How to save a life: 21 days of kindness and empathy

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life can be exhausting – no matter who you are. The global pandemic combined with tremendous social upheaval and climate disasters has shaken us to our collective core, laying bare the savageness of grief and anger that many of us are unaccustomed to dealing with.

It’s also revealed the need for vast and sweeping change.

“When things get back to normal” and “the new normal” are both now overused and often triggering phrases found in our emails, our direct messages, and uttered without thought during our endless Teams, Skypes, Zooms, and Facetimes.

We don’t know what will happen next.

We don’t know when things will get better.

We don’t even know what better necessarily looks like.

Resiliency is a muscle, and it has memory

So how are we continuing to carry on, when on many days we’ve no idea how to cope?


  • As we send our kids back to school and help them navigate learning from home digitally, we practice our resilience
  • As we manage aging parents and set and follow proper protocols to keep them safe, healthy, and alive, we practice our resilience
  • As we debate and watch a presidential election season only four years after one of the largest international election interferences in history, we practice our resilience
  • As California burns, and twin hurricanes spin out of control in the Gulf of Mexico, we practice our resilience
  • As we manage marriages among it all, trapped in our homes, masked to keep us all safe, we practice our resilience

“When will the madness end,” many of us might beg. And yet, we all know the answer: It won’t.

The madness will never end.

This is the human condition: struggle and resilience in the face of the unknown, in the face of change, in the face of both good and evil.

State of the nation: 16% of Americans have reported seriously considering suicide within the last month

One thing is different – and more challenging – about 2020 than any year or struggle those of all of us alive have experienced to date:

Human connection has all but vanished.

  • Smiles hide under masks
  • Hopeful homemade signs beacon back to you from your neighbor’s living room window
  • Everywhere you go, you remain 6 feet apart from the nearest stranger

A year of increased struggle and change would already have mental health implications.

Add to that the inability to touch, to hold, to comfort, to easily see the warm smile – often an act of kindness – of a stranger, and it’s no wonder that 16% of Americans have reported seriously considering suicide over the last 30 days.

It’s a sobering statistic, but one that’s important to remember when interacting with others: Despite our shared collective grief, we truly have no idea of what they might actually be going through.

From underneath the rubble, sing a rebel song

The thing about humanity is that we generally aren’t creatures to take such challenges sitting down – many of us have found our own corners of respite.

I release stress via exercise. There’s a special place way up in the mountains where wildflowers bloom and offer a beautiful view of what nature is truly capable of, and biking there is one of my favorite things to do.

And it’s in that harbor of solace that I let out a guttural, all-encompassing scream. In that scream, too, is the power of what nature – my own nature – is capable of.

Even – and sometimes especially – in the midst overwhelming situations, you can find countless examples of people helping other people, despite their own sorrows and struggles.

Each of us might feel as though we don’t have the power to change things, but time and again, throughout history, the stories that remain and resonate most are the stories of individuals helping others and overcoming odds.

And so, because of the power of what can happen when each of us embraces kindness and selflessness, I’m joining the #BeKind21 Campaign, a project put forward by Lady GaGa’s Born This Way Foundation and supported by SAP, and a host of other partners and businesses.

If you can be anything, be kind

I first became aware of the Born This Way Foundation in May 2019 when SAP collaborated with them at SAPPHIRE. There, I interviewed business leaders on the importance of kindness in workplace environments immediately following a packed session on leadership and employee happiness.

I’ve been thinking back to that time a lot recently. So much has changed, and yet, questions about happiness remain – and the power of kindness has seemed to only grow.

From the Born This Way Foundation’s website: “Kindness is a verb. To be kind is to speak up. To be kind is to prioritize your mental wellness. To be kind is to advocate for a world that values, validates, and respects all people, to integrate kindness in their daily lives.”

I’d add:

  • To be kind is to be resilient
  • To be kind is to be aware
  • To be kind is to do your part for yourself, for those around you, for your fellow citizens near and far

To be kind is to transform the reality of the world by taking care of one another from the inside out. And that’s what I intend to do over the next 21 days, and for all the days that I’m fortunate enough to be alive after that.

I’m inspired by #BeKind21 and The Born This Way Foundation – by the simplicity of kindness, and our ability to build a habit of kindness in every day.

My only hope is to inspire you to do the same.

It starts with us, right here.

Right now.

We can change the world,
one act of kindness at a time. 




Blog originally published on FCEE site.