In January, I attended the wedding of a young friend. One of the guests was in charge of making a video during the reception. She took her hand-held camera from table to table, asking questions, eliciting cheers, recording everything.
When she came to our table, I was entirely unprepared. The first thing she asked was: “What advice do you have for the bride and groom?”
Without thinking, I said, “Be kind.”
I don’t usually give advice because I hate it when people tell me what to do. It felt unnatural, and later I wondered if I should have said anything at all. Then I realized what great advice it is, and how universally it applies.
It’s what I say to myself if someone cuts me off in traffic.
What I would say to a young child angry with a sibling or a friend.
What I tell a friend who is angry with herself for missing an important appointment.
What I would tell all the candidates running for president if I could.
When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. —Abraham Joshua Heschel, rabbi and professor
I grew up believing it was important to be smart, and even better to be clever, but my understanding has changed.
We need smart. We have lots of challenges to overcome if everyone on our tiny planet is to live comfortable, healthy, safe lives. Fortunately, there are plenty of smart people in the world doing great things with their cleverness. But smart alone is not enough. Intelligence without compassion is in danger of creating more problems than it solves, of destroying as it tries to create.
We need kindess, too. Sometimes, it feels like kindness is harder to come by, especially in a world with social media storms filled with anger and hate. The more polarized the country becomes, the less chance smart has to fix things. Without applying some kindness first, how can we expect anyone to listen to our point of view?
Today, I will do my best to be kind.
To myself. To others. To everyone.
Be kind. Change the world.