Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kindness

Dalai Lama: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

The prevailing standards in contemporary society are clearly biased towards self-interest. The philosophy of “enlightened self-interest” implies that those who act to further the interests of others ultimately serve their own self-interest. So, everything stems from self.

In my own view, we cannot grow to our true potential if we are narrowly self-focused. In a world that’s growing increasingly fragmented, let’s examine the roles that kindness and compassion play in building a better world.

Meaning of Kindness

Kindness is being generous, friendly, and warm-hearted. It means having a kind and gentle nature and involves doing good rather than harm. When practicing kindness, people show an understanding for others and treat them with respect. Kindness involves doing thoughtful deeds for people who are in need. It often means putting other people's needs before your own. When people feel compassion they are kind. (1)

What goes around comes around; with kindness it really does. Experience shows that being kind to others increases our own levels of happiness as well as theirs. Additionally, kindness is contagious and makes our communities nicer places to be. (2)

Hard-wired for Kindness

Recent research into brain functioning confirms that humans are hard-wired for love and compassion. Kindness has its true source deep within each of us. Some people are innately kind, but it's something that everyone can cultivate by choice.

Each and every one of us is part of our society and everything we do (every thought, word and deed) affects the whole. (3) Being kind is a vital way of bringing meaning to our own lives as well as the lives of others. It allows us to communicate better with others, to be more compassionate, and to be a positive force in people's lives.

Why kindness?

There are lots and lots of reasons for being kind: (4)

  • Being kind feels good.  Making someone smile makes you feel better. Doing something for someone else really does make us feel good.  Kindness releases healthy endorphins, just as exercise does.   
  • Kindness generates health and reduces the effects of stress on our bodies and our hearts.  In many ways, kindness “unclogs” your drains and clears out the trash.  
  • Kindness broadens our perspective.  In order to be kind, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us.  As we notice more needs and help others, the broader perspective helps us to keep things in context.
  • Kindness softens our heart.  When we look for kind deeds, beauty, and the opportunity for kindness, we'll find that we are more compassionate and more tolerant.  As we practice empathy, it opens our heart to others.  
  • Kindness brightens our world. When we are kind to people, it makes them happy.  The more people who experience kindness from us, the more happy people will be in our lives.  When those around us are happier, our world becomes a brighter, better place to live.
  • Kindness helps people feel respected and less alone.  By recognizing someone's need for help and acting on it in a compassionate manner, it makes the recipient feel valued.  It also makes the giver feel better about themselves and more connected.
  • Kindness begets kindness.  When you are kind to others, the impacts of your actions don’t stop there.  Many times the recipient of your kindness and others are inspired to be kinder.  The ripples of kindness are truly endless.
  • Kindness breeds tolerance and understanding of others, beyond our own narrow views and perspectives. It moves us beyond "us vs. them" thinking which devalues others as "less" than ourselves.  

Stress Reduction

There are many benefits to helping others that come right back to you. Professor, researcher, and philosopher Stephen Post talked about how being good is beneficial for you mentally and physically. Post's research has shown that people involved in volunteer work feel healthier and happier. (5)

A good number of people also feel less stress when being kind, and less stress means better well being, a sense of gratification, greater resiliency when coping with problems and tough times in life.

Says Post, if you just make an effort to be kinder and more helpful in your daily life you can benefit. You don't have to change your routine or schedule. You just need to see the opportunities in your daily life where kindness can exist. Just a little bit of kindness here and there can go a long way, and it benefits everyone.

Showing Kindness

When we're kind to people it strengthens our connections with them and provides a source of support. We ourselves benefit from giving support, as much or more than those receiving it. We are also more likely get support when we need it. Being kind to others builds a wider support network which increases well-being all round.

