All Kinds of Kindness
How do you feel when someone is kind to you? How about when you’re kind to someone else, or when you see another person being kind? Most people would answer that kindness makes them feel happy and optimistic, and science can help explain why.
- causes the body to produce serotonin, a healing, feel-good chemical;
- causes the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins;
- lowers the body’s level of the stress hormone cortisol; and
- releases oxytocin, which helps people feel happy and trusting, allowing them to form social bonds more easily.
Since it’s World Kindness Day, let’s take a look at how some countries around the globe put their own special spin on treating others with care.
Iran: Kindness Wall
Neighbors in Mashhad, Iran, painted a wall with cheerful colors, added some pegs for people to leave helpful items for those in need, and posted the message, “If you need it, take it.” The idea took off, and since then, kindness walls have been popping up all over the country.
Mexico: Mucha Generosidad
Generosity is highly valued in Mexican culture, no matter how much or how little a person might have to give. Mexicans are quick to dish up a plate for someone at their home or pay for another’s meal at a restaurant, whether it’s a lifelong friend or someone they’ve just met.
Brazil: Kindness Garden
In the city of Curitiba, Brazil, a community works together to create a shared, sustainable outdoor space they call their Urban Kindness garden. It’s a place where anyone can play, work, relax, and connect, and the neighbors all care for and help maintain it. The seating area even generates solar electricity so that visitors can charge their electronic devices, listen to music, and have light for reading.
Japan: Spirit of Kindness
Japan is renowned for its culture of omotenashi, which centers around heartfelt hospitality. People show the utmost care for each other with gestures both small and large. You see it in everything from bowing to each other to the attention given to every detail of elaborate tea ceremonies.
There’s also this generosity of kindness in the Japanese custom of giving presents for even small events like going to a friend’s house for dinner or coming home from a trip. The value of the gift is less important than the presentation and the thoughtfulness behind it.
Italy: Order for Two
Italy’s caffè sospeso (“suspended coffee”) tradition began in working-class cafés in Naples at the turn of the 20th century. People would pay for their own coffee and also purchase another in advance for someone else. Later, a customer without enough money to pay could take advantage of the anonymous benefactor’s kindness by getting a coffee for free.
South Africa: One for All
South Africa honors the idea of ubuntu, commonly tied to the Nguni proverb umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu or “a person is a person through other persons.” At the core of this philosophy is the idea that individuals become one as part of humanity. Ubuntu is expressed through displays of kindness and compassion, particularly toward people of different cultural backgrounds.
What are your favorite ways to be kind? Share your ideas with #LittlePassports. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire a new global kindness phenomenon!