Being kind is usually easier than we think

I was talking to my next-door neighbor, Judy, over the weekend, and somehow we got on the subject of her husband George's death in July 2017.

She had been very worried in the days after he died about holding some type of event so family and friends could gather to remember him. She really wanted to have it at her house but didn't think she had enough room for everyone she wanted to invite.

We had the space at our house, so we offered to host it for her. She promised it would be no trouble - she had a friend who was a caterer who would prepare all the food, bring it to our house - and clean up afterward.

It was a lovely open house and we felt privileged to play a small part in it. When I talked to her this past weekend, and she once again expressed her gratitude, I was reminded of what a difference it made to her. And it was such a simple thing for us to do.

I've been thinking about kindness a lot lately, in part because it's been the subject of a podcast I listen to, and in part because it seems to be in such short supply.

I'm not sure why that is the case. I wonder if having access to just about everything we need through an app on our smartphone has given us a false sense of self-sufficiency. If we don't need anyone else, what's the point of being kind to them?

Another theory of mine is that people have become so overly critical - even hateful - that they have forgotten what it means to be kind. At first this kind of behavior seemed to be contained to social media. "People would never say that in person!" used to be the response when we'd read a particularly venomous comment on Facebook. Now people have no hesitation about saying particularly venomous things in person, either.

I try to avoid this kind of behavior, but that doesn't mean I'm always as kind as I would like to be. Sometimes I talk myself out of a kind gesture. I tell myself I don't have the time or it won't make that much of a difference. Deep down, I know these excuses are hollow. What I need to do is to work harder to make kindness a habit.

How do I plan to accomplish that?

Here are some great ideas I found online and rattling around in my head.

• Pay a compliment.

On my morning walk one day, I stopped to tell a homeowner - whom I had never seen outside - how beautiful his yard is. When he looked up from pulling weeds, I realized he is someone I used to see regularly through a work activity. It was great to catch up. What other surprises await if I take the time to pay a compliment?

• Say thank you.

I try to always be polite, but sometimes I forget to thank people for simple things like listening attentively. Or I might say, "You didn't have to," which isn't really an expression of gratitude. At all.

• Keep a kindness journal.

I've kept a gratitude journal for years, but I've never thought about keeping a kindness journal. I like the idea of listing kindnesses I've shared and received. Even better is the idea to write down missed opportunities to be kind - or kinder.

• Be kind to myself.

It's so much easier to treat others well when we treat ourselves well.

"Kindness is contagious," Jacqueline Whitmore wrote in a piece on kindness for

I plan to get busy spreading it.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean