As we approach 2017, I find that I am not as optimistic as I normally am when approaching a new year. Regardless of who you supported, we concluded the election more divided than when it began. The result has been a significant increase in hate crimes and harassment as underlying prejudices surfaced. The Bender JCC’s core values include “chesed” – helping those in need through acts of loving kindness. As a JCC, we must take a stand for community in its broadest sense.
Let’s reach out and fight hatred and intolerance with acts of intentional kindness. We invite everyone in our community of all backgrounds, religions, abilities and sexual orientations to join all of us at the Bender JCC and embrace the diversity of our community and treat our neighbors with civility, decency and kindness by participating in a #BeKind campaign from December 1 through Inauguration Day (January 20, 2017).
How you can #BeKind
- Use the hashtags #BeKind and #BenderJCC to share your comments, photos and videos on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to tag us @BenderJCC.
- If you are not a social media user, use “Post-it Notes” to share what you see or think on the poster in the lobby of the Bender JCC. We will post these comments online for you.
- Email videos, photos and acts of kindness to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Through February 1 – Pajama Project
Kindness from the Community
Check out our #BeKind board in the lobby! Grab a post-it note and write an example of how you’ve shared kindness!
Some of our favorites (so far):
- Always say please and thank you!
- Sue Kleit (a member of our Marketing team) gave me her son’s old train set so my son, Brady, will be able to play with it.
- Give shelter and food to the needy.
- Kindness is having my JCC locker room & spin friends support me with my grief over losing a parent.
Words of Wisdom
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
“As the days get shorter, we know that Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is around the corner. How fitting then is it for the Bender JCC to be sponsoring its Be Kind initiative. In Hebrew we call them “maasim tovim”, good acts. Here is a chance for all of us to re-double our commitment to bring more light into the world.”
-Rabbi Sid Schwarz
Senior Fellow, Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
Founding Rabbi, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
“Rabbi Elazar said, ‘Anyone who performs charity and justice is considered as if he filled the whole world in its entirety with kindness.’”
BT Sukka 49b
Ever have a bad day that takes an unusual turn because of a small act of kindness? Sure you have. Moments like that make us wonder about the magic of kindness. And here Rabbi Elazar tells us that we don’t even realize the full power of kindness because if we did, we’d know that it not only transforms our day but that one some level, it transforms the world. How can it be that one act of kindness fills the entire world with kindness? The talmudic statement found above is supported by a biblical proof from Psalms about God, who “loves charity and justice; the earth is full of the kindness of the Lord (33:5).
To answer this, we turn to a number of other statements that Rabbi Elazar makes on the very same folio page of Talmud: “One who performs acts of charity is greater than one who offers sacrifices, as it is stated, ‘To perform charity and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than an offering’” (Proverbs 21:3). God wants us to give more to each other than to make divine offerings. And Rabbi Elazar keeps going: “Acts of kindness are greater than charity, as it is stated, ‘Sow to yourselves according to charity, and reap according to kindness (Hosea 10:12). If a person sows he is uncertain whether he will or will not eat. If a person reaps, he will definitely eat.’” You can give charity and not be sure if it will have the desired effect. But if you do an act of kindness you can always be sure that your warmth, affection, generosity and concern will touch someone.
To this, the Sages added that acts of kindness are superior to charity in three respects: Charity can be performed only with one’s money while acts of kindness can be performed both with one’s person and with his money. Charity is given to the poor while acts of kindness are performed both for the poor and for the rich. Charity is given to the living while acts of kindness are performed both for the living and for the dead.
These statements all place acts of kindness within a competition for what behaviors yield the most results, impact others most and engage the majority of our own resources. Kindness wins each time. Kindness involves the totality of ourselves in relationship to the totality of another, rich or poor, living or dead. Acts of kindness offer us more ways to express goodness than any other way we might engage others.
And the winner is (drumroll please)…kindness. Such goes the commercial for kindness. This does not, however, explain why kindness changes the world, only why kindness may change the one who offers it and the beneficiary of it.
When you think about that bad day you’re having, your mind creates a landscape of pessimism. You imagine that whatever can go wrong will go wrong and then even when good things happen, you manage to twist their meaning or ignore them in preference to the emotional narrative you have created around personal failure. Your gloom and doom begin to wear away at the rosy picture you may have had of the world at large. Any act of cruelty or insensitivity – from a newspaper article about genocide to a simple episode of road rage – confirms this mental spiral descent. Suddenly, a stranger does something unexpected and full of grace, and the downward plunge you were taking has to recalibrate itself. Maybe the world is not that bad after all, if a total stranger can reach out and do something nice for me or for someone else. Maybe I have to revisit the interpretation of events that I have conjured and come up with a landscape of greater optimism. It is not that the world has changed because of one act of kindness. It is that you have changed your view of the world through an act of kindness.
Desmond Tutu once said: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Let’s overwhelm the world today. Do something unusually kind today for someone you don’t know. It may change the world.
-Dr. Erica Brown
Associate Professor, The Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Director, Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership
The George Washington University