In the beautiful children’s book, Each Kindness, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a young girl named Chloe who, in the casual way that kids often do, treats a classmate cruelly. She is moved to change one day when her teacher demonstrates the way that water ripples when a stone is dropped in it.
So it goes with kindness, the teacher explains. When we do something nice for someone, it ripples through their lives and into the world, radiating goodness outward. Chloe is inspired by this…but it’s too late. The girl she was cruel to has moved away. Now when she throws a rock into the pond near her house, all she can think of are the lost opportunities she had to improve someone’s life, to make their day brighter.
This is something we must teach our kids—more, we must demonstrate to our kids. By treating them well, by showing them compassion and empathy and unconditional love, we help not only them but everyone they encounter in their lives (and as we’ve said, through our kids, we can have multi-generational impact because we also teach their kids).
Seneca reminds us that every person we meet is an opportunity to practice kindness. We can show our kid what this looks like in everything we do, from how we treat a waiter to the way we stop to pick up a nail we see in the road. We can show them what forgiveness looks like, we can show them what generosity looks like. We can give these things to them as well as an example of what it looks like when we offer kindness to complete strangers—or even people who seemingly “don’t deserve it.”
And we can take great heart knowing that this kindness, big and small, ripples through.