Nothing is more exciting to me than a brand new book and no book is more exciting than one that continues to push my understanding and leave me critically evaluating my work. That’s how I felt as I closed the page on Houston Kraft’s new publication, Deep Kindness: A Revolutionary Guide for the Way We Think, Talk, and Act in Kindness.
Houston Kraft, the author, is a professional speaker, curriculum designer, and kindness advocate (so all of my favorite things). Houston has spoken to over half a million people at 600 engagements and counting. He is the cofounder of CharacterStrong, character education and social-emotional learning curriculum and professional development company that serves over 2,500 schools across all 50 states and 9 countries. All this is to say that before I even opened the box, I knew I was in for a treat.
Through 20 delightful chapters filled with witty anecdotes and authentic wisdom, Houston made me think about my own work with The Smile Project. One thing I really appreciate about his book is that he goes deep. (Yeah, yeah, I know the title.) In 9 years of working on The Smile Project, I’ve seen a lot of surface level kindness (what Houston calls Confetti Kindness). This book forces a heavier reflection.
For example, at one point Houston relays a conversation he had with a high school student after one of his presentations. The student begins discussing the difference between “nice” and “kind.” Perpetually enthused by words and their meanings, for me, this part hit home. The student is discussing how “nice” is a more reactive thing—like helping someone who drops their books—whereas kindness is proactive.
To pull a quote from the student (page 119):
“Houston, why do we always wait for people to drop things before we make them feel helped? Why do we always have to wait for bad stuff to happen before we finally figure out why it’s important to make people feel good?”
In my first year of high school, some dozen students were killed by a combination of car accidents and suicides. My friends and I went to more funerals at age 15 than football games. I remember standing around a church parking lot with a classmate after one such occasion and our conversation divulging to wishing...wishing this person could be there to hear all the good things that people said, wishing that they knew how much they mattered to people, wishing that we didn’t wait for bad things to happen before we said thank you; we love you; please stay.
I won’t give away too much more about the book. If you are interested in human kindness, the way we talk to one another, and how we create a better world, Deep Kindness will be of interest to you.
That said, I do want to share one more excerpt that really resonated. On page 147, Houston writes:
“Don’t get me wrong, all Kindness is worthwhile because (as Aesop reminds us) “no act of Kindness is ever wasted.” So please don’t forgo the coffee Pay-It-Forwards and the happiness of Free Hugs. I repeat: Random acts of Kindness are a beautiful indication of a heart that leans toward love. Random acts of Kindness are the sprinkles that bedazzle the ice cream. But Deep Kindness requires flavor selection, scooping, packing, and (hopefully) a waffle cone. Sprinkles can go on any flavor, but the base is a bit more personal.”
We need the sprinkles (what we at Smile Project HQ call Intentional Acts of Kindness). But we need a strong foundation first. Understanding of ourselves. Engagement with others. Genuine desire for the betterment of community. Love. Joy. Kindness. Deep Kindness. If this matters to you, I think Houston’s book is a great place to start. Learn more.