Jeannette Maré is the founder and Chief Kindness Officer of the Ben’s Bells Project. Ben’s Bells Project is a movement that sparked a ripple effect when her family and friends decided to make hundreds of ceramic Bell chimes to distribute randomly in their community after the tragic loss of her son. Individuals that had discovered the bells began sharing their own personal stories of healing and grief and soon, people all over Tucson were making their own Bells and spreading kindness and its power to heal. Today, Ben’s Bells has recruited more than 25,000 annual volunteers and Ben’s Bells can be found all over the country as it continues to reach many schools, businesses, and communities. Jeannette shares with us her passion for teaching and community building.
We need to talk about how much power kindness has. Jeannette talks about how everyone has the power to choose kindness, whether its random acts of kindness, but also intentional kindness when something gets hard. She explains the difference between being nice and kind. Kindness is willing to be more honest, a deep characteristic that requires more thought and skill. Kindness reduces stress when niceness increases stress. Using kindness as the lens of how we problem solve and take care of ourselves is key.
People love this work and engage in it, they feel a difference. Ben’s Bells job is to keep those conversations going, they help schools, families and businesses to keep kindness on the forefront. They sell merchandise and have office space for parties, and basically just want people to know the truth of kindness and the what and how to do it.The group discusses that with all that’s happening today, people are only reacting and not thinking and choosing what direction they should be going. Ben’s Bells work with over 100 schools, providing them with materials for monthly guides with practices made up of the science they’re talking about behind the whole concept of kindness to build awareness.
00:06 Speaker 1: Welcome to The Mack Talks everybody. I am your host Scott Johnson, president of the Mack Media Group, digital marketing agency located here in Brookfield, Connecticut. The guy to my right is my co-host, Chase Hutchison.
00:19 Speaker 2: Good morning, everybody.
00:20 S1: Chase, do me a favor, and tell our audience and our guests what our program is all about.
00:26 S2: Yes, my favorite part of the podcast. If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur or impactful leader, The Mack Talks are the vehicle that bring you the stories that you need to hear.
00:37 S1: Yes, sir. And today, we have a community leader in the building, very excited. Just got to meet her for the first time today, but I’ve heard a lot about her, know a lot about her organization. So, Chase, why don’t you go ahead and give us the intro?
00:54 S2: Yup, this one’s a little long-winded, but there’s a lot to lay out, so I’m gonna make my way through. Today, we have Jeannette Maré on the podcast. Jeannette began her career as a linguistics professor at the University of Arizona teaching classes on discourse analysis. However, in the wake of her son’s passing in 2002, she found solace in the creation of ceramic bell chimes to make with friends and family. They distributed the bells throughout their community in hopes of spreading a message of kindness to anyone who discovered them.
01:22 S2: After a front page story released in their local newspaper spotlighting the bells, people started to reach out left and right sharing their stories and finding out how they could participate. Today, Ben’s Bells Project boasts over 25,000 annual volunteers all over Arizona and Connecticut and the US. Through her role at Ben’s Bells, Jeannette found a way to combine two of her greatest passions, teaching and community building. Jeannette, welcome to The Mack Talks.
01:47 Speaker 3: Thank you. What a great introduction. Thank you for that. That was really thoughtful.
01:49 S1: I think that you broke the record, Chase.
01:50 S2: Yeah, that was an intro. Need to take a couple breaths.
01:54 S3: That was good.
01:54 S2: But I read that and I was like, “I like this intro. I’m going keep it the way it is. It might be a little long but it’s perfect.”
02:00 S3: I love it. Thank you so much, it’s just great to be here with you.
02:02 S1: How are you today?
02:03 S3: I’m doing great. I love visiting this area.
02:05 S1: Yes, that’s what I was gonna say.
02:05 S3: It’s kind of a home away from home for me now.
02:08 S1: Yeah, you get to see some more trees than what you’re used to ’cause you live in Arizona, correct?
02:11 S3: Exactly. I’m from Tucson, Arizona. I come out here very regularly because the organization that I founded, Ben’s Bells, has operations in this area and I’ve really really vibrant, robust following with the people here who are really eager to improve kindness and increase the kindness that people are sharing with each other in the area. It’s great to be here.
02:33 S1: Yeah, That’s awesome. Thanks for coming on.
