I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s like sports—you start out of shape, stiff, and lethargic. You start overwhelmed and embarrassed by how clumsy you are and you worry that people will see you trying and laugh. You start small. You start by making a conscious effort to notice things in people that you like, and stopping negative thoughts about people by exploring the prejudices you may be projecting onto them and imagining what may have happened to make them the way they are, where they are in life and practice compassion and empathy instead. Stop yourself when you start to gossip and walk away or change the subject when others do it.
Next, you start saying some of the kind, positive things you notice about people. If someone looks great, if someone does something really well, if someone is trying really hard to do something—tell them. Tell them the kind things you would write on their facebook page after they die, while they are here. Say, “I love you” if you mean it. Say, “I see you out there trying and I’m so proud of you!” Keep showing up for people. When they hurt you, examine why it hurts inside yourself first, remind yourself of the good things they have done, examine what’s going on in their life, and then, if necessary, by all means, communicate it to them with the goal of resolving any pain on both sides (obviously if the person is verbally or physically abusive, or not able to see beyond their own needs or interests, this is null-in-void—let them go, make them go. Go!).
You can practice kindness, like you practice sports. The more you do it, the easier it gets. See a need, and fill it. Expect nothing back, just put in the work. It will be worth it, I promise. It will be good for you. It will open you in new ways, and open others—you’ll feel powerful and capable. You’ll wake up knowing you can make a difference here.
And, if you have a need, if you’re not okay, if you’re sick or lonely or scared or overwhelmed…don’t hide it. Try not to let yourself feel ashamed of it. These are human things. Say, “Come over.” Say, “Can we talk?” Say, “Can we sit in silence while I try to figure out how to say this?” Say, “I’m trying and I don’t know how much longer I can try?” Say, “Can you help me work through this?” It’s easier to say these things when you accept that sometimes you’re the one who is going to say them, and sometimes you’re the one who is going to hear them. It goes both ways. (Thank you, Mom, for teaching and articulating this to me♥)
It’s no secret I love theatre. One of my favorite traditions is the opening/closing night cards. We often write each other cards with kind, encouraging words…we say things we’ve enjoyed about getting know and work with each other, we applaud growth and wish each other a good run. We pat backs and say, “Got your back.” We give little bottles of alcohol or fireworks or trinkets related to the show. We hug each other, express our gratitude for being chosen to tell this story together, and when it’s over oftentimes we cry. It’s so beautiful. More of this in all aspects of life, please. (It is not a weakness to cry--not for men or women of any age--it's just a human feeling and it should be allowed out whenever it needs.)
On set of Seek Help I make a conscious effort to do this (hopefully mostly successfully), and on other great sets I’ve worked on--they aren’t all this way, by any means—but the good ones…we look out for each other. We joke around, and if the joke doesn’t land, but jab, we apologize. When there is a miscommunication (there are often many), there is an apology. We know we’re all trying our best and are juggling several things, but that the most important thing is that each person is OK, is heard, is supported, feels safe to try things, knows they are appreciated and valuable. The person, the friendship, the relationship must always come first, before the project, before the job, before money, before anything. Take care of each other first. Let the rest follow if it may, and if it does or doesn’t, it won’t matter anyway, because your life will be rich with love.
Accomplishments are empty without it. Money is empty without it. Life is bankrupt without it. Fame and adoration by strangers won’t come close to touching it. Cultivate and practice kindness in your life. Practice being open and brave and saying all the kind things you think. Show up in expected and unexpected ways for others. See a need and fill. Apologize. Be the kindness and love and encouragement you lack. Build a life rich and strong in friendships….the rest is filler.
I’m a work in progress on all this—I’m stumbling along, clumsy and awkward. I’m not in any way an expert at this, but I do want to start a conversation about it. I think it’s important.