Ordinary Goodness, The Surprisingly Effortless Path to Creating A Life of Meaning

What is Ordinary Goodness and why does it matter?

Ordinary Goodness is love, kindness, compassion, generosity, strength, and caring. It is the light of our humanity that when we turn to it comes alive in everyday acts like when we bring in the neighbor’s garbage can, love our children when they are acting out, make a donation to a cause when our finances are stretched, show up awkwardly at an acquaintances mother’s funeral. Ordinary goodness is not the goodness of a super hero, although that’s awesome too, it’s the goodness in kind-hearted people that is simultaneously present in the world despite challenging times, chaos in the news, or personal disappointments.

How do you trust goodness in the face of life’s tragedies?

It’s difficult to trust something if you have no experience of it or no relationship with it. If I wait till disaster strikes to explore ordinary goodness, it’s going to be difficult for me to have confidence in it. If I practice daily, turning my attention to the question, what would Goodness have me do, I’m going to develop a relationship with it? I think of the famous Mr. Rogers quote: “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

What is ordinary kindness and how do you use it?

Kindness, the Dalai Lama wrote, is the starting point, the source from which so many good qualities arise, such as honesty, patience, generosity. If we remove kindness from patience, it’s no longer patience. If we remove kindness from generosity, it’s no longer generosity. The Random Acts of Kindness movement and the World Kindness Movement have a resource page with suggestions for how to start expressing kindness.

What is compassion and how and why do you use it when seeing people as they are?

Compassion is another talent we have that gets better with practice. We can bring compassion alive by intentionally listening to someone, trying to see the world through someone else’s point of view, taking an interest in someone else – these help us connect to each other and understand what is important to each other. When we know the details of another person’s heart, what is important to them, what their concerns are, it becomes easier and easier to care about them.

My grandmother had complete faith in goodness, and for no logical reason, other than over time she had seen it work things out. When we took our youthful troubles to her, she would say, it will all work out in the end. She trusted that, and she couldn’t explain why. That is what faith is like. It’s a combination of trust through experience, and confidence – sometimes unreasonable – in something. We don’t have to have complete faith in goodness to begin expressing it. We don’t have to have any faith in it at all; we can go ahead and experiment with it and then examine the results. That kind of mindful approach builds confidence which leads to trust, and trust leads to faith, that moment when we stop needed proof.

What about finding faith in difficult times?

In Ordinary Goodness, I wrote about those defining moments in our lives, that call us to act on what we believe. My interest in goodness, kindness, and compassion may start off as a nice adventure, but when things get rough, where does my attention go? What do I have confidence in?

I’m thinking about the shooting in the Amish School House 2006 Lancaster County in which eight girls were shot. An article about the event stated that by the afternoon of the same day, the parents were gathering in prayer circles to pray for the forgiveness of the shooter, and for his family. The author pointed out that the Amish didn’t miraculously get to that kind of compassion overnight, rather it was a foundational value of their faith, practiced daily. So that when the unimaginable happened, they had something, which to the world may seem unfathomable, to inform their actions. That is faith.