Relationships

On Kindness

George Saunders gave the graduation speech at Syracuse University this year, and the New York Times recently published it. Have you read it? His advice centers around being kind and, more specifically, avoiding “failures of kindness.” Here are his words…

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you….

Here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

You can read the full speech here.

P.S. Encouragement.

  1. No, I have not heard and read about George Saunders speech before your sharing. It is very nice speech. George Saunders speech very inspired me for act of kindness. Thanks for share it.

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  4. Wow. His speech was amazing. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Best thing i’ve read this year, it made me cry, good sweet tears of course, the ones that arrive when you read or see or feel something true. Thanks, i love your blog.

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  7. Beautiful words and so true

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  8. This is absolutely beautiful. What truth he speaks. Kindness should be our daily goals, usually of all things we accomplish, we can add this to the list. Thank you for posting this and inspiring me.

  9. Thanks for sharing Jo! Lust read the whole speech, beautiful.
    Wish I had someone at my graduation saying these inspiring words. Hope the class of 2013 benefits from it.
    Have a good weekend!

  10. jm says...

    wonderful post.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this. So beautiful. A wonderful heartfelt reminder.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve recently gone through a very trying period in my life, both physically and emotionally, and just this morning asked myself how I can grow from the experience. The quote: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” came to my mind as a motto. George Saunders’s speech is great reminder of the power of kindness and love – so timely and inspirational!

  13. This was such kind of speech wich is an extraordinary and motivational….Thanks for sharing such an inspirational message joanna…. discount coupons

  14. Thank you for this. People underestimate the power of kindness. It takes such courage to be kind, not only because it’s very unselfish, but also because not everyone is receptive to it and might even consider it pity. But I think kindness makes the world go round. :)
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  15. Amen to that. Thanks for posting this, wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. Kinda reminds me of my Mother’s adopted life motto: ‘Never let it be said you didn’t do the least you could do,’

  16. “My true religion is Kindness.” Tenzin Gyatso, H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

    It is so true that kindness costs nothing to give and could mean everything to the recipient. Thank you for bringing this speech to our consciousness.

  17. So beautiful!!!

  18. I feel like the kindness level has gone way down (especially in my own city) in recent years. I feel like people have trouble being kind because they feel like the world has not been kind to them… money troubles, family troubles, foreclosures, unemployment, the list goes on and on. I think as a people we feel like our own needs haven’t been met which makes it hard for us to meet others’ needs. We think, “Who has the time or energy?” I find it sad how you pass people on the street and they look away and pretend you’re not there. I just want to wave and say “Hi, how are you doing?” but it seems that this is no longer the social norm and I get weird looks back. Sad but true! We must work on changing this as a whole!

  19. D2 says...

    Appreciate you sharing this, Joanna. And I agree w/ reader Katie above. XO

  20. Love Love Love! A message that can’t be shared enough!

  21. this is wonderful. thank so very much for passing along.

  22. What a beautiful sentiment. Such a valuable reminder, our generation seems to lack sensibility and kindness.

  23. It was such a beautiful speech – words we all need to hear :)

  24. There is a whole bunch of wonderful truth in this. What a lovely speech. Thinking back to the days I used to work with children- especially with those whose parents used to spend all kinds of money on the “right” school and extracurricular activities to make them smarter or more well-rounded or more worldly or whathaveyou- I always used to tell them to focus on encouraging kindness in them above all else. I got eye rolls and ,”Oh, Cath, you’re so naive in this world” but I stand by it. Always be kind. We surround ourselves with love that way and why the hell not? Our lives are that much richer and more fulfilling for having kindness in it. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful sentiment on what truly matters. I believe in it, too.

  25. Well, that was absolutely wonderful! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  26. Such a lovely reminder. Thank you for this beautiful post Jo! Cheers to you!

  27. I have come to value kindness and consideration more and more as I’ve gotten older. My boyfriend is one of the most truly kind people I’ve ever met and he is my daily reminder to stay calm and kind above all else.

  28. I just read that piece in the Times yesterday and thought it was beautiful. Thanks for sharing! xoxo

  29. love this! going to read the full speech now:)

  30. A great speech…it has a lot of interesting resonances in the Buddhist tradition, too, which I think Saunders studies.

  31. One of the best books on kindness from the past few years: Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is about being kinder than necessary. It is magical. This can only remind me of that…Thanks

  32. So beautiful and perfect. Thanks for sharing such a good message Joanna. Hope you are having fun snuggling that newborn of yours!

  33. Thank you Joanna. I really needed to read that. I echo Katie’s comment. Brava! x

  34. So prefect! Thanks for sharing Jo!!

    And I just want to complement you on how you have seamlessly brought a new life into the world and your blog has only gotten better! I’m sure behind the scenes things get a little hairy at times but even knowing that it’s still impressive and amazing! I know we can’t have it all, but moms somehow can do it all! Congrats again and thank you letting us be a part of it all! <3 Lots of love for you and your sweet family!

  35. Yesterday I wrote a post about this exact thing because I had a “failure in kindness” and it haunted me for almost two weeks. Actually, it still does. I think the salve on that wound were all the kind comments left on the post…lovely readers reminding me that we always, always, always have the opportunity to redo something.
    Here’s the post in case anyone would like to read it: http://www.mondaysnugget.com/2013/08/do-you-give-money-to-homeless-people.html
    Thank you for the lovely reminder!!

  36. When I’ve gone through bad times I’m always surprised by the kindness in people who you least expected to reach out, those are the moments I remember most and they are the people who have made me want to be kind to others when I’m asking myself would they think it would be weird if I reached out to them. You just have to remember even if you aren’t super close to someone kindness is always appreciated!!

  37. Beautiful. I love his speech. Kindness and love are the most beautiful gifts we can give each other.

  38. Lovely! Funnily enough, I was recently asked to write a letter to my teenage self on the website ‘Dear Teen Me’, and it boiled down to almost exactly the same thing:

    http://dearteenme.com/?p=5649

    Simple but so true – it’s all that matters, really. x

  39. beautiful, i’ll save to read to my kids. susan

  40. Wow, what a beautiful speech. I certainly have experienced this myself and regret not always being the kindest person I could have been. Thanks for sharing.