The Kindness Calculator

By Paul C Pritchard on Thursday March 18th, 2021

Image: Annie Spratt

Teaching Kindness is Still Alive

I was sitting in the park this morning in the big arms of an old oak tree. You could say that we are good friends. She’s a lot older than me. I’ve never been so bold as to ask her age but judging by her grandness and her quiet steadfastness, I would say she’s well over a hundred. In my humble opinion that’s worth leaning in to. She never says much and yet from the high tip of her branches and the equal depth of her complex root systems she is never quiet. If I listen in I can almost hear her breathing. As I approach, no matter the season, or time of day, she seems to communicate one thing, “Sit a while and listen.” And like a loyal subject, I always obey. 

Today she gave me the word kindness. Not exactly something I am unfamiliar with. But she asked me to listen to the height, depth and scope of this ordinary concept. I was musing over the simplicity of kindness when I suddenly heard a father negotiating with his young toddler: “If you don’t share your toys then Father Christmas won’t give you any more. You’ll have nothing but a bag of potatoes. You have to share and be kind.”

Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice.

I laughed remembering my own father saying something similar fifty-odd years ago. ‘Teaching kindness is still alive!’, I thought. And kudos for the leverage – it’s mid-March and dad has still got negotiating power from Christmas. I felt into the memory of being good to get my presents. The end of November and December were the months of asking if I’d been naughty or nice?

The oak tree shook in the wind and a few crisp leaves fell into my lap. She gave and I received. The leaves drying. Their unique skeletons appearing through the translucent skin. Each year the same cycle: the same offering after the acorns lay scattered all around. I pushed my back into her and I think we both sighed as loud as each other.  

I thought about Father Christmas with a big kindness calculator. A pseudo-omniscient God adding and subtracting our naughty and nice equations. As a child, I was certainly on my best behaviour when I imagined him pressing the big equal symbol and waiting for the final result and depending on the figure, the ratio of presents I’d get. I guess we were both keeping track of my acts of kindness and ways of being ‘nice’. It kept me on track. It gave me an awareness of my behaviour. It might not have been the most altruistic of motives but hey, I was a kid. 

I picked up an acorn still in its little cup and I imagined the squirrels filling their big cheeks. Gorging in the now and storing for the Winter. The oak tree looked blithely on, I imagine she looks out to sea. Was she happy to feed the squirrels? Happy to see one of these acorns take root nearby and keep her company? I felt she wasn’t preoccupied with her DNA disposition but rather is absorbed in the presence and magnificent mystery of her glorious life. 

Alt text hereThe oak tree shook in the wind and a few crisp leaves fell into my lap. She gave and I received. Image: Trent Haaland

I thought about designing an App where I could easily count my acts of kindness _ really examine and keep a track of how I was bringing more love into the world. How I was truly taking the feeling of love, that intangible warm glow, and transmuting it into quantifiable acts of kindness. An acorn fell on my head and with it came a clear thought, “The first act of kindness should be self-kindness.” And this felt both true and also a little incongruous to what I had been taught was kindness: always benevolent and always for the other. I picked the acorn up and it separated from its cup. I held the cup in one hand and the weighty-potential of that little acorn in the other. Another simple thought arrived, “Always give from a full cup. Fill your own cup with love and passions so that it overflows and as you celebrate your life you will naturally want to share the surplus and abundance just for the sheer joy and gift of giving.” 

The leaf of every tree brings message from the unseen world. Look, every falling leaf is a blessing. – Rumi

It felt completely true for me and yet I felt all my conditioning lead down a path of superimposed guilt at being kind to myself. I thought about the actual times in my life when I felt in flow, in abundance, content with my lot, at peace with the good, the bad and the ugly and how that had facilitated more connection and welcomed collaboration with the world. I recounted the times when I felt disgruntled, full of complaint and deficient and that led me to isolation and withdrawing from the world – a contracted and, in some ways, unkind state of mind and being. 

I can trace those periods in my life when there was generosity of spirit, in both thought and deed and I could see clearly how it was a fertile and rewarding time. I knew my reflections were true: kindness begets kindness. I made a commitment to write down and explore my relationship with kindness. 

1) Self-kindness. Ensure my needs are met in nourishment for good health, for emotional satisfaction and connection. To also pursue healthy mental stimulation and interesting discourse. And to always receive any incoming kindness with grace and enthusiasm.

2) Practice at least once a day being kind to my friends and family. A call, a visit, cook something, send a text pertinent to them and where they are at in life. Track them and their internal landscapes (make notes if necessary). Reflect back that I see, hear and care for them.

3) Practice at least once a day being kind to strangers. Be extra kind to people in service industries no matter their current disposition. Smile often. Say hello more. Stop and compliment a garden and the old couple working it. Ask the shop assistant how their day is going and wish them a wonderful evening etc. 

In doing this I feel both connected to myself and to the world. It feels like I am in right relationship with the humanity of myself and others. The humanity of oneness that bleeds into the oneness of the entire planet. The focus on what is wrong with the world shifts to all that is right in the world. Trust and hope and faith swell in my heart. Perhaps nothing changes on the outside, the circle of life continues and the big wheel keeps on turning but my inner landscape is an enchanted meadow, with buttercups, daisies, bluebirds and the glorious shade and safety of an old oak tree. 



