There is not enough kindness in the world today. Turn on the news, glance at social media, view any online political forum, and the lack of civility is painfully clear. Our libraries remain committed to informing, educating, entertaining, and helping us see the good in the world and in each other. This month, we are going to bring kindness back! Try something new and radical and, best of all, simple: Be kind.
Kindness promotes empathy and compassion; it elevates brain chemicals, which reduce stress and boost the immune system; it helps you feel connected to others, and it’s as good for the outer world as it is for your inner self. We have three times as many books about kindness in our library for children as we do for adults. Clearly, kindness is a virtue that we wish to teach our young ones, but sometimes the stress of being an adult makes us lose our perspective. I am personally committed to staying mindful about this topic and reading is a huge part of my journey. Take a peek inside my toolbox to see how easy it is to incorporate kindness into your daily life.
The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World, by Tara Cousineau, prescribes kindness as an important form of self-care. I like my inspirational texts rooted firmly in science and Cousineau links compassion and empathy to neuroscience and DNA. We are hardwired to benefit from empathy. The more we practice it, the better we feel, physically and mentally.
How to Raise Kind Kids and Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain, by Thomas Lickona, explores how to model kindness, but also what to do when you catch your kids doing the opposite. We learn by teaching and by the end of this book, the whole family benefits from mutual respect and gratitude.
When Action Follows Heart: 365 Ways to Share Kindness, by Susan Spencer, offers practical, direct ways to have an impact and brighten someone’s day. It starts with buying coffee for the car behind you in line and offers hundreds of other ways to promote kindness and reap the benefits of being positive.
The Secret History of Kindness: Learning from How Dogs Learn, by Melissa Pierson, traces the practice of positive reinforcement, which animal trainers use to amazing results, revealing how kindness motivates and brings out the best in animals and humans.
The Kindness Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Ignite Goodwill and Transform Lives Around the World, by Leon Logothesis, is the best kind of travelogue. It follows one man around the globe as he survives on the kindness of strangers and repays them, in turn, with his own contributions to give back to their communities. If you have ever doubted that people are intrinsically good, this story will change your mind forever. The book was so impactful that it was recently produced as a Netflix series!
Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results, by William Baker and Michael O’Malley, explores the role of kindness in the workplace. Baker shows how leading with sincerity, honesty, and respect improves working relationships and contributes to the overall health of an organization.
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is a classic novel that illustrates the power of non-conformity and kindness, and the importance of remaining true to yourself.
All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven, is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find each other while standing on the edge. You won’t soon forget this beloved New York Times bestseller.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, is a novel that was made into the hit teen movie, “Love Simon,” which portrays a close group of friends and the power of both keeping and sharing a secret. Kindness triumphs.
Dwelling on kindness forces us to look at our lives with a broad lens. Are we behaving in ways we would like our children to model? Are we surrounding ourselves with positive people and, most importantly, are we true to our words and ourselves?
While there are hundreds of books that aim to teach kindness to kids, I prefer stories that show kindness in action.
Pirates Can Be Kind, by Tom Easton, tells the tale of Polly the parrot, who falls asleep on the job, and her pirate ship is nearly destroyed! Instead of reacting with anger, her crew responds with kindness and understanding.
I Will Always Be Happy to See You, by Ellen DeLange, shows the power of unconditional love. A little girl reassures her puppy that no matter what he is up to while she is gone, she will always be happy to see him when she returns.
The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig, shows the power of kindness to transform an entire classroom. Brian has been previously ignored by his classmates. When a new student arrives and is teased by others, Brian shows him kindness. In return, the new student helps make Brian visible, literally, to his class. The touching visuals reinforce how kindness brings us back to life.
Wonder, by RJ Palacio, tells the story of a severely disfigured boy who enters public school in fifth grade and not only survives the taunting of classmates but teaches them to be better human beings. The film, starring Julia Roberts, is every bit as great as the book!
No time to read?
I feel you. Be kind to yourself and check out these award-winning films:
Kindness is Contagious explores the impact and infectiousness of kindness and compassion.
A Small Act is a documentary that follows a young Kenyan boy, whose life changes forever for the better when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he seeks to repay the kindness.
The Altruism Revolution: Intrinsic Human Kindness vs. Self-Interest challenges the notion that our society must center on tribalism and winning at all costs, and instead focuses on selflessness as a core principle in life.
A Street Cat Named Bob tells the true story of a homeless London man and the injured ginger cat he nurses back to health. This is my personal favorite, showing how a small kindness toward a small, helpless animal generates big changes.
Finally, thank you for your kindness. We, at the Library District, do our best to repay your patronage every time you visit our branches and our website.
Here’s wishing you a New Year filled with kindness and goodwill!