02:35 S3: Thanks.
02:35 S1: Let’s kind of take it back to kind of the beginning.
02:37 S3: Sure.
02:39 S1: What made you pursue a career inside of education? Have you always had a love for trying to teach people and trying to further people? ‘Cause it seems like you’re that type of person.
02:48 S3: I think at this age now, being able to look back. I think teaching is sort of what I do, but I’ve never been a classroom teacher, a K-12 classroom teacher. I did teach at university level, but even since I started Ben’s Bells and stopped teaching at the university, I still see my role as a teacher. In fact, we recently hired a new executive director for Ben’s Bells because I would have been executive director all these years and that’s not my passion, right? Running a business is not I want to do. [laughter] I want to do the education piece. So yeah. I think, I really enjoy connecting ideas. I really like being able to excite people about ideas and hopefully inspire them to understand how they can enact these ideas that can actually change their lives and change the lives of people around them.
03:32 S1: Yeah, that’s awesome. That is great.
03:34 S3: Yeah, Thank you.
03:34 S2: It’s unbelievable how fast Ben’s Bells has grown in the area. I remember since, for years now, I’ve seen them everywhere. Bumper stickers on the backs of cars. There’s a mural I think in our high school that I graduated from.
03:47 S1: Yeah, the one at the high school was unbelievable, that one is…
03:50 S2: You guys have really made your way into this community. And really when I first heard of Ben’s Bells, I was like, “Is this… “This was started in Newtown, right?”
04:00 S3: People think so, right.
04:01 S1: That’s what everybody seems to think. Yeah.
04:02 S3: It actually started 17 years ago. We’ve been around a long time, and we had people in this area who were using our programming. We have a program called Kind Campus for schools, and it’s a completely free program that can be used anywhere in the world, really. And some people in this area were using it. There was already some familiarity with the work that we do when the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened. People reached out to us after just as a source of hopefully providing just some love in the community through hanging the bells. And that’s what we did, we hung bells all over the community and then just sort of left. And then the story started rolling in about what the symbolism and the messaging meant to folks, and it was the local people here who took it up and started running with it.
04:52 S1: Yeah, that’s great. And then it’s kind of like they needed it at the time. And I think that that’s awesome.
05:00 S3: Right.
05:00 S1: Take us back to why you started the foundation. I know that you’ve endured a lot of pain and anguish to get to the point of where you’re at to kind of work through some different things. If you could touch on that and bring us up to date.
05:14 S3: Thank you. Yeah, Ben’s Bells was started in memory of my son Ben, and he died when he was nearly three. And he died just suddenly, unexpectedly of a virus. A virus that is typically, is mundane. It doesn’t kill kids, but in his case, it did. And so, my family was thrown into this grief experience that nobody wants, and nobody knows what to do with, right? And I just started… Well, I felt fairly desperate. And people braved that pain, right? What is scarier than a mom who’s lost a child, right? But people were willing to come in, and there was just kindness after kindness after kindness after kindness and I could name all the ways people were kind to us. And what I started understanding was that kindness is not soft, and it’s not fluffy, and it’s not rainbows and butterflies like we often make it out to be.
06:05 S3: What I was experiencing was kindness was deep and powerful and freaking courageous right? I mean it was like, we do not talk about kindness the right way. We need to talk about how much power kindness has, how much choice we all have to do it, and then we need to enable people the confidence and skill set in order to be able to do it. Now, all of that wasn’t in my head at that point, right? What was in my head at that point was, “Oh my gosh, this is saving my life.” Even a stranger, right? Even a stranger holding open a door for me during that time felt like oxygen.
06:43 S1: Yeah.
06:44 S3: I was a teacher at the University of Arizona, which is a huge public university, you know, 55,000 people on campus or whatever and I would, you know, some 19-year-old student would hold open a door for me and smile and say good morning or whatever, and I would just wanna tell them. I would wanna say, “You know, I know you think you’re just holding open a door,” you know? And then I would like, bleh, tell them the whole story but I didn’t ’cause I didn’t wanna frighten people. But at the same time, I felt like if that kid knew what he was doing… If he knew I was gonna be talking about him 17 years later, you know? [chuckle]
07:14 S1: Yeah.
07:14 S2: Yeah.
