“Kindify” to change the world
What makes us who we are?
I often think we are the result of the sum of experiences we encounter over a lifetime. These experiences are different for everybody, some of these can be our greatest accomplishments and others can be our worst mistakes or failures. I believe that a big reason for whatever success I have had, is that I learn from my mistakes, and I make plenty of them. Mistakes and failures can be a great teacher and how you deal with them absolutely forges your character. I can remember one mistake in particular where someone I admired pointed out a flaw in my character. This mistake taught me several valuable lessons that changed my life and could have possibly changed the world.
I went to high school in Rhode Island and would spend the summers lifeguarding at 2nd and 3rd beach in Middletown. When I first started, I was one of the youngest, and I didn’t know anybody because I was from a neighboring town. During the first few days at the beach, I met Brady who took me under his wing. Brady was much older than me and had been lifeguarding for a while. I remember all of his lifeguarding uniform had been bleached by the sun, his skin was dark from years of sitting on a lifeguard chair, and he had tattoos in other languages that served as evidence of his world travels. He was muscular, good looking, incredibly athletic, and I quickly learned he was one of the most interesting people I have ever talked to. He always had an interesting story to tell about adventures in far away places or the months he spent in Australia. There was just something about him that made all the guys want to be him, and all the girls love him. After carefully watching him, I began to realize it was the way he always seemed to make everyone’s day better just by being around them. He had an excitement about life and a sense of adventure that was refreshing and contagious. I will never forget the day he drove me home from the beach. He was blasting Ben Harper in his old Jeep with the top and doors off, he had shell necklaces and other artifacts of his journeys scattered around his vehicle and as he drove down the road he would beep, wave, and smile at everyone he drove past. I asked if he knew any of these people and he replied,
No, I’m just loving life
I also remember one day when he called and asked if I wanted to workout with him and the next thing I knew, I was paddling around Aquidneck Island in an outrigger canoe. Paddling around as a team while taking in all the beautiful sights of a New England summer evening was an experience I will always remember. As time went on I would come into work hoping to be paired up with Brady in the lifeguard chair because I knew I would leave work feeling inspired and important. Brady would always ask me about my dream of being a pilot, we would see helicopters fly over, and he would tell me that it would be me flying them one day. He believed in me, and I will always be grateful for that. I would look forward to spending every summer in a lifeguard chair until after my senior year when I left early for indoctrination at the Academy. Sadly, I said goodbye to lifeguarding, all the friends that I made, and to Brady. I didn’t get to come often, and after a couple years I was finally able to reunite with Brady.
The summers at the Academy were usually spent at sea, and the boat I was on happened to pull into Newport. I was thrilled because I had to be in uniform, and I couldn’t wait to show it off to everyone I knew back home. I was traveling with a couple of guys from the boat, and I spent the entire day desperately trying to ditch one of them. I thought I was one of the cool kids, and this guy didn’t exactly help me with the image I was trying to portray. He was a nice guy, but he was socially awkward and one of those guys who was more brains than brawn. He was also already on my list because the week before I had failed at a valiant attempt to court a member of the opposite sex and I was convinced he was to blame for my failure. In other words I was _____ blocked (you can fill in the blank). Unfortunately, since everyone from the Academy always traveled in packs, I dragged my socially awkward friend with me to the beach where I planned to meet up with Brady. Shortly after the introductions were complete, I started saying some pretty mean things about the company I was forced to have. Subconsciously I think I was putting this guy down as a way of showing Brady that normally I wouldn’t hang out with someone like this. I thought I would look better if I showed a clear distinction between our social classes. After a few minutes, the banter wasn’t getting any more pleasant until Brady finally stepped in. I will never forget what he said, and I am still embarrassed about it to this day.
George when did you become such an asshole? I don’t want to be around you if you’re acting like this.
and he left, just like that. I didn’t feel so cool anymore, but I still hadn’t realized what happened. It wasn’t until the next day when Brady called me, and I quickly answered hoping I would get a chance to hang out with him minus my socially awkward wingman who made me look bad. After the conversation, I realized I was the one completely responsible for making myself look bad. Brady called to tell me that he did not approve of of my actions the day before. He went on to tell me that I should never make fun of people and talk down to them the way that I did. He stressed the importance of understanding that people come from all different backgrounds, and I should respect them and treat them fairly no matter what. He reminded me how I showed up as a young lifeguard who didn’t know anyone, and he took me under his wing. I got off the phone and was crushed. I knew I had disappointed one of my role models, and the worst part was that I did it trying to impress him. Brady was right and in that one situation he taught me several lessons about being a man that I will never forget.
A real man always lifts up others. There’s never a good reason for putting people down.
