K. Greer, Mozambique

What does it mean to be kind? 

I find myself pondering this question a great deal these days.  To me, it means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (if they have them).  It’s being gentle even when the frustration arises.  It’s remembering that a smile is the most important passport necessary.  It’s knowing that other people may also be having difficulties, but they are trying to be kind too, so it’s much better than spreading negativity.  I also think that being kind is getting your point across in whichever situation you may find yourself, in a way that makes others think, but doesn’t make them feel bad.

Is it easy to be kind?

Yes.  Until someone I encounter doesn’t exhibit the same behavior, then it’s really tough.  Normally, my nature is to be kind and patient.  But when I encounter bureaucracy or situations that I don’t understand, then I have to constantly remind myself to be patient (and that’s a struggle goes from 0 to 200kms very quickly).  I think we are all a product of how we grew up—if there was gentleness and kindness there, then it’s easy.  If we grew up in civil war, then it’s more challenging.

What do you do when people are being difficult or challenging? 

I can still remain positive with difficult people, but I don’t respond well to mean people.  I sense a fight or flight situation when it comes to something like that.  There’s a difference between difficult and mean, and I believe it’s still possible to respond with kindness in either situation, but I’m not very good at the latter.  One of my challenges is when I perceive other people’s intentions to be negative, then I react very negatively—it’s a struggle when I wonder ‘perhaps they are having a bad day and it’s not about me’ vs. ‘this is just a horrible person.’

What’s the kindest thing that’s happened to you lately?

I’m in the process of immigrating to a different country, and there are several people helping me without any promise of payment.  They are doing this because they know that my dream is to live in the country I’ve moved to, they have followed my story, and they know of the challenges that exist.  There are times that I have gotten off the phone with them and burst into tears because I feel very lucky that they are in my life helping me.

Do you feel motivated to positively or negatively engage with others when the world around you changes? Do you ever withdraw completely?

I do withdraw sometimes when things are very challenging.  This is not a trait that I like about myself, but I think it comes from a survival instinct, whereby I need a break from the (current) world I live in.  What I have found, however, is that when I feel like this, and do re-engage, there is automatically someone there that reinvigorates my hope in the world, and it makes me feel much more alive and a part of humanity.  It can be someone that just says hello on the street, or smiles at me when giving me change in the store.