After I completed reading The Go-Giver by Bob Burg, my convictions about kindness and generosity were strongly reinforced. In October 2018, I created a tangible copy of my personal ethical code and, in that document, one of my primary tenants of operation is kindness. I value being kind because I have a higher-level understanding of the importance of empathy (especially among survivors of trauma—which most people in this world are). At the same time, I want to make it clear that I believe that there is a distinct difference between being kind and being nice. Niceties are unkind when they obscure the truth or muddle understanding in an interpersonal relationship or an organization. Kindness can be delivering the truth in the most comfortable way without allowing negative energy (i.e., anger, sarcasm, biting wit) to harm another person, even if the situation itself is uncomfortable or heated.
In terms of the text provided, I especially appreciated the firm—but kind—way that Pindar told Joe, “If we’re going to take this walk together, we need to start by facing the same direction. If you notice, what I said was ‘share her coffee.’ What you said was ‘make a killing.’ Do you see the difference?” (Burg, 10) The difference between being generous and being greedy is highlighted quite nicely in that quote.
Personally, I have struggled somewhat with the intersection of healing other people and escaping poverty. I love the process of helping people along their journeys to loving themselves, mending from their unique trauma, creating their careers, increasing the intimacy of their relationships, and finding their ultimate purpose in this world. Just the same, a lifetime of living in rural Appalachian poverty has left me eager to pursue the path which would most quickly allow me to rise above the poverty line to a place where I do not have to worry about eviction, food insecurity, or repossession. I cannot provide others with my service if I am stuck in survival mode. I cannot pour from an empty well.
As I reflect upon my three-day period of utter kindness, I want to be fully vulnerable and start with some background information about myself and my journey. I grew up in a psychologically unsafe and financially unstable environment. From the spring of 2008 (age 11) to the fall of 2016 (age 19), I was physically, sexually, and psychologically abused by a pedophile who preyed upon me from the then-popular social media website Myspace. During this period, I lost two children to miscarriage and stillbirth as a direct result of rape. All of this is to say: I am well-versed in the effects that abuse and trauma have on a human being, especially of adolescent age.
Why is this information relevant? Because opening doors, holding elevators, buying folks coffee, greeting and respectfully complimenting strangers, and letting folks ahead in line at the grocery are all valid acts of kindness and I enjoy performing them regularly for the sake of brightening up other peoples’ lives. However, for this assignment, I wanted to dig a little bit deeper than that.
The acts of kindness which I am most skilled at providing (and which have the most noticeable impact) are healing modalities and tactics for people to deconstruct the issues that they find coming up repeatedly in their lives. My primary mode of healing other people is through direct one-to-one interactions and bridge-building. I am charismatic enough to convince people about the importance of healing from underlying issues using empathy and reason, especially in one-on-one settings, and that is what I did for this project.
Now for the nitty-gritty of what work I did during these three days.
In Tammy Reynolds’ Leadership course, each of us had to compose and present a PowerPoint about something of great importance to us. I thought that it would be kind, relevant, and useful for my colleagues to hear about the concept of body neutrality and the applications of cognitive behavioral therapy to cope with bodily changes and trauma. Many of my classmates have suffered from athletic injuries and had depressive episodes after those injuries, and the content of the presentation was tailored to help them deal with those feelings in a loving way.
In my cohort and among my loved ones, I also offer free tarot card and astrological readings which function as a sort of “free association” exercise and can help me make suggestions for possible challenge areas in a person’s life. To date, I have completed over 20 readings for my classmates. I have had folks in my cohort, who put very little stock or belief into metaphysical and spiritual healing, tell me that they are amazed by the specificity and accuracy of what I tell them. These modalities are not magic; they are simply a method for navigating one’s intuition and personal strife to find greater meaning.
I am also a member of a few closed groups online wherein women from all over the world find community and support. Over the three days, I provided support in the form of gentle and reassuring messages to other women. I offered my service as a listening ear and a person in which to confide. I shared with them the different routes of activism that folks can take for issues that are most important to them. It was fulfilling to make those connections with other women.
In terms of my interpersonal relationships, my husband (who is also a survivor of CSA and trauma) and I have worked hard to curate an environment with one another of complete psychological safety and love. In other words, we actively work to prevent misunderstandings and thoughtless behavior with each other. However, during these three days, I was especially tender with him. We talked the entire drive to and from Athens, three days in a row (nine hours total) about our lives, our entrepreneurial plans, our creative energy levels, our dreams from the nights prior, and our financial outlook. I took special care to listen to everything that he said and avoid checking out on my phone or looking at the scenery through the Wayne. I cooked three nourishing dinners for us to enjoy together (something that I rarely make time to do now that I am a graduate student).
As I went through this journey, I was also consistently kind to myself. In the words of my personal mentor, Bevin, “Self-care stretches time and increases your capacity to help others.” I acted upon some urgent tasks in my to-do list for myself. I gave myself permission to rest whenever I needed to recuperate. I encouraged myself to be vulnerable and spill all of my beans in this reflection. All of these acts were radically kind to me.
As far as commitments for the future, I will continue to act with The Go-Giver in mind. I will continue to keep my focus on developing, healing, and serving myself and others. I will reject greed and money for money’s sake, seeking only to fulfill reasonable financial goals and donating excess funds to meaningful causes. For now, I will commit to my dream of creating content (books, videos, shareable articles, and one-on-one counseling sessions) to help at least 0.02% of the world’s population (approximately 1,400,000 people) heal from their respective problems and find their higher purpose before I POTSA (pass on to something awesome).
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