07:14 S3: I talk about him, that kid, I can picture this specific kid, I don’t know his name. All these years, I’ve been talking about that kid. So everybody has the power to choose kindness. So we call it, we very specifically and intentionally refer to it as intentional kindness, rather than random kindness, right? Now, random kindness is a specific type of kindness and it’s wonderful for… Don’t get me wrong. We want people to do that too, but random kindness is sort of that, put a quarter in somebody’s meter and that kind of stuff. It’s…
07:44 S1: Yeah.
07:45 S3: But we want people to be really intentional about kindness, even when kindness is really hard, right? Like, maybe you’re dealing with a difficult boss or maybe you’re struggling with your teenage child, whatever. We want people to have the awareness and the skill set for being able to choose to behave in kindness, which is not the same as being nice.
08:05 S1: Yeah.
08:06 S3: We really make a distinction.
08:06 S1: Tell us the difference. Tell us the difference. Break it down for us.
08:08 S3: So can you feel that there’s a difference?
08:10 S1: I can, now that you’re saying, yeah.
08:11 S2: Yeah.
08:11 S3: Yeah, alright. Exactly.
08:11 S1: But if you would just ask me the question, I probably wouldn’t be able to answer it but I feel like I kinda can feel it now.
08:16 S2: Yeah.
08:16 S3: Right. So sometimes we’re brought up to be sort of nice and it means like maybe we just wanna please people, we wanna just make sure everything’s sort of neat and tidy and that nobody is ever uncomfortable. Right?
08:27 S1: Yeah. Yep.
08:27 S2: Mm-hmm.
08:28 S3: Right? Like, you asked me to do a project for you and I don’t wanna upset you, I wanna please you. So I just say yes even though…
08:33 S2: Just being polite almost.
08:34 S3: Right. Even though I’m totally overwhelmed and I really can’t take on a project, right? So, kindness is gonna be willing to be more honest and to be uncomfortable if we need to, in order to get somewhere and I might say, “You know, I wish I could help you and I can’t but let’s brainstorm some other ways” or whatever.” So, kindness is a deeper characteristic, requires more thought, requires more skill, but really, kindness should eventually reduce stress, whereas, niceness can increase stress.
09:05 S1: Yeah.
09:05 S3: You see the difference?
09:06 S1: Because you’re adding…
09:07 S2: It’s true. Yeah.
09:08 S1: Yep, that’s true.
09:08 S3: Yeah. So, in our culture, hopefully, things are changing, but women were often socialized to be really nice.
09:14 S1: Yeah.
09:14 S2: Mm-hmm. Yep.
09:14 S3: Right? Yeah. So we’re starting to…
09:17 S1: It’s funny that it just totally reminds me of my mom. So my mom is like the sweetest woman ever. Shout out to nana, shout out to nana.
09:23 S3: Hi nana.
09:24 S1: But that’s how… That’s kind of how she is. Like, she’s the person… And it goes as far as like compliment… Like, you’re in the grocery store and you see somebody and you like their shoe, just complimenting somebody.
09:35 S3: Now, that’s kind.
09:35 S1: “Oh, that looks nice.” Yeah.
09:36 S3: Yeah, That’s kind. If it’s honest, yeah.
09:37 S1: Yeah, and that’s my mom. She’s nice and holds the door for every… She waves to everybody when they let her by when they… “Oh, thank you.” Like so. Yeah, yeah.
09:45 S3: Now that’s kindness. That’s kindness. So we challenge people to start thinking about those words and maybe using them differently. So that’s kindness. She’s connecting with people. Right? So…
09:54 S1: When she’s being nice, she says this. She’s like, “Can we complain about these nachos?” when we’re out eating. She asks if she can complain. That’s being nice.
10:02 S3: That’s so funny.
10:02 S1: Like, we would… Right. That’s not being kind. That is just being nice. Like, you just go right in to complaining about the nachos. You don’t actually ask the person if you’re allowed to. But anyway.
10:11 S3: That’s hilarious.
10:11 S2: It seems like kindness has an aspect of self-awareness, like you almost have to…
10:15 S3: A lot of it.
10:15 S2: Choose to be kind and know that there’s another path that you could take that’s not kind or unkind and then consciously making that decision, that’s kindness. You know what I mean?
