Don’t be nice for the holidays but naughty all year. As parents, we’re a bit worried about the world our children will inherit. It sometimes feels as if everything has gone mad.
In November, it was reported that 85,000 children have died of starvation in Yemen since the start of its war. And when people flee conflict nations, refugees still face hostility. From schools closer to home, there are stories of youth committing heinous crimes, and giving Nazi salutes.
Don’t even get us started on the casual cruelty that’s become commonplace on social media.
Each incident generates a brief flash of outrage. A few days pass and the headlines move on. Next time, it takes an even bigger outrage to generate the same reaction.
The more blasé we get, the more kindness seeps from the world without us realizing. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, we won’t notice the change until we’re cooked.
So it’s a bit bold for us to admit that we’re still shameless idealists. We believe in basic human decency, and there’s no better time of year to witness it. The holidays seem to spark a seasonal kindness and generosity. But what happens to that goodwill in January? Do we pack it away with the decorations? We think it’s more than superficial design.
That holiday spirit is powerful — it has stopped wars dead in their tracks. Lest we forget the temporary truces in the First World War, when soldiers emerged from the trenches to play soccer, trade gifts and even sing carols with the enemy.
If we let decency and kindness govern our actions for one month (or day or week) of the year, why not 11 months more?
Take a cue from My Kindness Calendar (started by one of our former colleagues). The company took the advent calendar concept and refocused it on kindness.
Instead of opening a little door each day for chocolate, kids perform a daily act of kindness in the lead-up to Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, make a kindness calendar for your own family celebration. Better yet, create one for the whole year.
Adults should make a daily kindness effort, too. Thank your coworkers more often, don’t post that snarky comment on Instagram, and pick up your fair share of the tab on group outings to restaurants.
Maybe we’re idealists, but we’re not naive or foolish. A touch of kindness alone won’t end global conflict, or silence racist comments. But it is realistic to believe that more kindness can help hit the reset button, rebooting a better version of ourselves, and maybe by extension, the world.
In case you need more incentive, we’ll point out once again that kindness and compassion are scientifically proven to improve your health. You’ll need a boost after a few weeks of too many cookies, latkes and turkey dinners.
Don’t let holiday kindness wilt and shed its needles all over the carpet like an old Christmas tree. Kindness is the best part of the holidays. It’s the thing that won’t spoil, the decoration that won’t look garish by February, and the present you can carry with you all year long.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE movement, which includes WE Charity ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day. For more dispatches from WE, check out WE Stories.