Kindness and Acceptance
By: Carey and Trevor McLaughlin
‘Pay it forward’ is the concept of one person performing a small act of kindness towards another without publicizing or broadcasting it and without an expectation of reciprocity, followed by that person helping someone else and onward until the acts of kindness have a compounding effect on our world. The idea is that the acts of kindness eventually return to the original person and complete the circle of kindness. It is heartwarming to observe people paying it forward and doing small, kind things in the world to make someone else’s day a little better (paying for the coffee for the person behind you in line, putting a coin in an expired meter). All of these little things positively contribute to our world that so desperately needs more kindness right now. I love these small gestures because as Aesop so famously said: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Kindness and acceptance, however, are much different from kindness by itself. True acceptance is rooted in empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand or to try to understand someone else’s situation, experience, feelings, and behaviors. If you want to be truly generous toward another person, more than just the ‘pay it forward’ type of generosity, you need to understand their successes and struggles—the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult parts, or at least admit that you can’t fully understand them because you haven’t experienced life in their shoes. It means that you acknowledge that the experience of another is hard.
Does kindness always have to translate into an action such as volunteering or donating money in order to impact the world? No, it doesn’t. To make a difference in our challenging world, it would make a huge impact if people simply acknowledged the difficulties that others face, therefore impacting their thoughts, words and actions which also makes the world a better place. Or, in the spirit of GiGi’s Playhouse, to celebrate your best of all (a daily challenge to do a little better than you did the day before.) As Ghandi stated: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
At GiGi’s, kindness and acceptance is twofold: we work hard to spread the global message of acceptance while also accepting the struggles of those with Down syndrome and offering programs to help them be the best they can be. People with Down syndrome face many challenges in their everyday lives. They work harder at things that come easily to the typically developing child and adult. At GiGi’s, the acceptance of these struggles is the backbone of our organization and the reason behind our many impactful programs. We are fortunate to have amazing volunteers, donors, families, and participants to make GiGi’s the amazing place that it is. As it states on the GiGi’s Playhouse main website: “In the last 15 years, GiGi’s Playhouse has made significant progress and impact in supporting individuals with Down syndrome, but we have only scratched the surface…There is still so much more to do. Without more actions to create lasting acceptance, opportunities for present and future generations will falter. Our kids never get to take a break from their diagnosis. Therefore, we will not stop fighting for them.”
My sincere hope is that you don’t stop fighting either; fighting for kindness and acceptance for those with Down syndrome and other different abilities and anyone experiencing discrimination; fighting to do your best of all, as GiGi’s Playhouse encourages. Small changes in attitude towards others make a huge difference and impact our world in amazing ways. So…pay it forward, empathize, volunteer, be kind to yourself, and everyday do your best of all to make this world a kind and accepting place because: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway