannot see kindness, but we all know what it feels like to give and receive it. The question is, why does it seem absent from our lives and society lately?

Do you remember the last time someone did something kind for you with no expectations of getting anything in return? What did that feel like?

When was the last time you did something kind for someone or something? Maybe you hugged a co-worker because they looked like they needed some love, or like myself, you enjoy helping a snail cross the sidewalk. When I see one (snails crossing my path) I can’t help but assist it along its way. This is a simple gesture that no one ever sees, but I relish the experience every single time.

As a child, growing up in South Carolina, I also helped a lot of little creatures along their way. Stray dogs and cats, injured squirrels, just about any wayward creature became my patient. I was also taught to be a “nice” girl. In the South we say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir.” We were encouraged not to show anger in public, and we actually talked to strangers. In fact, growing up in a small town, we were even taught the local “understood” action of waving to each driver as they passed on the two-lane country road. I have now come to realize that helping those creatures was an act of kindness. The other stuff was being nice. So what’s the difference between the two?

Webster’s Dictionary defines nice as someone who is pleasant, agreeable and friendly. For example, you meet someone at a party or at work and you are nice. You say “Hi.” You strike up a pleasant conversation.

Kind is defined as someone who is generous, considerate and thinking of other’s feelings.

For example, when someone puts their own safety at risk to save a stranger in distress. They don’t think about being kind. They just are. We saw a prime example of this recently in the news when an off-duty firefighter rushed to save a couple who had crashed their Cessna 310 aircraft on a busy Los Angeles freeway. The plane was on fire. John Meffert could have stood by and just watched, but, instead, he jumped into action.

Acts like the one this brave and selfless firefighter showed are kind and unconditional, but being nice is often conditional. I believe when you are being kind it comes from a core place down deep in your gut, and in your heart. You don’t think twice about it. You just do it. A close friend of mine says when you are in that moment, you are in the flow of kindness. You are not expecting anything in return. On the flip side, being nice comes from a place in your mind. Nice can be manipulative. You can be nice to get something in return.

I dream of us all being more kind to one another – to strangers, to people who don’t worship the way we do, to people who have different political affiliations than ourselves, and most importantly to ourselves. Would you be as critical of a friend or loved one as you are of yourself or say to them what you say to yourself? Of course not.

Imagine if, for just a moment each day, we tried to help someone have an easier path. I spoke about this concept recently at a Women’s Conference here in California. We discussed how we, as women, can all do a better job of lifting each other up for our wins and comforting each other in our losses. It is not a competition! I read a quote earlier this year that hit home for me – “Her success is not your failure.” Wow! How powerful is that? Let’s begin to teach young girls that simple lesson. There is plenty of success, love and kindness for all of us to share.

Kindness is key for men too. I love to see a man open the car door for a woman, or stand up and give his seat to an elderly woman or man. It not only shows respect, but it leads by example. Kindness shows up by being emotionally present at home too. You can begin today to show and tell your children that kindness is universal. It’s sexy to be kind to your significant other. It’s cool to be kind to your neighbors even if they are not your best friends. Being kind to someone is finding something you have in common with them, and then leveraging that commonality to ignite a deeper connection.

Let’s open our hearts, slow down and realize life is moving fast. We could miss all the magic because we are too busy at work, too busy chasing dreams, too busy to help a stranger in need, too busy to say, “Good Job,” too busy to say, “I forgive you.” Starting this moment, let’s each of us do something kind once a day. The energy from that kindness will multiply, and hopefully, it will then seep back into our communities, our families, and our hearts.

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