Reflections on living the kind life...
In 2007, after abruptly ending my sixteen-year career as a professional photographer to pursue a new dream, many thought I had completely lost my mind. Upon telling others it was my goal to become an author and kindness advocate, I was called “crazy” and an “idealistic dreamer.” A few months into my venture I was invited to speak to a business group about my vision of creating a kinder world. Upon finishing the presentation, a man in the audience approached me. Speaking in an aggressive tone he said, “I’m sorry to sound rude, but you were insane to give up your photography career and all of your financial security—it makes no sense to close a successful business just to promote kindness!” After allowing him to vent his feelings, I calmly asked him the following question, “Does the world need more photographers . . . or more kindness right now?” His body language immediately softened, he looked down, smiled and said, “Man, you got me there . . . the world definitely needs more kindness.”
I think most would agree—for humanity to survive; kindness is needed now more than ever. Sadly, not everyone is adhering to this belief as we are experiencing dark times. Each day, our traditional and social media reveals an ugly side of humankind and the callous behavior, taking place across the globe. Politicians teach our children it’s okay to act like bullies. Episodes of domestic violence continue to rise. Stories of racism, religious wars, and school shootings have become all too common.
Equally as concerning is the apathetic behavior within our interactions. We are entering dangerous territory as natural traits such as empathy, compassion, patience, and gratitude have been replaced with the illusion that relationships can be developed and sustained through an electronic box gripped in our hand. In just a few short years, we’ve become a culture, which spends most of our time staring at glossy, app-filled screens. The result is millions of eyeballs looking down, ignoring the cries of others and not seeing a world that is in desperate need of our compassion and attention.
Renowned Indian yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda once said; “Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations.” The Survival of the Kindest philosophy echoes this statement, claiming all seven and a half billion people on this planet are the light—radiant beings disguised in human form, here to create a better world in our own way. Simply stated, regardless of age, gender, race or religion, each of us possesses the power to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary acts of love and kindness.
After a decade of speaking to hundreds of thousands of people, the message remains the same—simply reminding audiences of what they already know. Because the truth is, my work is not some profound wisdom of the ages. Nor is it anything new. It's merely a reminder that if you are feeling stuck in your relationships, health or career; that being kind has the power to change almost any situation for the better.
Of course, living in stressful times, there will be days when practicing kindness is not easy. The journey of the heart takes courage, vulnerability, patience, and resilience. Most of all, it takes a bit of craziness. Because the truth is, if we are to change the world, a conventional approach is not the answer. Or as Apple Computer reminded us during their innovative, 1997 TV Ad . . .
"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
It has always been the so-called “crazy ones” who inspire change. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others made unimaginable sacrifices in their efforts to eradicate darkness from our planet. And although their works are legendary, each made it known that the ability to cultivate love and light is not just available to a fortunate few—it is within everyone. And if these great souls were here today, I believe their message to you, and I would be this:
You are love.
You are light.
You are an extraordinary human being.
And you have the power to change the world.
So let’s get crazy.