On Kindness and Generosity of Spirit
No matter how far removed I get from the “back to school days,” there’s something that happens in my body and soul each year come fall. Considering I’ve spent 16 years of my life going through the same yearly routine, it’s hard to shake the feelings elicited from the final days of summer air and crisp planner pages and sharpened pencils.
One of my favorite things about the start of a new school year was always the chance to both be back with old friends and to meet new people. With all the activities going on, new schedules, events, football games, etc., I thrived on the time I got to spend in social settings. Regardless of whether you’re a social butterfly or more of a wall flower, the opportunity to impact those around you in this fresh season of life is always present, and we get to choose how we respond.
In the spirit of back to school, I always take a moment to check in on my own goals- see how I’m doing on those New Years’ resolutions, renew fitness goals, and make plans for travel and adventure as the weather cools down. In the same vein, regardless of whether you’re reading this from your dorm room or your cubicle, it’s a great time of year to add another “goal” to your list- ways to love and impact the people who are in your life for this season.
It doesn’t seem like something we should have to “plan” for, but like anything, we get better at kindness and generosity through practice and intention. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s on our plate and our day-to-day schedules can get hectic, but what is true now and always, is people are the most important. And in this country where achievement, success, and the glamour of “busyness” are glorified, we have to fight harder to make margin for this truth to be evident in our lives.
Below are some ideas of how you can love others well in this season, and always:
1) Be a friendly face for someone new.
There’s most likely always someone new around you in whatever your environment, and chances are, you know what it’s like to be “the new kid” in all different stages of life. How much did it mean to you when someone else sparked up conversation, offered to explain the ropes to you, or even just took the time to walk from one class to the other together, or sit with you in the scary new office cafeteria? It doesn’t cost you much, and just by being on the lookout for that fresh face, offering a smile, and sparking up a conversation could be the difference maker in their day, and will be in yours, too!
2) Make an effort to keep in touch with friends who aren’t physically present right now.
Whether it’s the switch from high school to college, college to the working world, or city to city as our jobs and families change, we all go through separation from loved ones throughout different seasons. Some friendships will gradually fade as lives begin to look different. However, it’s so important to have those lifetime friends, the ones you make an effort to keep up with, who you know always have your back, especially in new seasons of life. You need these people for support, and it’s so important to keep investing in those people through the busyness and chaos of a new season. I find it works best to schedule out 1 day a week where we catch up on the phone. Also, we check in with each other through the power of technology with fun apps like Snapchat or Marco Polo for the random thoughts that just need to be shared with a best friend. Whatever it looks like for you, show the people who mean the most to you that you care by making them a priority, and if need be, a mandatory appointment on your calendar. You won’t regret it!
3) Remember important events in the lives of your loved ones.
While you’ve got those fresh planners out, go ahead and fill it in with birthdates, anniversaries (both happy and sad), milestones, and other important events in the lives of your loved ones so you can be sure to be there for them or send a meaningful gift or word of encouragement. Remembering what matters most to people is one way we can show gratitude and love to those we care about, a surefire way to deepen and grow in our friendship.
4) Don’t forget that the little things matter.
The other day at the grocery store, I was buying a kombucha that I’d been craving all day as it was hot and my day had been long. As I got to the counter to check out, I realized I had left my wallet in my gym bag, and didn’t have a dime on me. The person behind me in line could read the disappointment on my face, and before I knew what she was doing, she had her credit card out and was swiping to buy it for me. I could have hugged her! It was such a small act, but it made my day, and I thought about it long afterwards, wanting to do the same for someone else. The fact that she had her eyes and ears open to the people around her made her aware of opportunities for kindness, and she acted on it without question. How often do we miss moments to bless those around us, whether its monetarily, with a word of encouragement or compliment, or just to lend a helping hand, because we have our faces buried in our phones, unaware of our surroundings? This moment convicted me of how I live my life moving from one plan to the next, using the moments of waiting to mind-numbingly scroll through my phone, unaware of the humanity right alongside me.
I hope this encourages you to go out of your way to make plans to foster genuine friendship, kindness, and generosity this fall. It’s a fresh time to start something new, and plans to love people well are just as important as your new fitness regime or class schedule. In this day and age in our country and around the world, it’s more important than ever to be the kind of person that chooses kindness, extends grace, and promotes peace.
What are your goals for the fall, and what opportunities do you have to love others deeply in this season?
Written by Raegan Messinger (@raeganmessinger)