Life has a funny way of revealing itself to you if you take the time to notice.
As a young girl, I was always aware of framed quotes that hung in our homes throughout the years. The quotes, handwritten, some printed on paper, ranged from everyone like Abraham Lincoln to Helen Keller. There was one that I specifically remember more than the others. It was one that my mom had taken the time to needlepoint. There was nothing special about the quote, but I do remember that it was always around, never far from where my mom spent time. I must have seen it thousands of times. It simply read “Kindness is the oil that takes friction out of life.” I will never really know, but I’ve been wondering lately if that quote and the unique family story behind it ultimately inspired me to spread kindness?
My maternal grandmother died when I was in 5th grade. I remember her vividly. I am also named after her, “Louise.” She was a happy, robust woman who I thought was unbelievably special because she let me shell butter beans with her, and she had a beautiful purple bathroom.
The apartment, in rural Georgia where she lived, was small, but that bathroom felt like the Taj Mahal when I visited. I can still see it now. The colors were vibrant, and there were floral designs everywhere. I thought it was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen.
Grandma sold Avon for a living. The cosmetic and skincare line offered many women back in the day, the opportunity to sell items door to door. My mom tells the story of how Grandma never learned to drive so she walked everywhere to find customers. As a single mom, she would walk miles to make money for her family. But Grandma not only sold Avon, she would often return to those neighborhoods to help out the less fortunate that she met along her work route.
Mom says Grandma was the kindest person she ever met. She would help families who were struggling and found time to spread kindness even though by most standards, Grandma was financially poor. She may have lacked money, but she overflowed in generosity choosing to give of her time, attention, and cooking skills.
When Grandma died, my mom found a small piece of paper in Grandma’s purse. She had written these words on the paper: “Kindness is the oil that takes friction out of life.” Mom was so moved she took that quote, made a needlepoint out of it, and framed it. The rest is history. It wasn’t until years later that I would put two and two together. I knew the story but never gave it much thought until recently when I was home visiting my family.
Mom, now a senior citizen herself, has had the quote hanging in her home for years. I assume it has been a gentle reminder of her mom and the joy she found when she spread kindness in her own life.
I had a positive thought recently that maybe my grandmother’s urge to write that quote on a piece of paper so many decades ago, somehow in some way influenced my choices growing up and now in the present. I would like to think so. I too started collecting inspiring quotes in high school. I have journals full of them. When I was a high school teacher, I would hang quotes all around my classroom. Even to this day, I make homemade journals for friends and family with shared quotes inside.
It warms my heart to think the past actions and influence of a woman who recognized the importance of kindness, helped me create a space to share kindness today with the world. When I created my company Be Kind & Co., I never dreamt of what was possible. I only knew, possibly just subconsciously, that I needed, in a way, to share the message my grandmother wrote on that piece of paper.
The company name, mission statement and even choice of color you see on the site is a conscious choice. I chose purple. Yep, purple- just like my grandmother’s bathroom. And if you are wondering, that framed quote is now hanging in my house.
Here are a few of my thoughts on how you too can spread kindness and influence the younger generation, our communities, and ourselves.
Listen to Family Stories
You will never regret listening to your parents or grandparents telling stories of their past. They are a wealth of knowledge and can share memories that you may not even know happened. It may seem like you have years to listen, but the truth is life is fast. I have made it a priority to listen to my family and the stories told. I know all too well, that when you lose a parent, there are no more chances to sit and listen.
Reflect Back On What Life Has Taught You (Focus on the Good)
Just like my story of the kindness quote and my Grandma, you too have positive, happy influences that you can recall and reflect back on. They can help you piece together your life journey in some ways. You can begin to understand why some doors open while others close, depending on what we experience in life. If you can’t remember a specific story clearly, call a cousin or an uncle and ask for clarity. The conversation offers them a chance to reminisce as well.
Visit a Nursing Home (Virtually Volunteer to Listen)
Imagine being in a nursing home day in and day out, especially during these last few months where we are isolated from one another. This is a chance for you to find an organization to volunteer with that allows you to meet senior citizens who just need someone to talk to. You can also ask questions or read them a book. These random acts of kindness not only help the residents, but you too will feel elated.
Be An Example for the Younger Generation
Most of you already know that children are sponges of knowledge and behavior. They are listening and watching everything you do. When we are keenly aware of this fact, our actions can have big consequences. That’s exciting because now you have to the opportunity to influence youth. They are the ones who will be leading our world eventually and they need examples of how to spread kindness. It’s not difficult. Simply watch your opinions. Are you being critical of others in front of them? Are you gossiping? Are you ignoring the homeless person? Can you, like my grandma, ask a child to help with something as simple as shelling butter beans? They may never forget your kindness.