Practicing Kindness


by | September 18, 2020

Every now and then I see a few kind words come across my social media feeds, but most of the time these days, what I read there is not very kind. I realize our need for honesty and truth and for courageous conversations, but I cannot imagine these doing much good when not created in and shared from a place of kindness.

Lately, it seems that kindnesses are reserved for those who think, believe, act, and speak as we do—for those who are alike and not different from us. The deepening divisions between us have created chasms that keep us from sharing kindness across the divides. I don’t know what our GVP students and their families experience in the way of kindness in their everyday lives here in this country, especially as refugee newcomers. But I do know that as a staff at GVP, we do our best to embody and practice kindness in all of our relationships, especially with parents and students who have endured forced displacement and trauma of all kinds.  Kindness is central to fostering feelings of worth, inclusivity, and belonging. Kindness recognizes our shared humanity and mutual needs for care and consideration. Kindness is core to our work at GVP. 

In online dictionaries, kindness is often defined as the quality or act of being generous, helpful, humane, caring, and considerate. It is regularly associated with love and sometimes with intentionality. While on the surface, it may be easy to conflate kindness with niceness, I think that intentionality and action are core differences between being “nice” and being “kind.” Niceness doesn’t necessarily go very deep: someone can be nice without really trying or maybe without even knowing it. Being kind, on the other hand, requires intentionality–a determination or pre-determination to go deeper and move beyond surface-level cordiality. Acts of kindness may not always be nice, easy, or pleasurable. In fact, they may be uncomfortable and difficult at times. They require an intentional commitment to caring, even when it might be easier to walk away or ignore the needs of others. For me, being kind isn’t something that you are, but something that you practice. However, in order to be practiced, kindness must first be learned. 

For that reason, among others, kindness is one of our five GVP Community Core Values. It is a required response to others in our community at GVP; one that is taught, learned, and practiced. In counseling classes, Advisory group meetings, conferences, and classrooms, we talk about kindness. I see acts of kindness happening daily at school, even now when we are online. Recently, I saw students teaching each other how to use a Zoom “raise hand” tool, and I have seen them daily greeting each other and asking how they and their families are. I have seen students chatting other students to get them up for school or sending links to make signing in for class easier. Staff members have made weekly calls home to parents to check in on them and their families and have driven to students’ homes to provide technology instruction and meet connectivity needs and get students and siblings online for classes.

I have seen teachers jump in to teach and support one another when learning a new and challenging technology tool. I see staff members eager to listen and encourage one another and kindness in the volunteers who come to help pack up food and load the buses for weekly family deliveries. I see kindness when we actively celebrate each other’s birthdays with songs, messages, and notes. 

At GVP, we give Shine Awards when we want to thank others for the kindness and light they have shared, and while we often give out these Shine Awards in Advisory or Administrative meetings, now we also have a special chat room set up in our Google Suite for recognizing and “giving shine”. We intentionally practice, encourage, and recognize kindness in our community. 

The kindness that I witness daily at GVP is part of why our global village family of support is so strong and why so many people remain connected and involved in the GVP community for so many years. Our alumnae help with family interpretation, volunteer to give presentations, and engage in peer mentoring and alumnae leadership. Most of our volunteers come back year after year to support students and teachers in the classrooms. Many of these committed volunteers have served at GVP for more than 5 years and at least twenty of them have been with the school for over a decade now. 

While reading Inc. magazine online, I came across something I had seen about kindness some time ago. It said, “In a study conducted by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at University of California, Riverside, students were assigned to do five random acts of kindness per week for a period of six weeks. At the end of the study, the students’ levels of happiness had increased by 41.66 percent. Being kind had a profoundly positive effect on happiness.”

Kindness is core at GVP, and joy is easy to see. One of my favorite things to do at school, when we are open for in-person classes, is to give tours to possible funders and new friends, and to educators from around the world. One of the recurring things I hear on these tours, and for me one of the greatest compliments for our school is that the students are so “full of joy.” I think that there are many reasons for this, but I know that the kindness shared and shown is an important one.

I hope that we will see more kindness in our world right now. It seems the divisions between us, on so many levels, have made it more difficult to reach out in kindness to one another. I think about the happiness and joy that is missed when kindness is lacking and the limits we put on ourselves and others when we are unwilling to live and practice kindness. I hope, too,  that these quotes will inspire each of us to consider a deeper practice of kindness in these times when it seems in short supply. I think that right now, we could all use more of it.  

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

 “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” -Amelia Earhart

 “I think people are willing to talk about anything if you come to it with kindness.”- Jacqueline Woodson

 “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” -Albert Schweitzer

 “First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.” -Brene Brown

“It is sometimes difficult to view compassion and loving kindness as the strengths they are.

“I think the associations people have with kindness are often things like meekness and sweetness and maybe sickly sweetness; whereas I do think of kindness as a force, as a power.” -Sharon Salzberg

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”-Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” -Buddha