Every week a Moslem man in Singapore forwards an e-mail to his co-religionists in that Asian island nation... An Evangelical Christian couple in Texas makes photocopies of it and gives them to all the members of their church and female prisoners throughout the Lone Star State… A Catholic Pastoral Counselor reads it to patients at a hospital in Peoria, Illinois… The principal of a Jewish high school in Chicago tacks it to a bulletin board… While atheists throughout the world forward it to their friends and loved ones.
It all started on a hot summer day in 2001 when a young man carrying a guitar case walked into a crowded Jerusalem restaurant and detonated a bomb, killing himself and 27 other people. One of them was my wife, Shoshana, who was pregnant with our first child.
I had been the happiest man in the world married to the most wonderful woman in the world. We had just moved into a new home and our heads were filled with wonderful dreams. Then in an instant I became the loneliest man in the world. I lived in fear that terrorists would track me down and kill me and perhaps kill hundreds of people in the United States as they had my wife and my unborn child.
What pulled me through this tragedy were the people who were there for me in my darkest hours—the friends and relatives who supported me with my physical and emotional needs and the strangers who opened their hearts to relieve my burdens.
My parents stayed with me for a few weeks to help me get readjusted to life after the tragedy. As soon as they left families in my community invited me to join them for dinner every night of the week so that I would not feel lonely.
During the traditional week of mourning, close to a thousand people came to comfort me. Hundreds of them were students, parents and friends whose lives were enriched by my wife in so many different ways. They told me how she had comforted them by telling them that “There is good in every bad.” And so it is—in tragedy, there is opportunity to reach out to others and to turn something “bad” into something good and meaningful.
Partners in Kindness
On January 1, 2002, four months after Shoshana’s murder, I met with a group of friends in my community to discuss what we could do to make the world a better place. We decided to start a daily email newsletter to offer readers stories of kindness. We called the newsletter A Daily Dose of Kindness and our organization Partners in Kindness.
After a few months, we introduced a second email called Kind Words, which was syndicated, free of charge, around the world. In addition to stories, these emails also contained scientific insights on kindness and sensitivity enhancement techniques.
The emails spread far and wide. During the first five years, Partners in Kindness had granted permission for our stories and kindness techniques to appear in eight languages in print and electronic media reaching a circulation of more than 1.5 million readers on six continents.
Seeing Good; Doing Good; Feeling Good
When the news on TV, on the radio, and in the newspapers is filled with violence, we feel helpless and depressed. We lose faith in humanity and feel there is nothing that we can do to make the world better. Some readers tell us that our emails help them to forget about the bad and just focus on the good. Anne from California explains:
I had just read several news reports of what is going on in the world and they had had a rather depressing effect on me. Then I read your "kindness" column, and it just lifted me up, once again, to be reading about the good things people are doing for each other in a world that seems to concentrate on the bad.
Our first book, A Daily Dose of Kindness, represents the best of these e-mails. The book contains diverse stories about Israel submitted from one hundred contributors. A Daily Dose of Kindness is the result of the collaboration of hundreds of volunteers and financial supporters of many different religions and nationalities. These stories of caring may bring new hope to Israel, the Middle East and the world.
The emails empower readers to not only tackle their own problems, but to reach out and make the world better.
A few months after we started sending out our kindness emails—less than a year after September 11—a large Moslem charity in Kuwait contacted us and asked permission to forward our stories throughout their country.
As Julia Bail of Washington, D.C. comments, “Reading the Kindness letters . . . gives me more hope for mankind than anything else in my life.”
When I have the opportunity to speak, I rivet my audience’s attention through stories and audience participation. Participants come away feeling very positive and excited about doing something great. My excitement for kindness is infectious, as this student from New York City’s Stuyvesant High School explains:
I was expecting to attend the lecture given by Shmuel Greenbaum for one period. I ended up staying for four. It is so uplifting, so enlightening, so refreshing to hear someone like him talk, to simply bubble over with excitement at the thought of doing good in the world. He is in his way a role model to us all. You think to yourself, “If only everyone else could practice kindness in the way that Shmuel Greenbaum has, the world would truly be a better place.”
For more information e-mail info@PartnersInKindness.org