10:25 S3: That’s exactly what we talk about. We really, in order to build our kindness skill set, and I guess I should say, we consider kindness a skill. Right?
10:33 S2: Yeah.
10:33 S1: It’s a work… Yeah.
10:34 S3: Exactly. Some people think kindness is just part of your personality like you have it or you don’t have it. But really, the evidence, the scientific evidence shows that that’s not the case. You can definitely build a skill set. And who benefits from kindness skill set when you develop it?
10:48 S1: You.
10:49 S3: You yourself. Immediately.
10:49 S1: Yeah.
10:49 S2: Yeah.
10:50 S3: Right? And then everybody who deals with you also benefits. So it’s win win win all the way around. But anyway, so one of the important factors is to understand why it’s hard to be kind sometime. And that’s another thing we emphasize is sometimes it’s really hard to be kind. If people just say, “Oh, be kind, it’s easy,” I’m like, “Uh” you know, it can be easy, it often is easy, but then it’s often difficult too. Work place stuff.
11:16 S1: I feel that being kind to someone you don’t know, sometimes, is so much easier.
11:20 S3: Easier. Exactly.
11:20 S1: Right? It’s just like, “I’m gonna be kind to you. That’s it. We’re done.”
11:22 S3: The stakes are really low. Exactly.
11:25 S1: Exactly. So but that’s where you have to work at it. That’s why you have to… Yeah.
11:29 S3: Right, right. And so what you’re getting at just now is perfect because we can be very reactive and there’s a part of our brain that has evolved to be protective, self-protective, and because we’re humans, we’re lucky enough to have this whole other part of our brain that allows us to not just be a victim to that part of our brain. Right? So we don’t have to go around reacting. We can actually think and have self-awareness and then respond. Right?
11:54 S1: Yeah.
11:55 S3: So that’s our goal is to teach kids and adults that there are practices that you can infuse just into your everyday life to really build your ability to calm yourself to think about perspective, take, try to understand what somebody else might be experiencing and then consider what information you need to collect in order to do kindness that will actually result in kindness. So.
12:16 S1: Yeah, and the thing that I love about you is that you have like a storefront, you have like a studio.
12:21 S3: We do.
12:22 S1: Which I think is awesome. So tell us a little bit about what happens in those studios, and what you guys do, which is a little bit different, I think, than most non-profits that are out there. And it helps spread your message.
12:31 S3: Yes. So I don’t… I should talk about what the bell is first.
12:34 S1: Yeah. Tell the bell. Yes.
12:35 S3: So I have a bell here. And I know this is a podcast, so you can just hear it. But Ben’s bells are these really beautiful ceramic wind chimes and we started making these in my garage, just friends and family.
12:46 S2: Awesome.
12:46 S3: And then on the first anniversary of Ben’s death, we hung out 400 of them.
12:50 S2: Wow.
12:50 S1: And they have a tag that says, “You found a Ben’s bell. Take it home and remember to spread kindness.”
12:55 S2: Yep.
12:56 S3: And what happened was that was gonna be the end of it for us. We just needed to do something to honor him. But the people who found bells had stories to tell about why that bell was significant to them. And it was amazing, because for us, it was about Ben, but for everybody who found a bell, they were… They had their own reason, because you know what? Everyone has a story, and everyone’s going through something. So, we just kept this thing going. And so, now we say, by the time one Ben’s Bell is finished, at least 10 people have worked on it. So, we have these studios, we have a studio here in Bethel, Connecticut, and we have two studios in Tucson, Arizona, and one in Phoenix, Arizona.
13:32 S1: So, you have four total?
13:34 S3: We have four total physical studios, and then, our educational programming can be used anywhere across the country.
13:39 S1: Okay, yup. Do you have a certain amount of schools that you’re in with that? Or is it just…
13:42 S3: Yeah, we’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of schools.
13:43 S1: Oh, that’s awesome.
13:44 S3: ‘Cause it’s a free program, so anyone listening right now can go to our website at bensbells.org and sign up a school. It’s free.
13:50 S1: Yup, awesome.
13:50 S3: And the materials are all evidence-based, we have all the scientific citations on all of the stuff in there.
13:56 S1: I think it’s great to be in the schools too.
13:57 S3: It’s really good stuff. Really good stuff. And we have the same thing for workplace.
