By Darren Lum
Life can be difficult.
Sure, I live in a country where there is a stable government and our infrastructure is sound for the most part. I recognize certain groups of people in this country have it more difficult than others for a variety of reasons, but it’s pretty good in Canada.
Challenges face everyone and I believe kindness goes a long way to ease the stress and anxiety people feel, whether it’s for friends, family, loved ones, but also co-workers, bosses and strangers.
I grew up in a time when hard work, commitment and putting your head down and pushing past and through adversity was the typical course of action despite how you felt.
This approach to life was ingrained into me at an early age. I don’t remember it ever really said to me in one sentence – a few idioms were definitely thrown my way though, but it was clear life wasn’t going to hand me anything unless I put my nose to the grindstone, feelings be damned.
I’m not going to complain about how my upbringing was wrong. I believe my close to 20 year career in journalism is attributed in large part to the approach I was taught (for it was the best my parents knew). However, I believe there is room to include kindness, compassion and sensitivity when interacting with others. What does it really cost us to show and feel for others, who may serve us in whatever capacity, whether it’s at a restaurant, hardware store, or the hospital?
Living through (and for the most part an ongoing) pandemic has taught us it’s okay to say we’re struggling and we need help. A pandemic, which has become a global news event, that affects millions around the world similarly provides us a shared understanding like never before except for possibly the Second World War. If we can’t empathize with others now, when can we?
Besides the struggles of the pandemic, whether it’s social and physical isolation, there are the daily challenges that some face. From making enough money to feed a family and deciding on whether to pay for rent or for heating a home to grieving the loss of aging parents, who suffer from dementia. We don’t know why someone is showing anger to us. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen, to show they matter and show someone still cares with a little kindness. This could be in the form of patience or in someone simply asking ‘How can I help you?’ An answer may not come, but the question could be the tipping point for someone that needs it at a critical time in their life.
Lastly, kindness isn’t just for the stranger, or even the loved ones in our lives.
It’s also important we are kind to ourselves. It’s easy to be your own worst critic. We can be our own worst enemy and get down on ourselves for making a mistake, which could be at work, with family, and with loved ones. Repressing these feelings of inadequacies only harms us and can manifest itself in a myriad of negative ways for everyone around.
I heard someone explained the concept of working through our emotional struggles with the idea of a Chinese finger puzzle and how trying to pull your fingers out, makes it tighter, which is represenative of what happens when we don’t engage with our feelings, which only makes the stress and anxiety greater. However, push your fingers together and the puzzle relaxes. A visual representation of when we can engage with our feelings we can ease the tension.
I used to be a person that looked for the diversions, but it didn’t serve me or the people around me. Am I perfect or even an example to follow? Far from it, but I’m working on being kind to myself so I can be the best I can be for others. And I’m happy with that.