I have been asked many times about how I chose the name of our company and why I started Kind Village.
Without going into too much detail, the short answer is because I believe that real, BIG change is possible. Crazy, right?!
To give you a little more insight, I also believe that a well-connected and well-supported community has the best chance of success, survival, and growth in a form that is meaningful and tangible for all of its citizens.
Really, my journey to Kind Village started a long time ago when I experienced a game-changing moment prompted by a sweet four-year-old girl in a remote hillside village in Cuba.
I was a teenager at the time and I recall being very excited to leave my home and go “south." All I could think about were sandy beaches, glowing sunshine, and the great blue sea.
After a few days in paradise, I became restless and increasingly curious about the people living outside the resort. So when I was invited to join a horseback ride into a local village, I ditched the beach and hopped on the horse.
It was a long, hot ride into the hills of the island. I had nothing with me and I had no idea what to expect. I certainly did not expect to see what was at the end of the trail.
As we entered the village, I took stock of the people running toward the horses, their single-level shelters, the many children with no t-shirts or hats playing in the hot sun... you get the idea.
As we got off the horses, I felt pity for these people: such large families living in one small room. I couldn’t understand why they seemed so happy when they had so little. I believe I was experiencing a case of “first world sympathy” or something like that. Maybe some of you have experienced this yourselves.
I think, in part, we get caught up in our things and let them define our status and abilities, as well as allowing these things to be the excuse for limitations on our ability to be happy. In reality, none of this is true, but it can be hard to realize this sometimes.
I wanted to help these “poor, poor people with nothing”. In a haste to help I quickly took off my hat and placed it on a little boy’s head – I didn’t want him to get sunstroke. Then I took off the extra shirt around my waist and gave it to a woman who didn’t have one – I didn’t want her to get a sunburn. (What I hadn't done was ask if they needed help - which they didn't, as I would learn only seconds later...)
Then a little girl with the sweetest face came over to me. I panicked because I had nothing for her – I almost gave her my shoes, but they would have been huge and too hot for her little feet.
As she got closer, I said hello and promptly started to apologize and tell her that I had nothing else to give her. I felt terrible. And then it happened.
Lesson #1: Even when we think we have nothing to give, we always have our time, a smile or, as in this case, friendship (even if it is for just a moment).
She sweetly told me not to worry, and that she didn’t need anything, she was just looking for someone to play soccer with her. She told me the boys wouldn’t let her play and maybe I could join her for a little game. I melted… of course I could play with her.
Lesson #2 - Assumptions aren't facts. I had cast judgement on a situation, and even with the best intentions, I imposed. Thankfully, the little girl corrected me, and reminded me to always ask how I can help before assuming I know what is needed.
We played for about 20 minutes. Everyone was having a great time and even her family was busy cheering her on. It was a marvelous feeling! As we started to conclude the visit I felt that sense of sadness again - I wanted to do more, to learn more about their life which was so different than my own.
Then my new little friend ran over and offered me a gift. Impossible, I thought. She has nothing, she is four years old, gift giving is not available as an option to her, she has nothing…. I was perplexed.
Lesson #3: Giving has no limits. It can be a small gesture or a big demonstration. It can also be as much for the person giving as it is for the person receiving. Let others show their gratitude and embrace the experience. It can be life-changing for everyone involved.
She handed me a beautiful sea shell and thanked me for playing with her. I was an “Oprah aha-moment," teary-eyed mess…. How was it ever possible that this sweet little girl was kind, generous, grateful, and needing a friend? I have cherished it for 20 years.
Not only did my judgments about poverty disintegrate that day, but the sub-conscious limitations I imposed on others’ spirit and goodness disintegrated as my heart and mind opened.
Lesson #4: Happiness, kindness, gratitude, and all of the wonderful virtues in life are available to everyone - no limits.
In the end, I met a teacher. She was a mighty and powerful little teacher disguised as a four-year-old girl. Not only did she help me learn a series of very valuable life lessons, but she was also the catalyst that triggered my immeasurable passion for social change and community building.
The name of our company, Kind Village, was chosen in gratitude to her and her village. It serves as a daily reminder that everyone can has something to give, that kindness, joy and happiness have no limits and that working to build better, kinder communities for others and for ourselves is what living a good life is all about.
Thanks for stopping by the Village, see you again soon!