I plowed into the review of a book called, On Kindness, with great eagerness. Haven't I been preaching this for years with the "Because Nice Matters" theme of VICTORIA? My son once had a baseball cap made for me with the phrase, "Nice Matters," embroidered on it. (I think he got it at one of those stands that machine embroider names in thirty seconds.)
Granted, nice and kind are not exactly in the same ballpark, but they are close.
I was always encouraged at VICTORIA to come up with a "bumper sticker slogan" to describe the magazine. We were such a diverse publication, that this was something of an assignment. When I hit on "Because Nice Matters," I thought I had arrived. I still do. The business side of the magazine, good folk all, didn't see it my way and it was never used the way I intended. But I did use it in the pages of the magazine, and even had Janet McCaffrey create a sampler readers could duplicate. I have one on my wall.
I liked the word nice because it has many meanings. And I have never found it trite. Even "Have a nice day," never bothered me a bit, including when said at the end of a recorded message. What better can you say, than, "What a nice baby?" Or, "You have a nice home." Better yet, a husband's greeting: "You look so nice today." How many times has a mom begged her kids to pick up things, so the house looked "nice" for guests?
I'm sure you get my drift. Nice is a good standard word devoid of pretensions.
Back to this book on kindness. It is a study by a psychoanalyst and a historian--and way too complicated for me to dissect here. It seemed like a lot of hard work and, I am sure, new thinking on the subject. But I personally don't want to think about kindness any further than the examples I've known in my own life or see about me everyday. When you live in a big city, kindness is often done "on the fly." Things happen so fast that the kindness meter may not even be running. It's just common decency when someone runs after you to hand you the hat you unknowingly dropped. Or two young men, without a uttering a syllable, hoisting a stroller up the steps at a subway stop. How kind they are.
My grandmother was a study in kindness. She was brought up on a farm in Nebraska, and I think she learned neighborliness as a religion. Her belief that you do things for others without expecting reward for it was the inspiration for the A Star in Crown award and series in VICTORIA. She wouldn't think a thing of sewing, baking,tending a toddler, or a myriad of other daily gestures for others. Her kindness to me was beyond measure.
Anne Frank wanted to believe that people were basically good; and I want to think they are basically kind for some very simple reasons. It's the right thing to do; and it makes you feel good in the process.
Read On Kindness if you want to delve further into this basic human emotion. But if you do, maybe spend the same amount of time in acts of kindness. It would be a nice thing to do.