Today, as I listened to A Conversation with Brene Brown and DeRay McKesson, @WestsideNYC, called The Courage To Show Up, I was struck by how Brown said the things she regrets most are are failures of kindness. Having recently re-read a highly quoted graduation speech given by the great writer George Saunders (Syracuse University, 2013), I thought of Saunders using these same words. “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness,” Saunders said. “Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” He continued, “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.”
So often as we contemplate death, we want to know that we’re living the remaining days of our lives as our best selves. Focusing on what seems like the simplest of lessons (“Try to be kinder”) can lead us in the right direction.
Saunders notes, “Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now….. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.” Hurry up and be kind.