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Some Thoughts on Kindness

George Saunders gave the commencement address at Syracuse University in 2013, the New York Times published it, someone posted it on YouTube, and the rest, as they say, is history.

That speech has been turned into an adorable little book, only 7 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches, 64 pages, yet packs an enormous, powerful wallop. Right on the chin. It’s a knockout.

All Mr. Saunders does here is remind us that life is for the living, and we need to work harder at being kind. For in the end, that is all that really matters. He talks about regrets, and like Frank Sinatra, he’s had a few. But his biggest regret, stemming from his childhood, is not being kinder to a little girl newly moved to his neighborhood. He talks about the people we remember best, that we like the best, are those that showed us kindness.

Yesterday I went through the drive through at McDonald’s to get an iced tea to take to work with me. It’s only a $1, and it’s so big it lasts through most of my 8 hour shift (supplemented with water, of course.) Why do you care? Well, when I pulled up to the window to pay, I was told that the car ahead of me had paid for my order and left a message, wishing me a good week.

I have heard about things like this happening on the news, but it’s never happened to me. And you know what? I was really flabbergasted. That was an awesome start to a Monday, and any time things get wonky this week, I will think back to that act of kindness. It was only a buck, but it truly was the thought that counted and meant so much.

We would do well to heed Mr. Saunders’ advice and work harder at being kinder to one another. And if you need a graduation gift, look no further.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY by George Saunders. Random House; First Edition edition (April 22, 2014). ISBN 978-0812996272. 64p.

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