There were many challenges in 2020, but there were also moments of people caring about others. These include making thank-you cards for essential workers, neighbors creating “Be Well” signs in their windows for people who happen to walk down the street, or even buying takeout at a favorite restaurant to keep their business afloat during the pandemic.
Did you know these simple gestures of kindness reap rewards — for you?
Researchers have found links between kindness and what is known as eudaimonic well-being, which focuses on self-actualization or realizing one’s potential and finding meaning in life, according to the 2020 study “Rewards of Kindness? A Meta-Analysis of the Link Between Prosociality and Well-Being” from the American Psychological Association. They also found “random acts of kindness were more strongly associated with overall well-being than formal prosocial behavior, such as scheduled volunteering for a charity.”
With kindness meaning more than one act, anyone can do it, every day. But, there are people in the region who have decided to take it to the next level to help others.
Spreading Kindness in the City
Kindness has become a life mission for Stuart Muszynski, president & CEO of Values-in-Action Foundation, which provides programming and supports kids and adults in kindness and caring initiatives or decisions.
It all began for him with his family — his parents and grandmother survived the Holocaust because they were hidden from 1941 through 1944 in Warsaw, Poland.
He says he never forgot the kindness of those who saved his family, and he wanted to return the kindness.
“I am alive because of the kindness of righteous people,” he says.
Since 1994, he has been working on initiatives such as Project Love, which serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade by providing workshops and seminars to create a positive school environment. Over the years, his nonprofit Values-in-Action Foundation has collaborated with community leaders, schools and organizations.
“Last year (2020), we decided that Cleveland can use a boost and set an example for the country,” Muszynski says. “For kindness to become the core value that we all could agree upon.”
The Kindland initiative (“from Cleveland to Kindland”) spreads the message and promotes acts of kindness, including organized projects and simple things like city residents putting out “Just Be Kind” yard signs.
“Kindness is more important now because people are feeling negative, cooped up, and frustrated,” says Muszynski, whose own kindness efforts include a daily prayer list each morning.
Here are other ways Muszynski says people can get involved: Call a friend or talk to a neighbor to see how they are doing. Reach
out to your grandparents, send someone a gift card, put a note in your mailbox for the mail carrier, thank your grocery worker or just think of a person and send them good wishes.
“Kindness is magnetic,” he says. “Pass along the good word for someone else.”
Nature of Kindness
You don’t have to start a nonprofit to spread kindness — but these two local teens did.
Kaila Morris and Rhea Mahajan are juniors at Hathaway Brown, a school for girls in Shaker Heights. The students have been taking business and sustainability electives, which gave Kaila an idea for a project called Nature of Kindness.
“It’s important to be kind to others, but what we often don’t realize is being kind to the Earth is just as important for our wellbeing,” she says. “Nature has so many positive effects, so I wanted to create an environment where we’re spreading kindness to others and the world.”
Rhea says when Kaila brought up the project, it struck a chord with her because it merged two of her interests: art and business.
So the two teens are creating homemade products to help promote the initiative.
The kindness package — which comes in a biodegradable envelope — includes a personalized thank-you note from Kaila and Rhea, one act of kindness idea on plantable paper, inspirational quote sheets, and a sticker sheet from theirpartner sofeistudio, which is also a student-run business. It costs $10, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental group, and a local anti-bullying organization.
“We hope that the package will serve as a tangible piece of positivity and be a physical reminder to spread and practice kindness,” Rhea says.
Also, the aim is to take action.
“It’s not just about the packages, but we want to reach out to other people — showing you are part of society,” Rhea says. “The hope when someone gets the package is they read the quotes, get inspiration, enjoy using the stickers and carry out the act of kindness. We are hoping for a variety of audiences (to purchase the package), both for students like ourselves and also the people who want to start including ways to be sustainable and incorporate kindness in their lives.”
Kaila says she started thinking about the idea in the summer. When school came back in fall, she and her teacher talked about different types of projects to work on. She decided this was a chance to go ahead and work on it.
“I think in my everyday life, there are so many examples of negativity to fall back on,” Kaila says. “I wanted (something) positive to help out with that. I feel we (students) are stressed out all the time — homework, and thinking toward the future. I wanted to bring some happiness, especially at times like this (with the COVID-19 pandemic). I know it can be really difficult to spread kindness and to go out of your way to do that, but it really can be as simple as sending someone a text in the morning. Outreach can make that difference. There are so many different ways to get involved –– you don’t have to start a nonprofit to spread kindness –– and if you can make a difference in even one person’s day, that’s an amazing thing.”
Visit natureofkindness.org for more info or visit their Instagram: @natureofkindness.
To see stickers from Sofei Studio, sofeistudio.bigcartel.com.
Northeast Ohio Parent magazine will be sharing stories of kindness in our region throughout 2021. Do you have a story to share? Please email [email protected]