There is a giant billboard facing eastbound motorists on Rosedale Highway that has Bakersfield drivers doing a double take.
No, not the one with the bicycle begging to be recycled.
"Kindness Has Zero Carbs."
This one had me at the word 'Kindness'.
Those four simple words strung together on the Dignity Health sign west of Costco are catching people's attention in a big way, which is exactly what the San Francisco-based health organization is aiming for. Towering advertisements enticing us to move to a new residential development or attend an upcoming concert, we are used to. But kindness?
It may take some motorists miles before the message sinks in. But I for one think it is brilliant and wish i'd thought of it. Save me a seat on this bandwagon.
More than just a catchy media blitz, Dignity is taking the ambitious $11 million dollar advertising campaign seriously by putting, what they say, is humanity back into health care. Whether it ever left, or if so, where it went, is subject to interpretation. But in the midst of a national discourse on the dollars and cents and tech missteps of Obamacare, the novel campaign highlighting acts of kindness, however grand or slight, through stories shared on its website – hellohumankindness.org, hopes to start a conversation prompting people to behave better and connect with one another in a more compassionate way.
And the effort doesn't come a moment too soon. According to a survey on Civility in America, 86% of responders say they have been on the receiving end of some sort of incivility. Is the decline of good manners the new norm? Dignity says no way and I can't stop applauding. Bravo!
Besides, countless studies have already told us that being nicer, kinder and more gentle with each other can be a potent dose of medicine in lowering blood pressure, warding off illnesses and aiding in the healing process.
The stories shared on the movement's website are inspiring: A rescuer who braved choppy waters and risked his own life to save another, a good Samaritan who helped a stranded stranger in need, and a surprise for a family shopping at Target whose entire cart full of items was paid for by someone else.
There have been calls to acts of caring before, most notably Bakersfield's Dr. Chuck Wall and his Random Acts of Kindness campaign launched 20 years ago. Dignity hopes humankindness will become a household word.
But why not just plaster billboards with boasts of shorter ER wait times, fancier delivery rooms and cutting-edge medical equipment? “Some have questioned what this campaign has to do with health care,” says Dignity's local Director of Strategic Marketing, Robin Mangarin Scott. “We are proud to say 'it is different'. If we can use a human connection to inspire a stronger and healthier world, then what is the harm in that?”
Already, officials with Memorial and Mercy Hospitals say they have seen the call to treat one another nicely within their hallways and among their employees. “Something special is happening. The people who work here are listening and holding themselves accountable to the brand,” Mangarin Scott says. “We all know that sharing humankindness is great on paper, but when it is shared through actions, it can hold the power to heal and help others in ways that extend beyond health care.”
While modern medicine will always hold the ability to cure, let us all become more attune to the human conditions and opportunities that present themselves every day to extend compassion and reconnect with humanity, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Perhaps Desmond Tutu said it best: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Humankindness will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.
Best wishes for a Christmas rich in time spent with loved ones, and a year ahead filled with health, happiness and all that 'MANNERS A LOT'!