Join the Revolution

It all started with the girls. The march, the pink hats, and the passionate demands for equality and justice. It started with #metoo and an end to silence. It was brewing for a while, mumbles growing louder and louder until the ground shook. Brave souls coming forward, willing to share their painful stories. But everything really changed when people started listening to each other. Believing. Empathy spurred action. And here we are. Living in a new world where there’s an ever-decreasing tolerance for nasty behaviour. People who prey on others, who use their power to bully and harass, face consequences. No matter how powerful they once were. We simply won’t tolerate it anymore.

Now there’s a new revolution. Once again, the voices are rising up. The message is singular and strong. It’s coming from Hollywood and Hosmer and all places in between. Celebrities and teenagers and my seven-year-old. It won’t waver and it won’t disappear. Kindness. #bekind. It’s everywhere. An all-encompassing pledge to do better. Be better. Like an amen, it’s an answer and a promise and an affirmation. A salute to what’s good and light and why we’re all here in the first place. The kindness revolution is upon us.

A growing body of research suggests that being kind toward others is associated with better and stronger mental and physical health, relationships, life satisfaction, communities, and even economies. When you perform an act of kindness your body releases a flood of neurochemicals that make you feel warm and happy. We’re wired to be kind. So where did it all go wrong?

It’s not like being unkind is new. The yin and yang of behaviour are as old as humans themselves. But along with the age of social media came a huge swell of people feeling entitled to write whatever they wanted. Sad and lonely souls attempting to feel better about their lives by diminishing others. Within the technological minefield of posts and tweets, you can sit by yourself, anonymously hunched at your keyboard, and hurl cruel insults at once-unreachable celebrities and sports stars and even your neighbour. Your classmate. This behaviour was continuing unchecked and without consequence. But not anymore. There’s been an awakening. Welcome to the revolution, baby!

Schools around the globe are adopting zero-tolerance policies for cyberbullying. Celebrities like Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and the wonderful Canadian musician Alessia Cara are coming forward to say stop. And It’s making an impact. On Nov. 18 social media giant Facebook asked users to take a stand against bullying in the Be Bold: Stop Bullying national campaign. It asks youth, parents and educators to take a pledge against bullying, share stories about their own experience with bullies, and encourages bullying-prevention groups. Studies show that 50 percent of the time a bully will stop when called out. The Facebook pledge asks everyone to speak up, advocate for others, and be a role model. Steps that seem simple, but require courage and fortitude. In our house, this discussion has been an ongoing one. How can we put these ideas into action?

We started a Kindness Jar. (Thanks, Tara Hatch!) Every day we strive to complete at least one act of kindness, write it on a piece of paper, and stick it into the jar. My girls love it. It puts kindness at the forefront of their minds. They come home from school and go straight to the jar, deciding which acts warrant recording - I was babysitting and no one got hurt - then they congratulate each other for a job well done. There’s been no talk of a prize or reward, all those delicious neurochemicals seem to be enough. But I think we should empty the jar once a month and read the entries over a round of Happy Cow Ice Cream.

I’ve made my own pledge - every time I venture onto social media, I will leave kindness behind. It’s amazing how leaving a heartfelt congratulations on someone’s accomplishment can really make their day. It’s easy to scroll through without being present. Your friend is sharing great news or an adorable picture of their child – spread the love! And if you simply can’t find kindness, at least be quiet. Sometimes the unspoken words are just as worthy of celebration.

Here’s to a bright and happy New Year!