Doing kind things for strangers helps build co-operation, trust and a sense of safety in our communities. It also helps us to see others more positively and empathize with them. (6)

Here are 10 ways to show kindness:

  • Try to appreciate others' talents and skills.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Comfort those who are grieving
  • Help those who need assistance.
  • Put others' needs before your own.
  • Help those who are less fortunate.
  • Show consideration and kindness through your actions and words.
  • Show your appreciation by thanking those who do you a kindness.
  • Help others because it is right, not because it is required.
  • Show forgiveness to those who have hurt you.

Kindness Practice

Here are 5 ways to practice kindness: (7)(8)

  1. Kind act a day: Being kind is about doing just one positive thing each day. Send a kind text, go and open a door for somebody, make coffee for a colleague, buy a friend a random gift, phone someone you haven't seen for Practice-Kindness a long time. "
  2. Ripple Effect: If you are kind, the person you are kind to will benefit, you will benefit and the people you come into contact with will benefit as well. You will feel good, they will feel good and the multiplier continues.
  3. Random Act: Pay for the coffee of the person behind you at the coffee shop; become a volunteer at a nursing home; donate food to a food bank; let someone go ahead of you in the queue. The beneficiary will be surprised, then happy and then think about how they can do something nice for someone else.
  4. Kindness breeds longevity: People who practice kindness and compassion have better general health and live longer. The inner glow you get from doing something nice boosts mental and physical wellbeing.
  5. Economic Benefit: Kindness attracts kindness. If you are kind, you will tend to have kind people around you. You are far more likely to succeed by being kind and creating a kind community around you because that same community tends to look after each other.
Random Acts of Kindness

Kindness is contagious –you might want to consider doing random acts of kindness yourself whenever you feel inclined. It’s truly a win/win/win situation. The person you are being kind to benefits through your help. You feel good for having helped someone. And the world is a better place through your kindness. (9)

Never underestimate the impact of a single act of kindness. It remains in your memory for the rest of your life, and stimulates an endless cycle of kindness.


Pay it Forward

You’ve probably seen the movie “Pay It Forward”, a story about a young boy who did 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all that he wanted was that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.  It had enormous impact everywhere.

Anyone can start the pay-if-forward cycle: Do a good deed without asking for anything in return. Instead let the recipient know that they can, if they wish, pay it forward to someone else in need.

The Pay It Forward Foundation provides cards can be handed to recipients explaining what Pay it Forward is all about, with boxes on the back of the card that are ticked off as the card travels around. Take a look for ideas at their website for ideas. (10)

Let’s Engage!

For this blog, I’m asking you to engage! Don’t just read passively. Write your views of Kindness directly on the blog! Here are some questions to get you going:

  1. Are humans basically selfish and greedy? Or kind and thoughtful?
  2. What’s the opposite of Kindness? Animosity? Hatred? Intolerance? Meanness?
  3. When you see a homeless person, how do you react? (11)
  4. Can you think of anyone or anything that justifies unkindness?
  5. Do you limit kindness to your family? Friends? Race, color, religious beliefs?
References:

  1. Wikipedia on Kindness: http://goo.gl/qV4tet
  2. Kindness and Taoism: http://goo.gl/11GJTF
  3. 10 Amazing Stories For World Kindness Day: http://goo.gl/k8Aj4q
  4. The Science of Kindness: http://goo.gl/Quc1pg
  5. Why It's Good for You to Be Kind to Others: http://goo.gl/GgLK3J
  6. Video: Simple Acts of Kindness - Give it a try: http://goo.gl/smV0Zb
  7. Kindness Video that will change your life: http://goo.gl/n2OkXX
  8. 24 Incredible Acts of Kindness: http://goo.gl/MvQDXE
  9. Random Acts of Kindness: http://goo.gl/J1uvR4
  10. Pay it Forward Foundation: http://goo.gl/1pi2dO
  11. The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection: http://goo.gl/j1vSfs
Jim Pinto
Technology Futurist
Carlsbad, CA.
6 February 2015

27 comments:

  1. You suggest not to post a comment - but I'm doing it anyway. We seem to want to put things in brackets black and white. To suggest Humans are kind or not kind is not realistic. It's too big a population. However, I suggest that kindness in Humans is inversely proportional to the amount of humans. In less densely populated areas (the country), Humans are more kind than in the city. Why? - I would say it's because we miss each other's company. We take for granted when we have it – It’s usually after we lose it that we realize its value. That would suggest - we would take better care of the homeless in the country - its just that the numbers are not in their favor.

