One of Kindness Champions initiatives is our postcard project. Every week we send postcards to random people, organizations, and businesses, mostly in the Rochester New York area, yet we have mailed postcards to other places too. The main source for personal names is the current year online phone book that we print off, going through to pick random names. The front of the postcard says “YOU MATTER” and underneath our logo it says “Thank You for being You and bringing Your AWESOME to the world.”
“You will just never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors. No matter how happy someone looks, how loud their laugh is, how big their smile is, there can still be a level of hurt that is indescribable. So be kind. Even when others are not, choose to be kind.” Andrea Russett
Here and there we receive an email from someone who received one of the postcards. Even more rarely we receive a note from a postcard receiving person. Last year within two weeks we received two separate notes from two separate people who had received a postcard. One note was from someone who shared the postcard had been sent to their deceased spouse. This person shared the postcard had reminded them what an awesome spouse, parent, and grandparent their spouse had been. The note was filled with gratitude. The other note was completely different. This person was disgusted by receiving the postcard and thought the sentiment expressed – as we always write “We Love You” – was embarrassing and horrible.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
When I shared this experience with people a common reaction was how positive and nice the first note was. There was a whole lot of yuck towards the person who wrote the second note. In all of these conversations as we talked through things, compassion and empathy grew for the person who was angry about the postcard. Instead of throwing the postcard out they returned the postcard that disgusted them in a very taped envelope that was hard to open. I could feel their anger directed to the postcard. My thoughts centered on what had happened to this person where a postcard unleashed feelings of disgust and anger. In conversations with others we talked about how there are people who are easier to feel compassion for yet all people need empathy and all people need compassion. This person needs compassion and empathy of the fiercest kind even though it can be challenging.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca
From my personal experiences there are people in my life who having feelings of compassion and empathy for has been hard. There are times my thinking thoughts were not compassionate or empathic. What I have learned in those tough times with challenging individuals is when I become fierce in my compassion and empathy and use it to frame how I respond, and sometimes react, it often can diffuse the exchange of verbal barbs to one of listening and understanding. My fierce compassion and fierce empathy has also helped me to see people in the world with more love and kindness. It has helped me see myself in those ways as well. What these two responses to the same postcard reminded me of is that sometimes you just do not know the battle someone else is fighting so be kind, always.
May your fierce compassion and fierce empathy be with you❤️
*** An additional step we have put into place with the postcard project for individuals is we check the obituaries with each name. We completely understand why other people would not have the same reaction to receiving a postcard with their deceased loved one’s name and do not want to cause any more hurt to them.