I picked Radical Kindness The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving by Angela C. Santomero for three reasons. I liked the title, I loved the bright, happy paper flowers on the cover and the forward was written by Deepak Chopra. It was like the book was written for me. Santomero opens with her love of Fred Rogers when she was a little girl. Between growing up in a chaotic Italian-American family and the social upheaval happening in the United States in the late 60s, Mr. Rogers was a welcome reprieve from reality. For 30 minutes, he taught children about compassion, made them feel seen and understood, and most importantly promoted kindness. Rogers’ three rules to success were all the same- be kind.
Santomero is the co-creator of the award-winning show Blues Clues as well as the popular Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, both echoing those lessons Rogers was sharing. It isn’t just Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that needs to work on living with integrity and compassion, the world needs some help with that too. We are suffering from a shortage of kindness today, unable to discuss politics, religion, or parenting without friction. This book is a quick read and a good lesson for us adults that we need to take some lessons from kids’ programs.
The book covers the need for kindness not only to others but for ourselves as well, encouraging more action instead of reaction. Santomero isn’t talking big or heroic things, sometimes it’s just the way we view things. According to Wayne Dyer in the PBS Special, Power of Intention, “When you can change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Really, that’s where kindness starts, how we view ourselves and others. I loved her reference to the cast of The Wizard of Oz being voices in her head. There’s Glinda the good witch who is jovial, kind, and supportive, and the Wicked Witch who is our negative thinking. At times, we feel like a fraud just like the Wizard as well as brainless, heartless, and without courage just like the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow. Start with working on your inner dialogue and it will change how you interact and impact the world.
Radical Kindness encourages spreading kindness without credit, as well as asking for help at times too. It encourages us to think of the people standing in line with us at the grocery store or the attendant pumping our gas. It encourages us to see the best in people, just like Belle saw the Prince when everyone else saw the beast. Apparently, Steve Burns was almost overlooked for the role on Blues Clues because he came in with a skateboard, shaggy hair, ripped jeans, a band shirt, and high tops. He didn’t look like the guy they wanted, but once he read for the part, they knew he was caring and authentic and exactly who they needed.
The book finishes with 32 radical acts of kindness you can do right now. They are all easy and get you thinking. This book was a refreshing reminder to not give up hope, every bit of kindness makes a difference. We might not make the impact of Mr. Rogers, still influencing the world today, but we can most definitely spread some kindness in our circles and that’s a start.