14:01 S1: Yup, cool.
14:01 S3: So, we have Kind Campus for schools, we have Kind Colleagues for workplaces, and really, it’s all about just keeping these conversations churning, thinking about this, using kindness as the lens through which we problem solve, how we support each other, how we take care of ourselves. And so, the bell is the symbolic centerpiece of the work we do. So, what we’ve learned is that people really love this work, and when people engage in it, they do feel a difference in their lives as far as their skillsets improving. So, the challenge is engagement. So, the why is really strong. We know why it’s important to practice kindness, so it becomes then the how. And then, how do you keep people interested?
14:45 S3: We all know we’ve been to school and there’s this program and then that one’s gone and then there’s this program and that one’s gone, so we’re trying to use kindness as the sort of umbrella concept about how… Kindness is about taking care of ourselves and each other. And then, Ben’s Bells’ job is to just keep those conversations churning. So, we help businesses and schools and individuals and families and neighborhoods just keep kindness at the forefront.
15:10 S1: Yeah, I think that’s interesting, that’s great.
15:12 S3: So, you can engage in lots of different ways. You can come to our studio and you can do the art piece, you can engage at your school, you can engage at your workplace, you can have a party at our studio, you can… We have Be Kind merchandise you can purchase and include that in your gift giving or whatever. There are lots of different ways people can be reminded of the practice. And the murals we were talking about, that’s a big… The visual reminder thing is really, really powerful.
15:39 S2: Yeah, symbols and pieces like that are just as important. If you need that visual reminder in your life as well. You know what I mean?
15:47 S3: Exactly, it’s that whole… We have so… You know this concept, “cognitive load”? There’s so much stuff coming at us that our brain can only hold so much?
15:56 S1: Yeah.
15:56 S3: Right? ‘Cause we are seeing… There’s a million podcasts and there’s a million…
16:00 S1: Yeah, yeah.
16:01 S3: Social media…
16:01 S1: You only absorb so much.
16:02 S3: Right, exactly. And so, we’re just gonna keep a sort of a bright light shining on kindness, so that people keep it in their brain. Because people want it and they benefit from it, but it’s easy to get distracted away from it.
16:17 S1: And there’s just so much… Just… There’s a lot of negativity out there, so it’s the perfect time to have that.
16:24 S3: We need to counter that.
16:25 S1: Counter that.
16:25 S2: We need this right now.
16:26 S3: We need to counter it.
16:27 S2: In America. The way that things are going, I feel like things are getting more, like you said, reactionary.
16:32 S3: Exactly.
16:33 S2: People are just reacting. They’re not thinking and then choosing which they direction they wanna move in, they’re just reacting.
16:39 S3: Absolutely.
16:39 S2: And becoming more and more like that.
16:40 S3: And our brains have evolved to notice that. And so, when there’s negativity, our brain will focus on it out of self-protection. And so, we have to intentionally notice the good stuff and thank people for the good stuff and really, really keep that positive stuff going. Now, I really… I have a problem when people… When you’re going through a hard time and somebody taps you on the shoulder and just says, “Be positive.” That sort of drives me crazy, because those people are experiencing really hard stuff. But notice the positive is really powerful. So, notice positive things, let it soak in, thank people for it, teach kids how to notice it. So, that’s what we’re doing with kindness, is really encouraging people to understand what it means, encouraging them to think of all the ways they can do kindness, and really own their power, because people have so much power to make a difference in other people’s lives. Even through really what seem like really small moments.
17:38 S3: So, even just, like you said, just a smile, holding a door, letting somebody into traffic, these things seem like no big deal, but if you’re in need, and most of us are, at some point, if you’re in need of that sort of small connection, it can completely change not only your day, but sometimes your life. If kindness happens at the right moment, it can be absolutely profound.
18:00 S1: Yeah, that’s awesome.
18:00 S2: You know what’s the worst? Is when you… Have you ever walked down the hallway and then you see somebody you know and you don’t… You just give them a “Hey,” but you know you should have been like, “Hey, how are you doing?” ‘Cause you know that person. You know what I mean? Then you walk away and then you regret in your mind, like, “Oh, I should have been kind there.” You know what I mean?
18:19 S3: I should have made a bigger connection. Yeah, yeah. So, we really need, our species, humans really need connection. And so, when we don’t do it, when we do online too much, when we do this stuff, we hurt, we hurt.
