Lessons on Kindness

April 10th, 2020


I sometimes help out at a senior living facility, a 1 ½ hour’s drive from my home. But that was months ago before I started on several new projects. Then came COVID. When the virus reached Maine and I was forced to put all of those projects on hold, initially I didn’t panic. I was tired and honestly, afraid to travel even though I was very much looking forward to both conferences, Diversity Abroad and AACRAO, on my schedule. Instead, I took a little trip to visit my sister who lives an hour south of me. Since I was going to be so close, I thought I would visit the seniors. At the coffee shop on the way down, which was still open at this point, something inside me said, “you should probably call and see if they are letting non-family members visit.”

I did. They weren’t.

That same week the Global Consulting Services (GCS) arm of ACEI, of which I am a part, had a Zoom meeting scheduled. On that call we decided that, instead of continuing to work on webinars and promotional videos, we would just host a check-in webinar. Each of us would take a few minutes to speak about how we were coping with our lives in the time of COVID. We invited a guest speaker, Abby Wills, to talk about coping mechanisms and lead us in a mindfulness exercise. After that the floor would be opened to any of the participants to speak, ask questions, etc.

One of the many ways of dealing with a crisis, as Abby so deftly explained, was not to avoid it but to be aware of it and then practice any of the methods on how to do so, in order to get through it. And most important, to be kind to ourselves. She said this a few times and even again in the following week’s webinar.

Be kind to ourselves. What does that mean in this situation? Images of SNL’s Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmations came to mind even though I know that’s not what she meant.

My interpretation is that we need to allow ourselves whatever feelings come our way. We need to maybe, for once, stop planning and recognize that the world as we know it, has forever changed and to accept how we are in that realization.

Americans in the United States pride themselves on how much they get done. Some do so while bragging about how little sleep they do it on. Some years ago, I heard a nurse boast about how she’d only been getting 3 hours of sleep a night. A nurse! If anyone should know the benefits of sleep, she should. My first reaction was to find out where she worked and make sure I was never her patient and my second was to pray for her patients. As a lifelong insomniac who did a whole lot on very little sleep, I would never brag about it. It was not a choice for me. And it shouldn’t be for most people.

So why do we feel we always need to be doing something?

A week after I called the senior facility, I was called by them to come in to work. Sadly, their families were no longer allowed to visit and activities had to be canceled so they needed activities people to come and visit the residents. I was thrilled because I missed people, I missed them and I missed having something to do. Then last week I was sent home because I had symptoms of a cold. I could not return until a doctor cleared me.

The first day or so it was easy to rest but after that I felt as though I should catch up on email, finish projects I’d started, or at least check Facebook. So, I did those things but then I woke up the following day again feeling sick. The next day I just wanted to read even though I was feeling somewhat better. So I did, but guiltily. The following day I read guilt-free but only because the book was so good that I couldn’t put it down. But then I finished the book. Again, my brain said, – do something. You can’t sit around reading all day, lazy bones. Check email or at least read non-fiction. It hit me though that I was home because I was still sick and suddenly Abby’s coaxing to be kind to myself registered. Maybe being kind to ourselves means forgetting everything we were ever told by our bosses about the way to the top, or by every magazine from over-achievers like Oprah and Martha Stewart. Maybe it means watching more videos of Italians performing arias on their balconies. Why are they doing this instead of painting their kitchens? Maybe they are painting their kitchens, but we know they were also taught the value of spending more time with their families than at work, and that enjoying music and the arts is a part of being successful. What’s the point of being successful if you have no life to enjoy? Maybe this is what being kind to ourselves is. Maybe this is what we’ll realize will never be the same after COVID. Maybe we’ll learn how little control we truly have and recognize how fun it is to connect with old friends, write an old fashioned paper letter, or play board games with the family.

With this in mind I pulled out a box of unpacked books and piled several choices of fiction next to my couch. I opened the one on top and carted myself back to 1984.

To watch/listen to ACEI’s Mindful Minutes, click here and use the password provided:

Mindful Minutes, Session 1   password: 6Pcfj4t2

Mindful Minutes, Session 2  password: pYeujfc9


Kathleen Hylen, M.A. International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Graduated with honors from UC, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Community Studies, focus on anti-bias. Kathleen is also a member of ACEI’s Professional Consultancy Team. Her focus is on helping institutions and organizations develop and/or bolster their diversity and inclusion strategies.

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Filed under Gratitude, Human Interest

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