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    1. I wanted to "engage" via the blog,rather than just post comments. You're engaging well here - thanks!

      Yes, humans in sparsely populated areas do seem to be kinder with each other. But there are cultural exceptions, possibly do to religious and other factors.

      For example: I was born in India and moved to the West in my late teens. When I lived in Nidia, it was NOT as densely populated as it is now. But, I found the people ALWAYS kind and respectful, with very few exceptions. Indeed, when in crowds in India, there is very little pushing and shoving. This is my own experience.

      Thanks for making me think!

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  2. Jim, Great post! I think you see big differences in corporate cultures based on the level of kindness practiced--both peer-to-peer and across a hierarchy. It has a direct impact on collaboration and engagement.

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    1. Jim: Yes, corporate cultures are very different with their attitudes to mutual respect and civility. I suppose it depends on the attitudes of senior management, which develops the "corporate culture".

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  3. Jim, lots of response inside me to your writing and questions on kindness.

    First up for me is that kindness - the feeling - is very different than kindness - the actions.
    I can be angry, be out of sorts, be preoccupied, disgusted, and even detest someone and still be kind. It does not take love, compassion or empathy. It involves a simple choice to be kind.

    Your questions: I think children are born into the background field of love that we all live in - conscious of it or not. ( more my theology than science - I am a scientist turned social scientist).
    They are naturally vulnerable and trusting, and if brought up in a way that allows retaining that, they are naturally kind. If that trust and vulnerability are destroyed, they may be unkind or disconnected people.

    And, by the way, I think the opposite of a conscious kindness and empathy is a disconnection and felt separateness from the person or from segments of people ( women, blacks, gays etc) or from the human race.

    Can I think of people or situations that don't deserve kindness? I can think of lots of situations where I don't feel kind. Deserving? Ideally everyone deserves respect, but respect does not always look kind even when it is. Think of the confrontational things Jesus said to others which were healing in the long run, but sounded nasty at first, or at least blunt and critical. A kindness in the end.

    I can certainly think of people and times when I do not choose kindness or even choose unkindness. I am not proud of choosing unkindness - I am human and regretful. I often choose to avoid or get intellectual or just disconnect.

    You asked about the homeless. Our church works with a group of homeless, so I have friends there. But when I see a homeless stranger on the street, I feel compassion, vulnerability and defend myself at times with a feeling of cynicism. And disconnection.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think and write about this. Made my morning richer and more thoughtful.

    Karen

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    1. Karen:

      Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful response. I completely agree with all the points you have made: Upbringing plays a big part in whether or not people are kind.

      What a good point: " The opposite of a conscious kindness and empathy is a disconnection and felt separateness from the person or from segments of people ( women, blacks, gays etc) "

      In my view, "feeling" kind and behaving unkindly are different things. One may not "feel" kind towards a certain type of person, but there is never any nee, in my opinion, to "behave" unkindly towards them.

      A lot of people feel and act as you do when seeing/meeting a homeless. It brings up feelings of our own vulnerability and some try to cover up the cynicism.

      Thank you so much, Karen.

      Smiles:
      Jim Pinto

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  4. Responding to your questions:

    1. Clearly, we are born selfish and greedy. How we change is due to many influences.
    2. All of the above, plus selfishness, hubris, arrogance, etc.
    3. I usually slip him or her a dollar or two, or I have taken them into a fast-food for a meal. 4. Numerous possibilities--we can't be someone's "doormat".
    5. There should be no limits. All merit it, depending on their conduct.

