I wholeheartedly recommend and embrace the neighborly culture of the South. Why?
Growing up in Missouri, specifically in St. Louis, I assumed that St. Louis culture was also a mid-western culture. I grew up saying “good morning” and saying “hello” to everyone I passed. This was either a verbal hello or a friendly nod of acknowledgment. Often, I was also the recipient of the same behavior from people I encountered while out and about in St. Louis.
I have traveled and lived in several states across the country starting with college. While attending college in Washington DC, I experienced a melting pot of regional behaviors. Groups of students moved in silos not necessarily interacting with the other groups, but nods and hellos were allowed, within reason. Life in the southwest was a little better - more acknowledgments and fewer odd stares.
When it was time to settled down and raise children, we chose a mid-western city - a city with a lower crime rate in comparison to St. Louis “Dodge City” Missouri. I was hopeful. The mid-west is the mid-west, right? Wrong.
After leaving St. Louis and living in other cities, I learned, that is simply not true. The St. Louis culture was more akin to southern culture instead of mid-western culture. Where am I going with this? My hellos and friendly nods were met with quizzical looks and scoff in our new hometown. So, soon I stopped. No hellos. No nods. Kindness and gentleness were often seen as suspicious or even as a weakness.
What is it about us that makes us respond to disrespect or disdain positively even going as far as rewarding poor behavior? Often people are almost immediately suspicious of kindness, asking what does this person want in return or remarking that no one is that happy.
For me kindness and choosing to be joyful is much simpler and healthier. When I do something good for another person, I feel ten feet tall. Endorphins are released and I fly high- feeling like a good human being. If I treat someone unfairly intentionally or unintentionally, my stomach is upset, chest tight and a headache is sure to follow. We wear masks that supposedly define us. Never allowing our true selves to show through.
Where does this leave me? Well, I am in kindness rehab. Gone are the days when I will feel apologetic for being kind or be hesitant to give a positive acknowledgment to another human being. If someone needs a mentor, I will offer my time. If someone needs to talk, I will listen. I will ignore those who try to use my strength against me or past mentees that try to use my gift to them, to triumph over me.
So, with the new year, I have decided to try again. I am committing to living each day with plenty hellos, nods of good morning and deliberate acts of kindness, without regard for the suspicious naysayer. I will just remember my six-step program back to deliberate kindness.
No negative self-talk. I will not internalize others' negative opinions.
I will forgive myself whenever I allow negative energy to change how I interact with the world.
I will praise or compliment people whenever I see good happening.
I tell people what they mean to me. I will let the people I love know that I love them.
When people try to negate me, I will ignore them. I will remember If I am so insignificant, why are they using their precious time and energy on me. I should be but a blip on their radar. I will remind myself who I am. I will refocus on my strengths and my life's journey. My path is one that only I can travel and complete.
I will be consistently kind. I will create daily opportunities to be deliberately kind to a fellow soul on this journey. I will resist the pull of negativity and will commit to at least one act of deliberate kindness per day.
As I start the new year with these six steps in mind, I will let troubles fall where they may and will maintain my focus on my goal - to be kind, deliberately kind. I believe every act of kindness is important and creates ripples of more kindness that connects humanity in all of us and it feeds our spirits.
Happy New Year!