Keep on making a difference

In this world, we each make a difference. The world just wouldn’t be the same without us. How we respond to others has an affect on them and on us, too. It has been proven that when we are kind to others, it makes us feel good.

That’s very important to know, life changing, really. I have a dear friend who has had some recent physical challenges. Sometimes, he feels pretty badly, but he lights up when he talks about taking food to a homeless family and managing to walk a little better on those days.

The flip side of that is that when we are unkind to others, it affects them, too. Psychologists were able to measure that people were strengthened by seeing smiley faces, and weakened by seeing frowny faces, even in the traditional cartoon form. Imagine how much greater the effects would be if we were actually in the presence of someone emitting love or anger to us? We can feel it.

It is especially important to be kind and loving to babies, toddlers and young children. They need to be treated tenderly and need to be protected. Kudos to 14-year-old Celeste Neeley, who grabbed a dog and punched it away when it attacked her 4-year-old sister. (The Garden Island Oct. 23, 2013, p.1) I know I felt good reading of this sister’s courage. I love animals too and hope that the dog gets what he needs as well.

Last night I watched a video entitled “Discover the Gift.” It was all about finding out what our gifts are and then sharing them with the world. They may change in time as they evolve into a fuller expression of who we are. I was struck by a quotation from the Dalai Lama who said that mental disorders may be created from a lack of receiving affection and compassion. So, may we all remember to love and show affection to those we are around every day.

In a Parent Effectiveness Training class, the parents were taught to say, “I love you,” every day to their children. It was hard for some of the participants, since some were court ordered to be there because they were having such difficulty with their children. Children who are starving for love, affection and approval from their parents will settle for attention, even if it means punishment for things they did wrong, and that’s what they were doing.

We all need to remember this: people will do things that reward them. The rewards may be affection, money, privileges, a new article of clothing, special time together, a feeling of inner happiness from doing something you love, or making another person happy. Parents, focus on giving rewards for behavior you do want. Focus on the loving. Kids, it works on parents, too. Every time they do something that makes you happy, hug them and tell them how much you appreciate what they did for you. Do something nice back for them. Create connections with your loved ones — there is truly nothing like it on Earth.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu did an amazing job of helping create reconciliation in South Africa after apartheid and all its horrors ended. His message was consistent —it is important to live with “ubuntu.” A person with ubuntu is “friendly, hospitable, generous, gentle, caring and compassionate. In other words, someone who will use his or her strengths on behalf of others — the weak and poor and the ill — and not take advantage of anyone.”

Archbishop Tutu also teaches that “If I diminish you, I diminish myself.” (Believe, The Words and Inspiration of Desmond Tutu, Blue Mountain Arts) It means that every time we put down another person or make them feel small, hurt or bully them in any way, we have also done that to ourselves. We have treated another person disrespectfully, and therefore we have not lived up to the highest standard for ourselves. We have diminished what we could be. It’s a high price to pay for an act of meanness, and we know it.

 Every year our country celebrates “Make a Difference Day.” This year, it’s Oct. 26. Projects spring up all over the place and many have been listed in the paper already. I’m encouraging everyone to make a difference anytime when it comes to you to do so. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Smiles are free; so is helping someone carry something heavy or cooking a meal for someone. Writing a letter of appreciation is always wonderful! Visiting someone who’s sick, or giving away your old clothes and gadgets to others less fortunate do make you feel better. I think you should do you own experiments, but also look for your own gift to give. Maybe you’re really good at cooking, writing poetry, or singing a song. Maybe you can make people laugh or paint uplifting art. Give those! And in the meantime, you’re developing your special gift.

I Googled videos that show how kindness can affect another and was pleasantly surprised by all that came up. I found a true one about a woman who paid a $160 bill for the people next to her in line whose credit card was denied at a Target store. The ripple effect helped many after her and the woman was never thanked. She just said that she’d been in need at times in her life and could help then, so she did. It wasn’t a planned act. She just showed up and was her loving self.

I even found a website that helps people spread kindness. http://www.spreadkindness.org/

I’ve studied many different religions and philosophies, and they all seem to say treat others the way we want to be treated. They also imply that we will receive what we put out into the world. So if I put goodness in, it will come back to me. Just keep doing it for 30 days, all the time sharing the gift that makes you most happy to give and see what shows up.

In “Discover the Gift” Mark Hanson, of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” fame said it takes about 30 days to make a new habit. If we all begin making positive differences, it’s only a short matter of time before goodness comes back to bless ourselves. Isn’t this Aloha Spirit anyway?

Our magical Kauai is infused with this energy. Let’s keep it going.

• Hale `Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

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