With my iPhone securely in hand and music gently swirling through my ears, I made the trek to the Rancho San Antonio hiking trails for my daily 10,000 steps. Soaking in the beauty of nature, I walked at a fast clip, up the steep trails, back down again, and finally reaching an expansive meadow. Proud of the sweat dripping down my face, I checked the health app on my phone to see how far I’d gone past my goal.
Crap! I’ve only walked 8,000 steps. I’ll be here a lot longer than I anticipated.
Backtracking, I walked another half hour just to gain 2,000 steps. Having committed to the 10,000 step challenge, I was determined to live up to my pledge, despite my bruised ego when realizing it was harder than I anticipated.
Looking back on my life, I find it odd how so much of it was measured by a number. In grammar school, it was the score was on a test. Anything below 90% had me feeling like a failure. Then, in high school, there was the bathroom scale early in the morning dictating whether or not this would be a good day. If my weight was low, I could enjoy my food. If it crept a couple pounds above the setpoint, I lived on lettuce and water.
I’ve counted calories, the number of friends, how many houses I’ve sold in a year, and how many students enroll in my classes at the YMCA. I’ve also fallen into the trap of checking my “likes” on Facebook and Instagram. The more received leaves me feeling empowered that my post reached the masses. But there’s one thing I’ve never counted—how many times in a day I created an act of kindness.
I feel we’ve gotten so far removed from being consciously kind in our fast-paced life of the Silicon Valley. With our heads down, eyes glued to our devices, it’s rare that we make eye contact with people on the street, in the store, or the gym. Even worse, we don’t acknowledge the homeless begging for money or sleeping on the street. Looking the other way, we act as if they don’t exist. I’ve been guilty of that. I don’t know what to do, so I do nothing.
I’ve heard that kindness is an interpersonal skill and something that often takes courage to perform, for not all are willing to accept the gesture. Suspicious people will wonder what you want from them. Those who rarely receive thoughtful actions don’t know how to respond while others might just find it weird to say hello to a stranger. But if we get past the fear that our precious act might be rejected, something magical begins to happen—happiness starts to grow, both for you as the giver and for the one receiving.
Today there are all types of challenges on Facebook—the ice bucket challenge, no makeup challenge, post a photograph challenge, even the plank challenge. But what if we started a kindness challenge where for one month, we did five random acts of kindness a day? Just five. Hold the door open, smile, or say “have a good day.” Nothing dramatic. Nothing that costs a cent. Just a simple measure of kindness.
They say it takes about thirty days to add a new habit or destroy an old one. Just imagine how our world would be if we all were kind for a whole month. By planting a seed of kindness in the garden of our life, and watering it with kind efforts every day, one day it will grow into a magnificent specimen that will transform us. That’s the world I want to live in.
I’m taking the kindness challenge. Who will join me?
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