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    1. Thanks for the direct responses!

      It's easy to be kind to those who "merit" the kindness. The challenge is to be kind to those who do not - who may be intrusive or even obnoxious.

      Delete
  5. 1. Are humans basically selfish and greedy? Or kind and thoughtful? History shows that they are kind to "insiders" and selfish to "outsiders."

    2. What’s the opposite of Kindness? Animosity? Hatred? Intolerance? All depending on the circumstances. Or, in most cases, Indifference.

    3. When you see a homeless person, how do you react? With indifference unless they bother me.

    4. Can you think of anyone or anything that justifies unkindness? How about ISIS? Or Adolph Hitler?

    5. Do you limit kindness to family? Friends? Race, color, beliefs? No.

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  6. Claudio Corrente via LinkedInFebruary 6, 2015 at 5:54 PM

    LinkedIn exchange with Claudio Corrente:

    Claudio: Kindness has to be natural and not mechanical..... a tree does not think about being a tree, it just is!

    Jim: Sure, it must be natural. But, it is not easy for some people, not natural to be kind. So, it needs to be practiced.

    Claudio: Yes, in a natural way and not doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people will pretend to be kind just to get what they want... others more for self fulfillment, rather than really wanting to help others. It is just like love... if you are a selfish and mean person, how can you possibly love others... you might think you do but it's only for selfish reasons. I always say - enlighten your inner core and your path will find its way.

    Jim: You are right, of course. Your closing comment is very insightful.

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  7. From a business perspective, kindness makes us think more clearly, prioritize, and be more productive! Gary

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    1. Good point, Gary - today's business perspective helps (or hurts) - depend on the corporate culture.

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  8. Jim, there is a wonderful short read (114 pages) by the eminent psychiatrist Adam Phillips entitled, "On Kindness". Definitely worth the time.

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    1. Roy :

      Thanks for the book recommendation! It's now on my Kindle.

      Delete
  9. I am a 55 year old Engineer, husband and father of four, my answers are
    based on my past five years of experience.

    1. Are humans basically selfish and greedy? Or kind and thoughtful?
    I believe humans are kind and thoughtful. We are nurturing and empathetic.
    Our environment and interactions at an early age condition us to put up a
    shell to protect ourselves.
    2. What's the opposite of Kindness? Animosity? Hatred? Intolerance?
    I would also add indifference to your three examples above.
    3. When you see a homeless person, how do you react?
    I've interacted with many homeless people in a one on one situation and
    assisted them when I could (drive them to a location, given them money or
    bought them food)
    4. Can you think of anyone or anything that justifies unkindness?
    As much hatred and rancor I've seen on TV, Internet and other causes me to
    recoil or avoid getting involved at a high level (other than in my
    company) but in one on one situations a person should control their
    emotions and manage to avoid acts of unkindness.
    5. Do you limit kindness to family? Friends? Race, color, beliefs?
    I do not limit acts of kindness based on any groups, but I do limit
    interactions based on response to my acts. I will continue to be kind but
    I may not go out of my way if the response is ultra-negative.

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    1. Thank you for your detailed responses, fellow-engineer!

      1. Yes, our environment and upbringing condition us to be kind, or not.

      2. Opposite of Kindness - Indifference. Good point. It's said that the oppostie of Love is not Hate, but Indifference.

      3. How one acts towards the homeless is often a measure of their kindness - or indifference.

      4. In my own view, nothing can justify being Unkind.

      5. Good point - when a response to kindness is negative, it's hard to continue to be kind.

      Thinking on these things helps those who wish to think on them. There are those who are "too busy" or think it's a waste of time.

      Delete
  10. I would like to respond to only one of the questions, but, with that response there is a clue to how I feel about the other questions.

