Updated: Jun 23
The moment I entered their workplace, I could see the employees needed to learn the simplicity of being kind to each other.
I saw a gentleman refuse to let a woman sit on his table. I saw another one throw food across the room. I saw people refusing to interact, and others who yearned for someone to simply say hello.
I wasn’t surprised. As a previous manager in the very same organization, I was always trying to identify ways to make the environment more inclusive. A place where individuals struggle both physically and emotionally daily, but still show up to work, to be supported, and contribute. Some have been there for longer than I have been alive, which in itself is mind-blowing, and shows the tenacity and generosity of so many undervalued individuals.
Things changed for me when I, unfortunately, got very sick, forcing me to leave my traditional 9-5 and focus on my own wellbeing. I had time to evaluate my life, and after months of questioning the world, I decided there was a huge need for someone to show people that being kind to others is so important in today’s society.
I created and founded The Cool To Be Kind Project, which is now a global social initiative. Through the hiding and finding of kindness cards, we are helping to change lives. I’ve had countless emails identifying gaps in today’s society from children as young as 6 to a man of 92. When I received a phone call from my friend who had taken over my role in the aforementioned organization, I knew how I could help.
Within a matter of days, we had decided to implement an annual program where kindness challenges changed every month. We created a 12-month calendar of ideas, designed kindness cards, and organized a time for the launch. We can all take so much from the positivity, which grows from simple human interaction. If we don’t have this, we miss out on new experiences and meeting new people. We fail to see when people are struggling. Kindness in any environment involves making quality time for meaningful connection, conversation, and sharing experiences.
The first month was to value others. After a brief introduction, I outlined the challenge of the month and talked briefly about how it was important to stop and find the time to make a difference in someone else’s life. I was nearly in tears when I watched Travis explain kindness to a fellow employee, Basil who said he couldn’t wait to go home and tell his wife I had been back and assured me he would take this into the community and how each person took a kindness card and interpreted it in their own way.
One gentleman came up to me afterward and asked me to explain it a bit more. After doing so, he stopped, looked me in the eyes, and said without skipping a beat, “Can I say thank you to you? You made such a difference to me all those years ago.”
Within minutes, the atmosphere in the room changed. A lady offered to push someone’s wheelchair back to their work area. The man who earlier refused to let the lady sit next to him, went and asked her if she would like to have lunch together.
Friendly chatter, new connections, genuine care, and that simply made me one happy lady.
Kindness is free but not given freely. Let’s change that.
Naomi is the creator and founder of global social initiative, The Cool To Be Kind Project. With a background in Psychology and working within the disability employment sector, she’s a survivor, blogger, author, wife, peer supporter, rainbow lover, Elton John fan, 3am baking extraordinaire, and kindness engager who believes that challenges are what makes life interesting but overcoming them makes life worthwhile.