UCLA opens institute to study kindness

By Frederick H. Lowe



Seeking human kindness

I was walking down Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue when a woman who was ahead of me unknowingly dropped her wallet when it fell out of her shallow jacket pocket.

I yelled “lady in blue coat, you dropped your wallet.” I picked it up off the sidewalk. A woman tapped her on the shoulder, telling her I had her wallet.

She turned around and thanked the two white women standing near me for rescuing her wallet.

One of women told her it wasn’t them, pointing to me. The woman, who was Indian, took her wallet, said nothing to me before sprinting across the street in front of the oncoming traffic.

“You certainly made her day,” one of the women said to me. I smiled.

Although the Indian woman never thanked me, I felt good about what I had done.

That’s the point of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute which recently opened with a $20 million grant from The Bedari Foundation to promote kindness.

“The institute, which is housed in the division of social sciences, will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research in real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings,” a press release noted.

“Among the principal goals are to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies,” UCLA said.

Psychologists will study how kindness can improve people’s moods and reduce symptoms of depression.

Anthropologists are studying how kindness spreads from person- to- person and group- to- group. Sociologists will study how people who act unkind might be encouraged to engage in kind acts.

As a black man, I have grown accustomed to black, white, Asian and Hispanic women scowling at me and clutching their purses in fear because they believe that my entire goal in life is to steal their handbags. Their attitudes, which are sadly normal, have taken away my humanity.

But that’s not everyone’s belief.

Several weeks before I returned the wallet to the Indian woman, a man knocked on the front door of my house on Chicago’s Far North Side.

I opened the door.

“Susan Miller?” he asked. “That’s my wife,” I answered. He handed me Susan’s wallet.  She had dropped it in the street. Before he walked away, I thanked him.



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