Reflections on Kindness Day 2021
Everyday should be a kindness day but celebrating International Kindness Day with the entire world on November 13 had its own meaning. I was grateful to see two locations on Western grounds, serving hot chocolate and tea, on a rainy cold Friday morning (November 12) and spreading the message of kindness. I got a chance to pet therapy dogs, which was very popular with students, and to get a photo as “I” in the word KIND—perhaps to amplify the message and impact of kindness.
It is encouraging and refreshing to see Western students and employees living by their motto of “Making Waves,” striving to bring positive change in their personal lives, in people around them, and in the environment and space we live in. This, in itself, is an act of kindness. It is heartwarming to think about the ripple effect of these kindness efforts and their potential of touching endless hearts.
So, what is kindness? Simply stated, kindness is acknowledgment of others’ existence by being considerate of their welfare without being judgmental. Kindness makes people seen and heard and that is why it touches the core of humanity. We give meaning to our existence in reference to our mutual connectivity at the human level. We like to feel being seen and acknowledged for our humanity, and not being judged by others. Kindness has this mega power of meeting our basic emotional needs and, on top of that, it promotes welfare.
Being extra mindful of kindness is the call of our times. Our Western community is getting back to campus after a global pandemic and taking all the necessary steps to stay safe. During the pandemic, we experienced many losses, some of us more than others. Some of those losses are more tangible whereas others are less so, such as loss of time, experiences, connections, dreams, and opportunities. Many of us are grieving the loss of our loved ones. Recent studies have confirmed that depression and anxiety levels have risen significantly since the start of pandemic, particularly in young adults. In acknowledging the sensitivity of this time and realizing that transitions may be harder for some than others, we need to be extra kind to each other. The beauty of kindness is that you can loan others’ your strength without reminding them of their weakness. Kindness has a unique capacity to awakens the greatness within you and supports you to become the best version of yourself.
It is an important time to remind ourselves about the positive impact of spreading kindness on campus and in our communities and to recognize why it matters now more than ever. Kindness towards oneself and others has a tremendous healing power. It brings harmony and happiness in social groups and reduces isolation. Scientific studies on kindness also tell us that it has the power of bringing change to our emotional and physiological levels. Kindness releases Oxytocin which promotes cooperation and closeness and makes us happier by literally activating the brain’s reward circuitry, while strengthening our social connections. It is also worth mentioning here that kindness is contagious and can create ongoing waves of its benefits.
Our health, both physical and emotional, is the biggest asset we have. It is our responsibility to protect and promote it, and that includes practicing self-compassion and not being too critical or harsh towards ourselves. I am proud that Western has recently adopted the Okanagan Charter to make health and wellbeing a priority. It is an important step to shift the culture towards care, kindness and holistic wellbeing. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Healing Garden on November 3 affirmed the University’s commitment to provide healing spaces which can remind us of the importance of being kind to oneself while helping those who are on a path of recovery. We also look forward to the addition of the Coast Salish-style Longhouse—the House of Healing—which will be a wonderful addition to the kindness culture at Western.
Uzma Ahmad Randhawa