I recently read George Saunders’s advice to this year’s graduates from Syracuse University and thought it worthwhile to share with anyone who hasn’t yet seen this. Unlike the majority of speeches that focus on success and hard work, this one focuses on kindness.
Thinking about my journey through life, I quickly realized that my most memorable moments are those where I shared or experienced simple acts of kindness. It is very easy to be ambivalent or look away, but it takes a little extra care, a little time to be kind. Saunders does not, of course, share with his audience how to do it — to be kinder. I believe that like most life’s lessons, kindness is best learned by example and from an early age.
And so, I’ll hug Sophia a little tighter, and tell her I love her a little more often. Instead of telling her “rules are rules” and offering no explanation because I am the parent, I’ll tell her “I understand” and offer her the best explanation possible even if she doesn’t fully understand … yet.
Someone said to me the other day that they wonder if I’d call my mom every day if I didn’t feel an obligation to do so. It didn’t take me more than a nanosecond to realize that of course I would. The best mothers are those who are strict, demanding, but most of all kind. Those mothers raise successful, proud, and kind children. They expect the world, but they give the world. They nurture with hugs, and kisses and chicken soup (the fresh, not store-bought kind).