Living Kindly

by David Rengifo

What is the universal language?

Depends on who you ask. Ask a musician, they’ll tell you it’s music. Ask a mathematician, they’ll tell you it must be math. Ask a philosopher and they will probably give you a complicated answer that amounts to the idea of a ‘search for knowledge’.

But there’s something even more powerful, something that touches us in a deeper, more raw sense. Something anyone from a baby to a senior can understand, something that transcends beliefs or education, geographic location, something even other species comprehend: Kindness.

In order to communicate with anyone, and I mean anyone, from an Amazonian tribe that’s never seen our ‘modern’ civilization to the most cultured person in the world, all you need is to speak kindness. Watch this short example to see kindness in action.

You see, kindness is not only a language, it is a need we all have.

As early as the early 20th century, psychologists disagreed on the value of unconditional love given to a child. It took the experiments of Harry Harlow with baby monkeys to demonstrate scientifically that love was as important, or even more important to a child’s development than their most immediate physiological needs. (For more info click here).

So kindness is not something only some people want. It’s something everyone craves. It’s just the way we are wired. That is why people who speak the language of kindness are so in demand.

Unfortunately, most people content themselves with being kind and receiving kindness from their immediate families, or from friends. As such, they don’t develop their language skills in the ‘real world’. They are like all those of us who took a language course in high school but never really developed it so we could speak it fluently with others.

So how do you know if you ‘speak kindness’?

Let’s put it this way: if you were to disappear today, would anyone in your community, workplace, school, or anywhere else you move about notice?

On September 13 1997, close to a million people attended the procession of Mother Teresa’s body through the city of Calcutta, India. A Catholic woman was being honored in a mostly Hindu/Muslim country for her work as a humanitarian by hundreds of  thousands of people.

Friday, December 7th 2013 a man known to his people simply as ‘Madiba’ died at the age of 95. His death was the main news story all over the world. Presidents, dignitaries, sport figures, artists, and everyone in between mourned his death, moved by the memory of a leader who chose the way of forgiveness and understanding when an alternative, vindictive attitude would have been so much easier, and maybe even understandable.

Mother Teresa’s impact was enormous, and she continues to inspire others 16 years after her death. Nelson Mandela’s actions have been immortalized in hundreds of songs, books, and movies.

Maybe every time you hear of one of these remarkable individuals, you ask yourself: as a ‘normal’ person, how much of a positive influence can I really have? Perhaps that’s why we think we should just let others take on the responsibility of social impact and humanitarianism. Perhaps that’s why you don’t speak kindness outside of your comfort zone.

People respond to kindness because they are drawn to it. Just think, you have within yourself the power to fulfill a need that is continuous, never ending, and everywhere. The good news is that all of us are born with the skill to be academics of kindness. In fact, we are all native speakers of this universal language, all we need to do is discover our potential for change.

You don’t need to be talented, beautiful, powerful, or rich to learn to use kindness, you only have to be willing. Willing to participate in the most empowering activity of all. To permeate everything you do with kindness will not only make an immediate impact on those around you, but it will change the way you look at the world, because it will show you a side of people you may have previously not seen.

There’s a book that has been turned into a series of movies called “The Hobbit”. Within this world there are two characters that represent good and evil. One is called ‘Saruman’, and he has immense power and influence. The other is Gandalf, and although he has impressive powers, and a ton of experience as a world traveler, he prefers the company of humble creatures. During the first movie, Gandalf says:

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

People in power who use fear and evil acts to their own ends are betting on the fact that ordinary people don’t have the money, resources, armies, and know-how to defeat them. They’re right. But where they are wrong is in assuming that this is the only way to topple their regimes and to change the status quo.

Not many of us will have a worldwide impact with our lives, that’s true. But collectively, we can be a more potent force than we could ever imagine. Together, we can change our communities, and that is where real change starts.

Dear reader, I invite you to use the power of kindness where you are, and to unite with others in doing so. Let’s change this world together, by living kindly.

P.S. Don’t know how to get started? Maybe you can join with an organization that’s doing exaclty this, check out