What does it mean to be “Character Strong?”
I have pondered this question, allowing it to swirl a bit in my mind, ever since I returned from my visit to Houston, Texas in March. During that trip, I was graciously allowed to tag along with Barbara Gruener as she and other kindness cultivators around the U.S. gathered to learn more about the Character Strong program, honing their skills as presenters and advocates for kindness.
Driving back from the training, there were visual reminders of the strength of this community of Friendswood, that was underwater just 18 months before. Abandoned houses juxtaposed with boarded up buildings and Do Not Enter signs were in stark contrast to blooming flowers and thriving neighborhoods just a few streets away.
This is a community who embodies the spirit of strong character. As we drove, Barbara shared story after story of resilience and perseverance that carried them not only through the horrific weeks of unprecedented flooding 6-10 feet high, but continued for months thereafter.
Strangers rushed in to rescue friends and loved ones from nursing homes, now boarded up and vacant from the storm. Neighbors checked in on one another, doing whatever it took to help each other rebuild, restore, renew.
I find in times of unspeakable tragedy, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, that the character of others rises and soars. Strength and compassion shine brightest on the darkest days, and we are reminded of the good in the world.
To see more photos of the floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey visit http://bit.ly/harveyphotos17.
Later that afternoon, Barbara brought me to Lake Friendswood Park and we walked the path along the lake as her husband and son went fishing in kayaks.
The calm water and beautiful blue skies reminded me of the phrase Jet Stream Jax shares in his Kind Coins video:
I believe that’s what makes people of strong character: when they put their differences aside, embrace the humanity of which we all share, and continue to create ways to inspire and uplift others.
Maybe your kindness is a smile for the daycare teacher who is holding your child at the end of a long work day. Perhaps your kindness is surprising a stranger with a meal paid-in-full at a local restaurant. Your kindness may be driving past a front row parking space near the mall so someone else can have that joy, or maybe you take a few moments of your day to text your mom to say, “Hi.”
Whatever you are doing to remind people they matter, keep rocking it out. Don’t stop. We shouldn’t need a tragedy to bring us together, but it’s nice to know that in the moments of deepest despair, there is light.
There is love.
There is hope.
A special thanks to Barbara Gruener and her family for hosting the first of my R.E.B. trips to cultivate kindness for global impact. I knew she would be the perfect person to receive Gini Bonnell’s “Be Kind” sign, a reminder that the world really can be changed by the kindness of one.