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What does kindness mean to you?

Many years ago, I shared a mutual friend with another person. On occasion, we all would share a meal or an outing together. The other person, my friend’s friend, always doused me with compliments. This made this person immediately likable. This “person” seemed comfortable enough in their own skin, that they could confidently hand-out compliments. This made me feel at ease, comfortable with this person; and of course, being with people you like and are having fun with, makes everyone feel welcome and people want to be with those people.


Well, that was until my friend confided in me. This “person,” to my face would compliment me, in what felt like the kindest of ways, then go to my friend, and let’s just say, was not so kind about me. What? Was this a scene straight out of “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey? No, Tina Fey more than likely wrote “Mean Girls” based on the disposition of real girls (or women) who in real life are not kind.


This person was probably not as kind as they seemed, definitely not as confident; rather, they had mastered a manipulation tactic, and I had allowed myself to be manipulated.

Is there a difference between being nice and being kind? What is kindness? What does kindness mean to you?


I asked a random group of people, without any biases, what does kindness mean, to you? Here are their responses:


· Stopping the pace of life and serving others

· Something given with no expectation in return; e.g., raking leaves, mowing grass, shoveling snow, taking a hot meal, giving a hug

· An intentional act, creating a positive connection with no expectation in return

· Helping someone who is not in a position to help you back

· A smile and simple hello

· Giving of yourself everyday`

· Being patient and understanding of others—you never know what someone else is going through

· Being kind as a way to help [one’s self] grieve—kindness means connection with other humans who are fighting some sort of trauma or battle or finding some sort of truth


According to Owen Fitzpatrick (owenfitzpatrick.com), being nice is the act of being polite to people and “treating people well.” Being kind is genuinely caring about people and doing things to show you care about people. He said, “Sometimes you can be kind to someone even though you aren’t nice to them and you can certainly be nice to someone but also be unkind.”

In our day-in, day-out lives, depending on where we live or what we do, we might come into contact with hundreds of people. Exchanging some sort of pleasantry, saying, “Hello, how are you?” Smiling, possibly holding a door, having a door held for us. This is an example of being nice; it is generally considered to be polite and respectful.


We are taught from a young age that we must be nice to all people. Self-preservation and respect may be in teaching children to respect themselves and to be kind to others.

Being kind is giving of yourself in a way that shows you genuinely care for others, even if a person doesn’t know the person or people for whom the care will be received, and there aren’t any pleasantries exchanged.


A person doesn’t have to spend a ton or any money at all to be kind. It could be spending time. Kindness can come or be served in many different forms.


Many years ago, I made a commitment to serve others. If someone is sick or grieving, even if they have food in their fridge, they may not feel like preparing meals or cooking. My favorite thing to do is to take a meal to those who might need one or might not realize they need one. This could be to a family who is bereaved, someone who is ill, just got out of the hospital, or receiving treatment.

At Christmas time, no matter how plenty or poor I am, I donate a toy or toys.


Being kind might be sharing a meal with someone and visiting, it might be just visiting; it might be giving/receiving emotional support; volunteering; donating (monetarily, gift certificates, homemade blankets, food, clothes, etc.); and doing for others (cook a meal, clean, mow a grass, babysit, run an errand, get groceries, etc.).


Being kind is infectious. What does kindness mean, to you?


Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of Carecorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. She can be reached at info@carecorner.org

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