Monday, November 29, 2010

A Simple Act of Kindness

The world is made up of a large spectrum of cultures and beliefs. No two people are exactly alike in the way they perceive life. It is my belief that no one is wrong, we all just have a different way of looking at things. Instead of forcing our beliefs and culture on someone, we should listen to what they have to say and find a common ground. We can learn a lot from other cultures and it is important to be exposed to all the beliefs of the world to formulate our own unique beliefs. One thing I’ve found that unites all people is kindness. No matter what beliefs you hold, acts of kindness are universally understood and are a way to connect with people of any culture. One of the best experiences I’ve had was working in a nursing home making valentines with a Navajo lady who spoke very little English. When I first met her, I couldn’t get any response from her. I put on my biggest smile and tried to make small talk, but she just stared at me with her arms crossed and frowned as I made the Valentine. I felt horrible because I was there to give her company and it seemed like she would have preferred me not to have been there at all. To her, I looked like a privileged white girl that had nothing to offer. I didn’t want her to have that perspective of me, but it was difficult communicating verbally so instead I used kindness to win her over. When I was finished with the valentine, I handed it to her. She looked at me and pointed to herself. I smiled and nodded. She reached out and took the valentine and looked at it as if I had handed her the Mona Lisa. It was nothing special, a red heart with flower cutouts, lace doilies, and some glitter, but it produced one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. Holding that valentine in her hand, she looked at me with glistening brown eyes and gave me the biggest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. She then rolled around to all the other people in the dining hall where we were working and showed off what she had gotten. When the day was done she hung up the Valentine right by her bedside table. It was an amazing feeling to have connected with someone over something as simple as a Valentine. We didn’t share our language, are beliefs, or even the holiday, but the simple gesture was enough for us to create a bond that left a lasting impression on the both of us. I believe that if you show people kindness, you can win their trust. Even though my culture and beliefs will be very different from those of the people in the country the Peace Corps sends me to, I know I will be able to adapt and connect with the people because I know how to share the gift of kindness.

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