This week the Westfield Mental Health Commission discusses Kindness in our ongoing series. Kindness can be as satisfying as a slice of cake. Practicing this key ingredient is the best way to be offered CAKE in return. The other CAKE “ingredients” are Compassion, Acceptance and Empathy, the building blocks of a stigma-free community.

The Cambridge English Dictionary describes kindness as “the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality.”  Recent examples in my home include a late-night, warm cookie delivery from a friend for our sons in the midst of final exams, the Mindak family offering to paint the CAKE logo on a pallet for our council, and a hand-written greeting from a senior neighbor delivered to our home. Kind people state that offering kindness becomes habitual.

Self-acceptance includes being kind to oneself.  Kindness to others demonstrates the realization that we are part of humanity. During this time when we have to wear masks to just go to the doctor, we can remember to look at each other in the eye, say hello and greet each other, so we do not feel so isolated or alone.  We can still be kind to ourselves and others, even if we have to wear that mask.

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A trail of goodwill usually begins when one has been offered the qualities that generate positive feelings of being cared for. Kindness is essential in resetting emotions during this time of worry, fear, and restrictions. Best of all, the desire to be kind is contagious! 

Paying it forward starts a chain of kindness. Recall that warm feeling when receiving something good and unexpected -- perhaps a free coffee from the person ahead in line ahead, or a call from someone headed to the store asking if something is needed. Gratitude is shared when describing this surprise act to family or friend. The chain is reinforced, and an act of kindness is likely to be passed on to another person as a recognition or memory of that good feeling.

More on the CAKE initiative and additional mental health resources are located at www.westfieldnj.gov/mentalhealth. Please feel free to send your CAKE-filled thoughts and recognitions to cake@westfieldnj.gov.