What is your relationship with kindness? How do you measure and maintain your commitment to bring more love into the world? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Steer your focus to all that is good in the world. Feed your soul with the nourishment of kindness. 

Have the most wonderful day.

Paul and Team UPLIFT

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.




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27 Responses to The Kindness Calculator

  1. A beautiful article. I see myself in you and you inspire me too to up-notch my overall kindness giving level towards myself and surroundings! Thank you! 🙏💓☀️🦋

  2. Gracias por darme luz en un tema que necesito en mi vida en estos momentos, seguiré la idea “la bondad atrae mas bondad” y la bondad consigo mismo. Si tengo bondad conmigo misma entonces me amo y puedo dar bondad a los demás y esto se traduce en amor y perdón. Gracias, gracias,gracias.

  3. Dear Paul and the Uplift Team, a friend recently reminded me of the importance of being compassionate, loving and kind to ourselves in times of challenges. Like the beautiful article, to fill one’s cup and to overflow onto to beloveds, family, friends community’s, the world , all living beings, and the infinite universe, the quantum field. I really appreciate that. With love from Elizabeth🙏💗🌈

  4. I love this writing , thankyou. It is so refreshing to read this heartwarming, educational reminder that has such lovely humour in it. Congratulations and Thankyou. With love and blessings from Elizabeth🙏🌈💜

  5. Yes.
    Just about perfect (though I do NOT ever feel guilt -thank goodness, for being Self-kind! That must be the height of being a victim of our Western, albeit well-meaning conditioning!: It is fine to be a CEO, rip people off, pollute the planet; rake in the millions; but not to simply care for oneself and one’s own needs!) 🤔
    To answer your question -kindness has always been my nature, on the sensitive, essence level (even during those times when I was a teenager and had identified with a ‘di*k’-ish manifestation of me, when it was apparently veiled, I , and all my close-friends knew, that that wasn’t really I)…
    I love being Kind to Others; and for myself (I agree one has to be conscious and deliberate in the latter)

    But the notion of Santa/Father Christmas weighing up our naughty/nice apparent behaviour is so horrendous: (the late) Alice Miller, in one of her infamous books (Maybe ‘For Your Own Good;- in her introduction,) talked of an awful scene involving US kids being shamed for their ‘naughty’ behaviour which they took-to-heart (this is evil-shaming, and unnatural, I would suggest, and a futile form of ‘control’): as any healthy child (And adult) knows, in essence, it is good to be naughty; it is aliveness, the essence of charisma, a crucial part of having real character, & being entertaining company… And as a musician/creative person, it is at least half the basis for my work!
    But moreover, & even more 😉 seriously, no one can really control their behaviour (nor should they try) below -say, aged 7: any awareness of what it is like to being a child and caring for this innocent and beautiful but him/herself essence, it is so wrong on every way, whatever angle one looks at it.

    • Thank you for you deep and considered response. I love that your aliveness and passion can express this. Be well, be happy and always be a little bit ‘naughty’. Much love Paul and Team UPLIFT.

  6. I honed in on the words about giving when your own cup is overflowing.

    Many do not understand that often kindness requires us to say no to someone’s ask, especially when dealing with addictions and people who use addictive behavior to avoid personal responsibility and demand others to rescue them from the consequences of their choices.

    It takes discernment to know when we are experiencing the act of kindness as one of enabling someone else’s unconsciousness.

    • Very well said. And yes … when to help and reflect a victim mentality and when to reflect and walk away is a tricky discernment. May we all be guided to the kindest choice for all. Much love and discernment Paul and Team UPLIFT

  7. Around 40 years ago I planted a maple tree in my garden. It is very tall now, but I kept the lower branches so I could always touch the delicate leaves. I talk to my tree very often and, like in your beautiful text, I know she answers back. She has been a constant companion in good and bad times.
    As for kindness, if it is not a part of your everyday life, as natural as the way you breathe, it is only a performance for your sake or the sake of others.
    I wish you peace and good health

    • I am sitting under your maple tree now and I feel so blessed and happy to be with you in imagination. Much love Paul and team UPLIFT

  8. Thank you for these beautiful wise words – they have caused my heart to swell with trust and hope too. That is one of the ways you brought love into the world today.

    • Thank you Liz and may this love and your appreciation boomerang back to you always. Much love Paul and Team UPLIFT

  9. Life truly becomes delightful when living through the lense of kindness ❤️
    I love saying good morning to everyone i cross paths with throughout the day, especially pulling out those first smiles on my morning dog walks, even more so no during covid.
    I also practice a lot with the plants at home, observing and really connecting to the deep feelings that arise in moments of bloom and moments of decay, so i can finetune my empathy and giving of kindness when i confront both kinds of manifestation ❤️

  10. This was a most divinely touching and beautiful read. Gratitude is surely the life-vein of kindness. We are all inextricably connected and as such when we are kind, not only to ourselves but to all, that spills out to the whole and makes the world a better place to live in. If I were nothing else in this life I would choose to be kind and compassionate.

    • Your kindness and compassion is alive in your appreciation and resonance. We love you ❤️ Much appreciation for you Paul and Team UPLIFT

  11. Very well said Chandrasekhar – Much love and kindness to you and all who receive your smiles. Paul and Team UPLIFT

  12. I liked the idea of practising kindness on a regular basis. Practising Gratitude regularly also would form a prerequisite to practising kindness. That shows that our cup is full.

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