Brady was able to empower others during every single interaction he had with people. I never saw him put people down, and I realized that was one of the reasons I always looked up to him. Brady was absolutely right when he called and gave me that much-needed advice, and I am extremely grateful for it. We don’t know everyone else’s story or background, so we need to respect them no matter what. We have to think that we could be making fun of someone while they are having the worst day of their life, and we would never know. We would miss that opportunity to lift them up when they need it the most. After Brady’s phone call, I changed the way I treated the poor guy from the boat that I publicly berated, and I’m extremely glad I did. He turned out to be a pretty good friend and helped me immensely for four years at the Academy. He would tutor me in all the different classes I consistently struggled with. He had also flown private planes and earned his private pilots license during high school. He shared his knowledge of aviation that was of tremendous value to me. He would take practice tests with me and review the answers in detail for several weeks leading up to the Aviation Selection Test Battery, a required exam to enter into military flight training. I ended up acing the test, greatly increasing my chances of being selected for flight school. I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for his help, and the conversation I had with Brady. I would have missed out on a great friendship and much more if I had continued to treat people poorly.
This lesson is also very important for us vegan men. Sometimes vegans get a bad name because they are quick to put down meat eaters, and even other types of vegans. As vegan men, we don’t always have to agree with other people’s lifestyle choices, but we do have to respect them and treat them fairly. I always say that if people knew everything I knew about animal suffering and had the means to live the way I do, everyone would be vegan. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case, so it’s imperative that we try and understand other people and show them the respect they deserve. Some people are not exposed to the information that promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle, or they are struggling to make healthy lifestyle choices. There is no need to put these people down. Instead, we should show them a good example and empower them instead of judge them. Sometimes all it takes is one minuscule nice gesture to change their whole life and get them on the path to a cruelty-free lifestyle or optimal health.
A real man doesn’t stand by and watch behavior that is inconsistent with his values.
Not only did Brady immediately address the situation when it happened, he later called and discussed his feelings to provide me a much-needed course correction. Standing up for something you believe in can be hard, and it’s even more difficult to do properly. Brady wasn’t trying to make me feel bad or insult me, he was trying to help me and I knew that. He didn’t talk down to me or attack me for my bad behavior, so I was never defensive or confrontational. I could tell everything he said to me was genuine and came from a place of deep caring, effectively changing my life for the better.
Standing up for something you believe in is something a lot of vegans, especially the ethical ones are good at….sometimes a little too good at. If we disagree with something, whether it’s a circus, an aquarium, or someone wearing a fur coat, that’s ok, but we still have to conduct ourselves properly. If we chose to confront a situation inconsistent with our values, we must do it from a place of respect and genuine caring. Remember to command respect while respecting all living things, including other humans. I’m not saying we have to support their behavior, but as living things they still deserve our respect. I always try and remember that that it doesn’t make much sense to be compassionate about how we treat animals while mistreating our fellow humans. Additionally, I know as vegans we believe in the merits of our lifestyle, but we have to be careful not to try and preach to every single meat eater we know. It is much more effective, in the long run, to lead by example. If we live compassionately and look healthy and vibrant, people will follow when they are ready.
Be a role model because you never know who is watching.
After I write this, I will send it to Brady before I publish it online. I know that this incident probably wasn’t very significant to him, but it changed my life. Growing up, my family would often show love through teasing, and it became pretty normal for me. I would tease people a little too much sometimes and didn’t have any regard for their feelings. I could have been considered a little bit of a bully. Since Brady set me straight, I have tried to treat people better and that has had a ripple effect that could have drastically altered the course of my life and the lives of others. Brady could have changed the world for the better through this small intervention. I once heard an astronaut say that if he was a fraction of a degree off course when he launched he’d eventually end up on the wrong planet. We have to believe in the value of even the smallest change in course.
As vegans, it is imperative that we act as a role models. People already have a lot of negative stereotypes about vegans, and if we look unhealthy and act like jerks, it doesn’t help anyone. We need to consider ourselves as walking billboards for veganism, if we are healthy and command respect while respecting all living things, we might cause a small change in someone’s life. This could be the tiniest change that would eventually lead to better health, or maybe save the lives of countless animals. I have found that acting as a role model is the most effective way of making a difference, people don’t like being told what to do, or having their lifestyle attacked. Instead, we should strive to live a healthy compassionate lifestyle, and people will eventually follow our lead or ask us for help.
My challenge to you is to use these three lessons to positively impact someone’s life.Lift up others around you.
Speak out against behavior inconsistent with your values.
Be a role model.
Find someone who could use some empowerment and lift them up, or think of someone you may have treated poorly and apologize. Remember not to underestimate the effect a single small gesture could have on the world. I’m going to give an example that I hope sticks with you, but to do that I’m going to need to coin a term to make things easier.
Kindify- to positivity impact someone’s life through kindness.
Now bear with me while I use some math to prove my point. Let’s say for example I kindify 1 person, this person is so moved that they kindify 2 people over the next month…doesn’t seem like a whole lot. These next 2 people will then continue to kindify 2 more people each over a months time and the cycle continues. The equation for this is a geometric series and looks like this:
total people kindified = 2n-1 (where n is the number of months)
If every person that has been kindified turns around and kindifies 2 people over a months time, at the end of a year 4,095 people will have been kindified. Lets look at the story with Brady that took place in 2005 where I was kindified. I was so moved that over the next month I kindified my two friends that were with me at the beach. Assuming that cycle continues we would kindify a lot of people. To be exact the number below is 10 years worth of kindifying.
1,329,227,995,784,920,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 people kindified
That’s pretty amazing, and solid proof that a small gesture has the power to change the world. I ask all of you to kindify 2 people and leave a comment below.