OPINION: HARVEY MACKAY — The importance of kindness

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Two young men were out in a rowboat when it overturned. Luckily, two women were nearby in another boat and came to their aid. The men were a long way from shore and needed medical attention. Unfortunately, the women had neither a radio nor a motor on their boat.

The women screamed for help at each passing motorboat on the waterway, but their pleas were ignored. By the time they were finally able to secure help, one of the young men had perished from his injuries.

This was the story Lorraine Jara read in her local newspaper one day, more than 30 years ago. Though Jara did not know any of the people involved in this tragedy, it touched her so deeply that she had to do something. So, on August 25, 1988, Jara created Be Kind to Humankind Week.

To encourage others to engage in kind and civil behavior, Jara created the following themes for each day of the special week:

• Sacrifice Our Wants for Others’ Needs Sunday

• Motorist Consideration Monday

• Touch A Heart Tuesday

• Willing to Lend a Hand Wednesday

• Forgive Your Foe Friday

• Speak Kind Words Saturday

Imagine how much nicer the world would be if each one of us committed to adhering to these concepts during this week and every week thereafter.

The smallest act of kindness can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Nice people can finish first. And they have in common some habits that are practically second nature to them. You can develop them too.

First, be kind to yourself. You’ll find being nice to others easier if you build your self-respect with positive thoughts about your personality and achievements.

Treat everyone with respect, and I mean EVERYONE! Don’t worry about who’s on top. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated, regardless of their position or job title.

Say no when necessary. You can’t do everything. But when you do say no, be polite and positive. And when you are making requests, be gracious when someone needs to say no to you.

Plant seeds of kindness. Do something nice every day, even when your kindness may not have an immediate payoff. If you are being kind for some specific reward, you are not being kind, you are being selfish.

Every form of kindness you show doesn’t bounce, it reproduces itself. It is good to be good. Be nice. Take the high road.

Here’s another story that illustrates this point. A young boy, out on a ramble to study wildlife, became very hungry and decided he would stop at the next farmhouse. A lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal, he just asked for a glass of water. The woman thought he looked hungry, so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother taught us never to accept pay for kindness.” He said, “Then I thank you from my heart.”

Years later, that young woman became ill. The local doctors sent her to the big city, where Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation.

When he heard the name of the town where she came from, his eyes lit up. Immediately, he went down the hall of the hospital to her room. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to cure her illness. From that day, he gave special attention to that case and saw her through her recovery.

Dr. Kelly, one of the four founding doctors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on it. When the woman received the bill, she feared opening it because she was sure it might take the rest of her life to pay for it. Finally, she looked, and noticed something was written at the edge of the note: “Paid in full with a glass of milk.” Tears filled her eyes as she made the connection and remembered the hungry boy she had helped years before.

By the way, Dr. Kelly had a habit of taking care of the bills of three out of four of his patients. Surely this kindness made many of his patients feel much better.

Mackay’s Moral: Being kind should be celebrated every day, not just one week out of the year.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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