Kindness means all sorts of things to different people. For me, it means to do to others as I'd like them to do to me. If I were Christian, I'd point you to Luke 6:31, the Golden Rule. As a Jew I might tell you read Leviticus 19:18 and hope that I am close enough to be considered a neighbor. Of course, you don't have to dig far to see that every religion has a version of this commandment in its scripture.
When I lived in New York City, a gazillion years ago, I had a roommate from Wisconsin who would say, "kill 'em with kindness." I loved the phrase and began the practice myself. Very quickly I learned that kindness is an extremely effective weapon. A grumpy cab driver or store clerk would visibly relax when greeted with a genuine "hello" and a smile. Saying "thank you" or "I hope you have a great afternoon" would illicit a surprised grin. Smiles are contagious and excellent for maintaining mental health. Did the next customer receive a smile as well? How many people "caught" the original smile bug that began with me?
Being kind also means taking a moment to think before reacting or speaking. My first response to someone being crass might be to defensively return the sentiment. But if I can remember to pause and consider this person's stories (known and not) I might be able to forgive the words and respond with kindness. Perhaps they are dealing with life changes, maybe they got some bad news, it's possible that someone just insulted them or yelled or ... the point is, being kind won't add to their misery and it might just help.
So, if I'm called a bitch by the gardener? Instead of yelling back or taking it personally I could say, "oh gosh, I'm sorry you're having a bad day." Do you think my response would incite him to call me more names? It's possible, but not likely.
Be kind and thrive. It's my 2012.
Sophia from Mugglesam's YouTube Channel
UPDTATE: Shortly after writing this I decided that there is a major flaw in the Golden Rule and kindness is not its equivalent. You can read it here.