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5 TED Talks We’re Watching to Help Us Be Kinder

5 TED Talks We’re Watching to Help Us Be Kinder

There are many different kinds of kindness. There is kindness to ourselves and to others, empathy for those who have hurt us, and being kind by abstaining from consuming products that resulted from cruelty to animals. There are small acts of kindness and there are people who devote their lives to giving to others.

Without much convincing, most of us can agree that it’s better to be kind than to be cruel. We’ve all experienced the benefits of kindness in our lives, and a lot of us try to be nice to others as much as we can.

However, living in the world can be tough at times, making it more challenging to always be kind. As much as we try, sometimes finding compassion for ourselves and for others can be hard. In these five TED Talks (plus a bonus!), we learn how we can bring more kindness into our lives.

1. Kayla Cooley Herndon: How growing up looking different taught me compassion

Kayla Cooley Herndon knows the hurt of unkindness. Because of vitiligo, a skin condition that causes her to look different than others, she has often been treated cruelly. Her TEDx talk—recorded when she was eleven-years-old—reminds us that we are all uniquely beautiful and that we need to be there for one another. Herndon shares that after being on the receiving end of so much hurt, she began to bully her peers. “That was because I was empty inside,” she shares. But Herndon decided she wanted to rise above both the cruelty she had experienced and her own bullying of others in order to be inspirational. Now, she spreads compassion and kindness by educating others about vitiligo. “Flip the script on a bully,” says Herndon. “Show them compassion. Thank them. And surround them with positive energy. Force them to change. Force them to come out of their comfort zone.”

2. Aicha el-Wafi + Phyllis Rodriguez: The mothers who found forgiveness, friendship

Phyllis Rodriguez has experienced a nearly unfathomable loss. Her son was killed in the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. Aicha el-Wafi also suffered unimaginably due to that day’s tragic events: her son Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of having played a part in those very attacks, and is serving a life sentence in prison. Both mourn deeply for their sons. However, despite existing on seemingly opposite sides of devastation, the two have bonded through their grief. In their TED talk, they tell the tale of their unique friendship—including how compassion, not hatred, have brought them together.

3. Dylan Marron: Empathy is not an endorsement

As Dylan Marron explains in his TED Talk, he knows both the joys and pitfalls of fame. As a digital creator, his videos that address issues including racial inequities and transgender rights have received millions of views. Yet he has been on the receiving end of many hateful messages. Rather than responding in comments sections or ignoring those who bully him, Marron opted instead to call his detractors and ask them, “Why did you write that?” What he generally found was a connection with those people who had appeared to be his enemies, and peace in the empathy he experienced as a result of speaking with them. Marron’s solution to hatred was not retaliation, but kindness, and it worked. You can listen in on Marron’s peacemaking via his podcast “Conversations with people who hate me.”

4. Hannah Brencher: Love letters to strangers

Despite the ubiquity of online communications, Hannah Brencher learned the joy and connection of hand-written letters on paper from her mother, who would mail them to her while Brencher was in college. So after college, while suffering from a difficult depression, the 22-year-old conjured the energy to write the same kinds of loving letters, but left them for strangers all over New York City. She also blogged about the letters, promising that anyone who requested one would receive one from her. The requests poured in and the letters went out, sending kindness into the world. Today Brencher runs a global initiative, The World Needs More Love Letters, a project that spearheads hand-written and signed letters for strangers, to fill their hearts and brighten their days.

5. Genesis Butler: A 10-year old’s vision for healing the planet

You may have heard of Genesis Butler already. At ten years old, the outspoken Butler gave a TEDx Talk about why she went vegan that has received more than 125,000 views. Her inspiring, positive, and honest talk explains her compassionate decision to abstain from eating animals and animal products. The pre-teen outlines in detail the complex environmental impacts of animal agriculture. “I see a lot of people in their eco-friendly cars, with their ‘Save the Earth’ bumper stickers,” says Butler. “But they’re in drive-thrus, ordering burgers. I wonder if they know that animal agriculture causes far more environmental destruction than the entire transportation industry.” Butler reminds us that it’s important to not only be kinder to animals, but to our planet, too,

BONUS: Check out Kinder Beauty's own Vice President of Editorial, Jasmin Singer, delivering the Tedx talk, "Compassion Unlocks Identity," which talks all about how compassion for the world must begin internally. 

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Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.