On World Kindness Day, Let's Expand Our Compassion Footprint
November 13 is World Kindness Day, but every day should be filled with grace.
Posted Nov 12, 2019
"You can never be too kind." –Told to me by Shannon, a 7-year old.
"... our findings strongly suggest that humans’ views about human rights and animal rights are tightly linked."
November 13 is World Kindness Day. It was introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement "to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us. Kindness is a fundamental part of the human condition which bridges the divides of race religion, politics, gender and zip codes."
As I researched various groups that focused on World Kindness Day, I noted an absence of concern and kindness for nonhuman animals (animals) on many sites. However, there are exceptions to the absence of other animals. There's absolutely no reason to exclude nonhumans from being recognized on World Kindness Day, and here I want to emphasize that all beings, human and nonhuman, should be acknowledged on this special day, and, of course, on each and every day.
The One Health movement
"One Health recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. It is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment." —Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A good place to begin expanding our kindness footprint is with the One Health movement. People often criticize those who work on behalf of nonhumans by asking something like, "How dare you work with nonhumans when so many humans need help?" I always say that the life of each and every individual matters, and in today's challenging world, the only way forward is to pay careful attention to the plight of nonhuman animals (animals), humans, and their homes.
The University of Denver's Sarah Bexell has been a leader in the One Health Initiative approach that is a way of looking at the world that helps humans to see and acknowledge that humans, other species, and the natural environment (the three pillars of One Health) are completely and perfectly interlinked. For an interview with veterinarian Rebeca García Pinillos, who edited a book called One Welfare: A Framework to Improve Animal Welfare and Human Well-Being, Bexell notes, "If we harm one of these three pillars, all three are harmed. On the positive and hopeful side, when we work to protect one pillar, all have a better chance of positive outcomes and surviving."
What else can we do to generate umbrellas of kindness and compassion and be kind to all beings?
"Caring for nonhumans, for their own sake, does not preclude caring for humans. Humans are more than capable of caring for many more than one kind of thing. Reasoning to the contrary might also be used to support the belief that honoring one's ethnicity is fundamentally incompatible with racial equality. These considerations indicate that nothing is inherently misanthropic about being non-anthropocentric.” –John Vucetich et al. 2015, cited in Treves et al. 20191
There are many ways to expand our kindness and compassion footprints to include all beings. Here are a few: Be kind to everyone; think about the One Health movement; apply the Golden Rule; teach children and their teachers well; pay attention to the 12 Ps of rewilding by being proactive, positive, persistent, patient, peaceful, practical, powerful, passionate, playful, present, principled, and proud; and recognize the intrinsic value of all living beings. And, it's also important to be kind to people with whom you disagree. On occasion, it's OK to agree to disagree and move on because most of us have finite time and energy for putting forth messages about the importance and power of cross-species kindness.
Along these lines, in our book The Ten Trusts, Jane Goodall and I offer: Respect all life, live as part of the animal kingdom, educate our children to respect animals, treat animals as you would like to be treated, be a steward, value the sounds of nature and help preserve them, do not harm life in order to learn about it, have the courage of your convictions, act knowing that your actions make a difference, and act knowing that you are not alone.
It's not asking too much to be kind to everyone, nonhuman and human. It's the decent thing to do. Let's work hard to accrue compassion credits that cross-species lines and make this the "century of global compassion, kindness, and empathy." Keep this in mind on World Kindness Day and on all other days of the year. It's high time for those who casually dismiss people who are interested in nonhumans as being disinterested in humans, or even anti-human, to revise their views.
When we have more inclusive umbrellas of kindness, compassion, and respect, it's a win-win for all. I like to keep in mind what 7-year-old Shannon empathically and emphatically told me: "You can never be too kind." And it's really easy to do.
For an interview with Dr. Treves and his colleagues about their essay, Just Preservation, see "Just Preservation" Favors the Intrinsic Value of Animals.
Bekoff, Marc. Children and Animals: Teach the Children Well.
Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence. New World Library, Novato, California, 2014.
The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint. New World Library, Novato, California, 2010.
"Our Wild Calling" by Richard Louv Is a Game Changer. (An interview with the Mr. Louv, who coined the now-iconic phrase “nature-deficit disorder.”)
Jessica Pierce. The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age. Beacon Press, Boston, 2017.
Ferrucci, Piero. The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life. TarcherPerigree, New York, 2016.
Goodall, Jane and Marc Bekoff. The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for The Animals We Love. HarperOne, San Francisco, 2002.
Luvin Arms. Connecting community through compassion.