    3. When you see a homeless person, how do you react?
    When I see a homeless person I try to help. But for circumstance, that could be me. It is not hard to imagine that I could have had circumstances befall me that would have put me in the very same situation, but I have been fortunate. People say "what if s/he goes right out and buys liquor or beer, or gets drugs". My answer is this; my giving is on me, it is what I choose to do and who I choose to be. What the recipient chooses to do with my gift is on them. I gave it, they may use the gift however they choose. In my life, If I error, I choose to error on the side of compassion and kindness.

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    1. Thanks for your focus on the "homeless person" question. As I mentioned in another response, how people react to the homeless is a key indicator of their level of kindness.

      You make a good point: Many avoid being kind to the beggars, shrugging them off as drunks or lazy. You're right - it's not up to us to "judge" them - we can only be responsible for our own thinking and kindness.

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  11. Great article Jim! I will summarize my response as follows: I feel that Kindness is a selfish act-- When one is kind to another you receive kindness back. I love it when I see at a person in public who may be sad or mad and I smile at him/her and their sad face turns into a smile! It's beautiful. I don't think about it as a selfish act when I do it but my subconscious know that they will smile back...and if they don't (rarely), it's okay--I smiled :)
    When I see a homeless person lots of things go through my mind; Is it Karma? Are they trying work something out in their lives? Have they gone through a terrible trauma? Or are they altogether not there. How I respond depends on what kind of a day I am having. If I just got out of work and I'm tired; I probably will think "get a job!" If I just came out of a restaurant and have a dogie bag-- I probably will give them the dogie bag. If I look into their eyes and see goodness, I would probably give them a $1 or 2 and wish them well. We constantly receive lessons throughout the day, some we capture others just pass us by. I think that even a homeless person can be teaching us something.
    Christina :)

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  12. Christina:

    What a beautiful, loving response! Thank you, kindly!

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  13. We, humans are basically …human, that is mere potentialities, possibilities, …tendencies, so to say, …flexible and resilient, endowed with free will. Along the way we are also painstakingly trying to …keep up, during childhood for instance, only too often even going against our inner true nature, while being more or less aware of it. Meanwhile, it all becomes a habit, neither good nor bad, just a habit. A certain way of feeling/thinking/being.

    On the other hand, as darkness is merely “the absence of light”, hate is just …“the absence of love.” The longer the absence, the deeper and more acute the pain, the hurt, the hostility, the hate. Hate, ..what is it? Ill feelings? Who does the feeling?! Does anyone really force us to feel it? Nobody forces me to feel hateful, be mean or unkind. It is just a more or less conscious choice, the habit of being and reacting in a certain way. It’s also a lack. A void. The lack of an inner tendency or habit to think and feel the opposite, that is warm, loving thoughts and feelings. Only love can …melt that and fill the void . As only light can break and dispell darkness.

    If we, whatever the age, are not given the opportunity to feel the others feel us, the chance to be felt and loved as we are and to be accepted unconditionally, later on we may find it extremely difficult to be kind, to feel loving and tolerant, to love. Our inability to emotionally cope with and sort out the pain of not feeling the important ones around (caregivers) "feel us" may soon turn us into poor bitter souls, no matter how hard we are trying to hide it. Hence, the unkindness. It all starts with a feeling of “being hurt” inside and thus disconnected and estranged, numb. We cannot focus on anything else but our emotional discomfort. And so the vicious circle may go on and on. It's up to each of us to turn all this into a virtuous circle for a change.

    So, I for one think that being kind is about …feeling. Feeling the other’s feelings. No question asked. No judgment passed. Just paying attention. Caring and getting involved, that very minute, that very second, wholeheartedly, like it’s the last thing we do. No judging, no preconceived idea, no such thing, …that wouldn’t be feeling, it would definitely be thinking. And then again, as the fox tells the Little Prince, “It’s only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” ...or the mind, I might add.

