– can I deal with the presents I am supposed to give? Will people remember me? Am I invited to holiday parties? Do I want to go? All these social questions arise in so many hearts.
Where is the kindness?
Kindness is a practice, not a quantity. It’s not something we can measure out in a scoop from a bin and take to the cash register to purchase. We can’t store it on the shelf to give away at the holidays. Like a breath, kindness happens in the moment. We learn it by doing it and then it’s done.
The practice of kindness starts with an intention. We decide to be kind and then we look for opportunities to exercise that intention. The cat comes to meow at me because she wants me to let her out of the door. I am busy. The cat wants what she wants and is oblivious to whether or not I am busy. I can choose to react to the cat with irritation or with kindness. I can yell: “Go away. Don’t bother me.” Or I can say: “You want to go out? I will help you in a few minutes,” with warmth and love in my voice. The cat doesn’t understand the words (at least I don’t think she does) but she understands my intention. In that moment I am practicing kindness. Dealing with the cat is one of the ways that I can practice kindness in my every day life and I can transfer that practice to the holidays.
I was in a shopping center yesterday, looking for holiday items. I drive a little car. Sometimes I feel like a minnow in a school of minivans. In the parking lot, the minivans were grabbing parking spaces, dashing in and out. The minivans drivers insistence on what they wanted was not so unlike the cat. I could react by yelling or I could react with kindness. My choice. The practice with the cat helped. I am used to reacting with kindness. I chose kindness.
Did the drivers of the minivans notice? I doubt they noticed me as much as the cat does. I am not sure they even saw me some of the time. So what difference does the practice make? The difference it makes is to me. We are taught to be kind to other people and think we are doing it for their sake. Of course, it’s nice to be kind to people and hope that what we are doing makes their lives easier, but that’s not the fundamental reason to practice kindness. And it’s not what transforms the holidays.
The gift of the practice of kindness is how it changes me, not you. Kindness begins at home. When I practice being kind, I learn what it is to be kind to myself. There is a profound difference between self-sacrifice and kindness. Kindness is not self-sacrifice. Please don’t confuse the two. If I hurt myself for you, I am not being kind to either of us.
When I practice kindness I treat myself with care. I honor my capacity to live a life free of conflict, a life of inner ease. Each act of kindness to others is an act of gentleness to myself and to my own spirit. The more I practice kindness the more I learn to know myself as a person capable of warmth, of balance, of a peaceful response to life. I learn to trust myself.
Then in the midst of all the holiday madness, in the lines at the stores, in the parking lots, in the wondering about meeting my social obligations, the opportunities to practice kindness become opportunities to honor my own heart and build my inner wellbeing. When I do this, like a magnet, I not only give kindness but also attract kindness and the holidays can become the celebration of the heart they are meant to be.