For quite some time now I have wanted to join the wave of individuals inspiring our world with the sharing of generous acts of kindness. I’ve not had the success I hoped for. Why?

Two years of being bullied set me on this journey. I needed to turn that horrible, terrifying, insane experience into something positive. My two years of fear and anguish doesn’t compare to what so many people experience. Bullying and meanness only creates more bullying and meanness, all driven by pain and fear.  It’s a wave that needs to be overpowered by a bigger wave, a wave of kindness.

I decided to start a kindness campaign, combining the power of the internet with live experience, connecting people to this most powerful wave so many out there are contributing to. I immediately printed be kind stickers and asked my pupscout troop to join me in forwarding this conversation. We would canvas the streets and pass the stickers out to strangers, documenting the experience and sharing it on social media. I found no followers. I started a Dogs 4 Kindness campaign, challenging people to do an act of kindness with their dog and posting a picture documenting that experience on social media. I found 2 followers. I posted a meetup event where we would pass out valentines to strangers on Valentine’s Day. No one signed up.

I decided to go it alone. I hit the streets of Beverly Hills, approaching strangers with my desire and asking them to take a picture with me to share the message. Half the people I approached said no. They looked at me with distrust and were afraid to have their picture posted on social media. The rejection hurt, and the vulnerability required to approach these strangers to ask something of them caused a horribly unpleasant, fearful feeling. I went home from that experience feeling humbled and small. No wonder no one wanted to join me! It’s easy to throw out slogans on the internet. It’s hard to be fearless and bold.

Yesterday I came upon the Netflix series, The Kindness Diaries.  Add it to your viewing list. It will educate and inspire.

The Kindness Diaries documents Leon Logothetis as he travels the world on a vintage motorbike with no money, depending on the kindness of strangers to take him forward. I cringed as he asked strangers if they would put him up for the night. I heard my own judgement as he asked for gas to fill his tank. I identified with Angelenos who pessimistically told him as he headed out on his journey that he was doomed to fail.  And my heart filled with joy as I watched him return the flow by surprising those who showed him kindness.

The series begins with a truth that pinpoints the place of kindness in today’s world:

“From a distance the world probably seems like a big bad scary place,” Leon says. “If you listen to the news or even ask the person next to you they will likely talk about war, poverty, corruption and hate. And they are right – from a distance. But I believe that up close, there is enough good, enough love and enough pure kindness to make the world go round and that is what inspired my journey.”

Leon’s wisdom gave me tools to move forward.

He talked about fear being a kindness killer. That’s true, I felt it with each person I approached and it made me not want to approach. Would they reject me? Would they think I was stupid, even laugh at me?  When I approached them anyway I felt that tingle of vulnerability that made me feel stupid and laughable. I felt tears well up inside.  How can I possibly succeed at this? It felt like I was being bullied, by my own need to get beyond it!  Was that the secret? To get beyond your fears by confronting the feelings those fears produced? Why did I even care if I was laughed at? Why does that matter?

Leon said that to give and receive kindness you must make yourself vulnerable. You can’t be afraid. You need to feel the power of empathy.  He said that, in order to pursue kindness, a person must first strip away all pretense and be willing to be reliant upon others. “When you are humbled multiple times in multiple ways, you learn humility. Humility is not natural.” That is so true! I felt that! 

Leon said the true magnificence of humanity comes from the heart and I know that is true. The more that you live with your heart, the richer you are. Open your heart and the wave of generosity will keep going. I want that wave to grow so big that the wave of meanness fits into a shallow kiddie pool. “You can live with an open heart,” Leon says. “You don’t have to do big things, or even great things, but you do have to have a commitment to approaching life with a more open heart. It requires being kind to yourself first and then to others.” 

That’s a good place to start. I don’t exactly know my next step. but what I do know is that people matter. All people. They’re what you see in the close up view, and that’s where we need to focus in today’s fast-paced digital world. Amplifying that view will minimize the massive machine of dehumanization brought on by everything that is not human. I am continuing on my journey. My hope is that I will be as bold and fearless in my pursuit as Leon has been in his journies.