A teacher asked her young pupils to tell about their acts of kindness to animals. After several heart-stirring stories, the teacher asked one boy if he had anything to add. He replied rather proudly, “I kicked a boy once for kicking his dog.”

OK, so he only got it half-right. Perhaps he should have paid better attention to Fred Rogers, the legendary television personality whose programs for children live on in the hearts of generations. He said, paraphrasing the author Henry James: “There are three ways to ultimate success:

“The first way is to be kind.

“The second way is to be kind.

“The third way is to be kind.”

Kindness is a fundamental life skill that we should instill in children so that they grow up to be kind adults.

Kindness is one of the strongest of all virtues. When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.

And the best part of all? You don’t need any special schooling or skills. Everyone can be kind — if they decide to be.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession,” is a quote often attributed to Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright.

Kindness is not weakness. Quite the opposite — kindness demonstrates a basic decency and respect that reflects a willingness to get along even when you disagree.

No one wants to work with or do business with someone that treats them rudely or disrespectfully. Practice these habits until they become second nature:

First, be kind to yourself. You will find being nice to others easier if you build your self-respect with positive thoughts about your personality and achievements. Treat everyone with respect. Don’t worry about who’s on top. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated, regardless of their position or job title.

Share credit where it is due. Say no when necessary. You can’t do everything. But when you do say no, be polite and positive. Plant seeds of kindness. Do something nice every day, even when your kindness may not have an immediate payoff. Complete the statement: “If I were a kinder person, I would ...” and then act on it.

Set your sights on another. Pick a person and make him or her the recipient of a random act of kindness. Small acts often work wonders. Give a compliment. Offer help to someone struggling with their work. You will likely lift the spirits of the other person as well as yourself.

Kindness works everywhere: in the office and at home, even on the farm! Britain’s Newcastle University found that cattle treated with care and a “more personal touch” tended to produce more milk for farmers. Newcastle’s School of Agriculture studied over 500 farmers across the U.K. and found that cows given names by their owners gave over 50% more milk than cattle that were nameless. Yep, we all want to feel special.

Dale Carnegie, who made a fortune writing about how to make friends and influence people, liked to tell the following story:

“Years ago, when I was a barefoot boy walking through the woods to a country school out in northwest Missouri, I read a fable about the sun and the wind. They quarreled about which was the stronger, and the wind said, ‘I’ll prove I am. See the old man down there with a coat? I bet I can get his coat off him quicker than you can.’

“So the sun went behind a cloud, and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado, but the harder it blew, the tighter the old man clutched his coat to him.

“Finally, the wind calmed down and gave up, and then the sun came out from behind the clouds and smiled kindly on the old man. Presently, he mopped his brow and pulled off his coat.

“The sun then told the wind that gentleness and kindness were always stronger than fury and force.”

Mackay’s Moral: If you are too busy to be kind, you are too busy.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.