Two weeks after I completed the bar exam and about two months after graduating law school, my mom emailed me an inspiring article from the New York Times. The article features a convocation speech given by George Saunders at Syracuse University in May of this year. The speech was given with the intention of inspiring recent graduates to "err in the direction of kindness" no matter what forces work against them in that plight. Yet, in August, this message proved to be just as relevant to both my mom and I simply as people looking to be better people. And I think everyone can relate to that.
I've read this speech about ½ a dozen times and I find it just as moving with every re-read, finding new lessons and gems of wisdom tucked within the words of another. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.It's been over three months after stumbling upon this article, and I must admit that I'm still