We should all observe the kindergarten rules

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, April 29, 2023

By Bonnie Brown

“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.” This quote by Morgan Freeman really captures the way I want to live.

I try to think of others. I hold doors open for others, even though the person who came through it beelined past me to get to the counter to place her order ahead of me. I allow people to merge into traffic, I offer a smile to those I encounter, I offer my place in the check-out line to a young mother with children, or a person with only a few items.

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I take the time to say thank you often. I bake cookies as a way of saying “I love you and I appreciate you.” I find it easier to say “I love you” nowadays. It just naturally comes out of my mouth. In fact, I think I told the receptionist on the phone the other day that very phrase as I hung up the phone. It just slipped out. Now, since I don’t know her well, it was really intended as a thank you for her kindness and help, not a declaration of affection.

I’m far from perfect. I’m judgmental, I speak too frankly, I always want to fix it – Whatever it may be – rather than listen and then try to help with a solution. I’m bossy. I’m too demonstrative. I could never be a good poker player because my expressions and body language betray me.

I’m often disapproving when I should be encouraging. I’m a human mess. As we all are. I should be more forgiving, more tolerant and yes, take a step back and ignore things that I find irritating. That judgmental thing again.

My mother was a good role model for kindness. She was active in the community and always took the lead to help whenever she could. She was the first to arrange for flowers or food when there was a death in our neighborhood. She respected my father’s role as the provider for our family. She didn’t want us lying around when he got home, tired from a long day’s work. She wanted us up and ready to greet my dad.

Mom had a knack for pointing out how others might be feeling. She taught us empathy through her actions. She was a good referee for sibling squabbles. She would make us hug! How awful, especially when you really wanted to do otherwise.

Perhaps she would have made a good global ambassador with her ability to settle disagreements by forcing you to be kind to one another.

John F. Kennedy’s famous words from his inaugural address “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” might need an explanation today since so many feel entitled. That was another thing my mom was good at – giving is better than receiving. And trust me when I say that we were poor. That didn’t prevent her from giving small, homemade gifts of jams and jelly, applesauce, apple butter, etc. whenever she saw an opportunity. Who doesn’t feel better when they share?

It all sort of comes down to Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” His words, or what I would call rules for life, include: Play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, and say you’re sorry when you hurt someone. This especially applies to world leaders, but we should all observe these simple rules of life.

Write to Bonnie Brown at bbrown@olemiss.edu