Lessons in kindness, compassion and consideration . . .

kindness OM we are all connected, Kris Doubledee, Rachel Scott, Ryan Heber

The OM Year of Kindness is off to a super start . . .

Here in our studio, in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, we've spent recent days reading about good deeds, about acts rooted in compassion and about people being nicer to each other.

Kindness is all around us, more so than ever before, of that we have no doubt. But what is kindness, and what is it to be kind? That's a question that we intend to answer this morning.

In recent times, we've introduced people like Kris Doubledee, the bus driver from Canada, who gave his shoes to a homeless man he encountered on his route one morning. Last week, on our OM@Home blog, we featured Kevin Curwick, a High School football captain from Osseo, Minnesota, who is using social media to encourage his classmates to lead better lives.

Kindness, of course, is not a modern phenomenon. Far from it, in fact . . .

You see, as long ago as 400 BC, people were asking the very same question that we've put to you this morning: what is kindness, and what is it to be kind? Those seeking the answer in ancient Greece tended to turn to Aristotle.

In an epic document known as Aristotle's Rhetoric, the great philosopher noted that, '[kindness is] helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything nor for the advantage of the helper himself but for that of the person helped.'

That this has stood the test of time is clear. There's no question that, all these centuries later, such criteria can be applied to Rachel Scott, Lawrence DePrimo and the like.

It seems to us that kindness is a thread that has run through humankind since time began. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, eminent in the 19th Century, once noted that, 'kindness and love are the most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse'.

To this day, this remains true beyond all doubt. To the cynical, kindness is little more than a notion, a well-intentioned whimsy, but to us, it is something more real, and a force more powerful.

In California, for instance, there is a teacher called Ryan Heber, who has made a greater effort than most to connect with his students. His kindness and compassion always in evidence, Ryan is renowned for his understanding nature. Earlier this month, it was Ryan who persuaded a troubled teenager at Taft Union High School to put down his shotgun and not commit another Columbine.

His father, David Heber, has no doubt that it is Ryan's kindheartedness that made the difference that morning and prevented another classroom massacre . . .

'It's all about kindness,' he says. 'It's all about my son being kind and caring about those students. That's the reason that [the gunman] talked and listened to him'.

Like most people possessing such qualities, Ryan is a reluctant hero so, instead, we're presenting him as an example. Showing compassion, understanding others and being kinder to those around us can make a quite remarkable difference. Now - in 2013, the OM Year of Kindness - is the time to start doing something about it.

Earlier this morning, we looked up kindness in our thesaurus and found the following associated words: benevolence, charity, generosity, humanity, tenderness, warmth, friendliness, compassion, thoughtfulness and consideration. Our OMs - all handmade here, in our Rhode Island studio - symbolize all these things, these qualities than can be employed to make our Earth a better place for us all.

This is our purpose, to persuade others to spread kindness over the next 12 months and beyond. Using, as our inspiration, figures as diverse and different as Nietzsche, Aristotle, Ryan Heber and our OMs. Please join in and help us to use the OM Year of Kindness to make a mark on the world . . .

OM Miquette Bishop kindness

We are all connected.