For author Naomi Shulman, publishing a kids’ book on kindness has pushed her to examine honestly her own efforts to practice what she writes about.

illustration of a little girl with red braids reaching up to take the hand of a woman with a cane

Illustration © Hsinping Pan, excerpted from Be Kind

I loved writing Be Kind. It was a treat to think of some of the fun crafts and activities I had done with my kids when they were little — or wish I had done with them, in many cases. Working with Storey Publishing was delightful, and when I saw the amazing illustrations from Hsinping Pan, I was thrilled. I could not have imagined a more beautiful book — and it had my name on it! 

There’s just one thing.

When you write a book called Be Kind, a certain kind of pressure results. Let’s put it this way: People now think of me as a kind of kindness expert. But the truth is, I fall short of my own standards of kindness all the time. 

Since being honest is kind, I’ll be honest with you: I do less-than-kind things all the time. I could type out a list of examples here as long as my arm — and then another one as long as my other arm, and a few more after that. It’s not that I’m any less kind than the next person. I’m not. But I promise you I’m no kinder, either. I’m perfectly average, most days. Some days, I might even be a bit below par. 

I’d like to say I became more conscious of my own kindness track record as I was writing Be Kind, but (since I’m being honest here) the truth is I really became aware of it when the book was published. Suddenly, people were reading it — and complimenting it online, remarking on how important the message of kindness is. And it is! For all of us. 

… Including me. 

Having the book out in the world — and more importantly, seeing how kids are responding to it and taking its message seriously — is encouraging me to walk the walk. I’m not saying that a person has to actually publish a book about kindness in order to work on her own behavior. (I would never include that activity in the book!) I’m just saying that living up to one’s own expectations becomes a little bit easier when others begin to take on that expectation of you, too. It also provides ample opportunity to practice kindness toward yourself, which includes accepting imperfection even while working to do your best. Every time I fall short, I can pick myself up and try again — just like we tell our kids every day. 

Naomi Shulman

Naomi Shulman is the author of Be Kind and an essayist for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Real Simple, and more. She holds a… See Bio

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Be Kind

by Naomi Shulman and Hsinping Pan

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