This is a call to arms. The world has enough mean spirited, self centered people. It’s time we make kindness cool again.
A friend of mine is a fellow autism mom. She recently shared a story about going to a youth activity at her church to pick up her son. He entered the gym to meet her, and was yelled at by several of the other kids that he was not welcome and he had to ‘get out’. He was verbally abused right in front of her. It was a terrible experience. To those who would treat someone the same way, I have to ask a question. Since when is it alright to shun someone so completely because they are different?
Albert Einstein was different. Would you have treated him the same way? Aside from his awesome hair, it’s well known that he struggled in his early life. He was a lot like my friend’s son. He didn’t talk till he was three. And his teachers often complained that his head was in the clouds. But his theory of relativity is still something that science uses as a foundational principle. His genius is well known.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, was also different. His family couldn’t afford to send him to school past the age of ten. But he studied like crazy and overcame that. I visited his house in Philadelphia. It was amazing. He was constantly reading and trying new things. He invented Bifocals, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and the glass harmonica, among other things. That last invention, the glass harmonica, is my favorite. Imagine licking your finger and running it around the edge of a crystal glass on a massive scale. That’s the basic concept behind it. Ben Franklin certainly didn’t let his early struggles stop him.
Not all of us are Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin. But we could be. We all have talents and gifts we can develop. There are some who believe that both these great men had high functioning autism. I’m serious that all of us have great potential. And as such, we need to be kind to each other. We need to make our lives count for something. Imagine being the guy whose only accomplishment is to brag that he bullied someone like Bill Gates. Not something you want to do.
So, what is our potential for kindness? Are we trying to live on a higher level, or do we join the crowd when they make bad decisions? When I was younger I did a lot of stupid things. But I can honestly say that my greatest regrets revolve around those times when I treated someone badly. I wish I had been given the guidance I am going to give you right now.
#1- You matter. But so does the other guy.
I love the quote: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” The Savior, the most important link to our salvation and those of everyone else who ever lived, was a nice guy. He was the perfect example to show us all how to live, and how to treat each other.
#2- Classy people treat others with kindness.
Years ago I worked for the president of a huge commercial real estate firm in Philadelphia. He was a powerful and wealthy man. And he was one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He treated everyone like they mattered. I learned from watching him, that you can tell the most important man in the room by how kindly he treats other people. Without fail I still find that to be true.
#3- Kindness is NOT weakness
I love the slow motion walk. You know the one, where a TV show or movie will show a group of people walking, but in slow motion. I like it because they look powerful and like they are headed out to do great things. We have a similar tool to show the power of someone’s soul. It’s called kindness. Many of the misguided would try to make us think that kindness is weakness. But it takes greater strength to be kind and work things out than it does to punch someone or put them down. Your moral fiber will become stronger every time you choose kindness.
#4- You don’t have anything to prove.
I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. I spent years trying to prove that I belonged, that I fit in. Sadly, I was often unkind in my efforts to reach that goal. If I had known I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, I would have been a lot happier.
#5- Kindness brings friendships
The crazy thing about my friend’s experience in the gym with her son being verbally abused, is that I KNOW there were kids who weren’t happy he was being yelled at. But they wanted friends, and thought they had to be mean to get them. When in reality, kindness will win you more friends every time.
People are learning from you and watching you all the time. You don’t realize how powerful kindness is. Those who inspire and bring light into the lives of others are the ones that everyone loves. It’s human nature.
Make Kindness Cool Again
So, let me be clear. It is not our right to treat others badly just because we can. We as a society need to change. We need to make kindness cool again. Let us think of others more often, and be slower to judge what we don’t understand. Stand up for what is right, even when it’s unpopular. And remember that you have the power to change things. By being kind you will change yourself, becoming more like Christ. And you will change the world, by showing others a better way to live. There is tremendous power in simple kindness.
I applaud Angelica Mansfield for standing up to share the same message. We can do so much if we work together. Here is her passionate speech.
About Abby Christianson
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.