    Unkindness can’t be justified. Ever. It can be explained. We can go to its roots and determine its cause but we cannot justify it. We mustn’t., … - let’s remember that’s what got us “here” anyway. Tough love, yes. But only while “doing the kind feeling”, the warm loving, the patient caring, be it even for a fraction of a second. We’re doing it for the other – the son, the friend, the stranger, and we’re doing it for ourselves. At the very same time. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what bonds and makes us as one. We owe it to each other. It's our responsibility towards all our fellow human beings.

    When I see homeless/sad/unhappy people, I look into their eyes and I try to feel what they feel and I try to let them know I can only begin to understand what they are going through. And after that I help them as I possibly can (be it money, food, clothes, kind words).

    And maybe it’s not about reacting. Maybe it’s all about acting. Acting in the name of love and deep, warm, heart-felt compassion. We ought to be each other’s saviors, if I may say so. The way towards our own peace of mind and soul definitely goes through the others’. …philosophical as it may all sound. :)

    Nicole

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    1. Nicole:

      Thank you! What a well-written and heartfelt response! I've read it twice, and will read it again and again, to stimulate my own feelings of Kindness.

      Even though I don't know who are are, I know that you are a good person, Nicole!

      Hugs:
      Jim

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    2. Wow! very deep! Way to go Nicole :)
      Christina (from previous blog

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  14. 1. Are humans basically selfish and greedy? Or kind and thoughtful?
    <<< I think basically we want to be kind. Of course this is tempered by culture as to who you are kind to. Some cultures only your tribe or family get kindness, sometimes it is only the "deserving" who get it. This leaves out the mentally impaired and the sociopaths and these types of people as well. So "normally" I think we want to be kind.>>>

    2. What's the opposite of Kindness? Animosity? Hatred? Intolerance?
    <<< The opposite of kindness is really indifference or obliviousness or perhaps selfishness. I will leave out personality disorders from this list as they are a different issue.
    Pope Francis recently discussed the "globalization of indifference" as being a serious issue - we just don't care enough anymore.

    Perhaps we are just overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need we see and this floats down to our everyday behaviors.

    In the US I think there can be a lack of kindness as we do not think people deserve it -- there is too much of this to my thinking. There seems to me to be a lot of this around even in the small kindnesses that can be done. People do not hold doors, display any kind of kindness when driving - we get pissed at the slightest traffic issue, we knock stuff off store shelves and won't take the 5 seconds to put it back on the shelf. It is always "somebody else's job".

    To me all of this is courtesy which is a form of Kindness.

    So this leads me to ask "What is kindness?" I guess my take is how you treat others as you go through your day and how you deal with issues like giving to charities - especially those dealing with helping others directly - like Salvation Army, and local homeless or local poverty charities. Does your kindness move you to help others at all even in the little things.

    It is personal in how you interact with or for others. It is what you do day to day. When you are unkind how do you feel? Do you just go on as if nothing happened or do you at least feel a bit ashamed of your behavior.

    3. When you see a homeless person, how do you react?
    <<< with compassion - "there for the grace of god go I" and if nothing else I can "see them" as people and then remember when the charities come calling.>>>

    4. Can you think of anyone or anything that justifies unkindness?
    <<< No >>>

    5. Do you limit kindness to family? Friends? Race, color, beliefs?
    <<< No >>>

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  15. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind comments. I've been mulling over it for a few days. This is the kind of response that motivates me to write these types of blog.

    You're right about the opposite of Kindness being Indifference. Similarly, the opposite of Love is not Hate - it's Indifference.

    Yes, small kindness makes a BIG difference - holding doors open for people, driving too fast and always being in a hurry. When one is too "busy", it's hard to remember to be kind. It should be cultivated as a habit.

    Somehow, we need to insert more Kindness into our business-orientated culture.

    I appreciate you - thank you, kindly.

    Smiles:
    Jim

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  16. Loving your pictures and the simple and beautiful way you have put your story across - you're an inspiration and I am following your journey - awesome work!

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