How do I fit in the greater world? What is my relationship to my fellow people? Am I responsible for more than myself and my efforts and my wants? These are hard questions, but they are so critical to living a fulfilling life.
Kindness is a currency worth trafficking in. Feeling more than oneself. Giving part of oneself to another. By kindness, I don’t mean being nice and polite to people. That’s part of it sure, but those things are only surface-deep. Real kindness is altruism. It is giving without desire of receiving. It is empathy – not only feeling what others must be going through, but acting on those feelings and opening yourself to others.
Kindness can be a renewable resource, but it can also be draining. Altruism is tough. With true altruism there is no expectation of reciprocation – no expectation of thanks or even acknowledgement. That “thank you” goes so far, but we are to turn that desire off. When appreciation does come your way, the feeling can be intoxicating and addicting, making it painful to go without.
There has to be a middle ground. There has to be a way to be kind without just giving and giving and giving until there’s nothing left. Try to temper the thankless efforts with those that are appreciated. Show empathy and altruism to those that will not return it, but don’t throw everything into that well. Take care of yourself, too. You have to refill your kindness reserves. Volunteer with others. Bring your friends and loved ones into the circle, and boost each other as you give of yourselves.