18:33 S2: It’s a missed opportunity.
18:35 S3: We do, yeah. So, we don’t have to connect and get in everyone’s business, we don’t, but we do need to understand that, as humans, we definitely need this connection, and that when we stop and take the time to make it, it benefits both people, so yeah.
18:51 S2: Yeah, that’s great. Now, we spoke about the symbolism behind it and everything. What made you choose the flower? Any particular reason, or…
19:00 S3: People ask me this, and I wish I had some great answer, like, “Well, Ben was an artist and he had drawn this picture.” But he was just a little guy. We started with the flower you’re referring to as the large piece on the bell. And we actually started with five different shapes up there. And then, as Ben’s Bells grew and started spreading across the country, we decided we wanted a strong sort of branding for it, so it would just be very recognizable. And the “Be Kind” sticker that we have…
19:27 S2: Yeah, I love those.
19:28 S3: Became very popular. And so, we really, we decided just to stay with the flower. It took off, it’s a nice shape, easy symbolism. And now, in Tucson, and probably in this area too, you could show a green flower to a child without any words on it and ask them what it means, and they’ll say, “Kindness.”
19:46 S2: That’s amazing.
19:47 S3: Which is… So, for me…
19:48 S2: That’s branding. [laughter]
19:49 S3: That’s branding, right? I know, that sounds crude. It’s branding. But that’s the power of a symbol.
19:53 S2: No, but it’s good. Yeah, it’s good branding.
19:54 S3: You guys are branding people. It’s not a dirty word around here. Yeah, yeah.
19:58 S2: We love the color too, as you can tell.
20:00 S3: I know, I love your color.
20:00 S2: I can’t wait to get that on the refrigerator, the sticker right there.
20:02 S3: We call that Ben’s Bells green, but you guys probably call that Mack Media green.
20:05 S2: Yeah, we do…
20:07 S3: Yeah, so having a symbol is powerful, right? It’s great for branding for a business but it’s powerful for communication. And so…
20:17 S2: Yeah. Spread the message.
20:18 S3: We have little kids who just draw this. They would draw a heart for love. They just draw. It’s just a symbol for the them which is kinda cool, right?
20:27 S2: Which is great. Yeah.
20:28 S3: It’s like, wow!
20:29 S2: That’s great. Now, have you reached out into other countries yet? Is that something that you’re…
20:33 S3: And so really, we were not reaching out and saying, “Hey, do this,” but rather, people reach in. Yeah. So absolutely, we have people doing our programming in different countries across the world.
20:44 S2: That’s amazing.
20:44 S3: Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to translate it all into different languages so a lot of English-speaking countries are doing it. We have some of our stuff translated into Spanish. We’re working on getting more and more translated in Spanish. Tucson, Arizona is less an hour from the border so we’re a very bilingual community so a lot of our materials are Spanish, English, but we have had other countries who have translated it themselves which is just super cool.
21:11 S2: Yeah. That’s awesome.
21:12 S3: Yeah. We have the sticker in Spanish. And we have…
21:14 S2: I like that. That’s cool.
21:16 S3: And then the tag on the Ben’s Bell and the tag on kindness coins and stuff is bilingual too.
21:23 S1: Yeah. Yup. So I was gonna ask you next a little bit more about your programs that you do.
21:28 S3: Mm-hmm. Thank you.
21:29 S1: Just a little bit bout the classrooms that you guys go into and what those are, just to go into that a little bit.
21:35 S3: Great. So we are working literally with hundreds of schools and what we do is we provide them materials that are based on a monthly guide. And each monthly guide has a different theme and then has different practices for them to understand some of the science that we’re talking about, to build self-awareness skills, to build awareness of other people. And then the fourth and final thing is to put all that awareness into action by actually doing kindness. So there are a lot of fun activities, a lot of awareness-building things like kindness quote posters and science of kindness quote posters and activities for the adults to do on campus. So the adults can also be doing this work. And so, it’s very, very train-the-trainer program where we provide them the materials and then they as expert educators put those materials into action.
22:26 S1: I love that because people need a playbook.
22:29 S3: Exactly, it’s a playbook.
22:29 S1: And then adults need logic and reason or science, something behind it to be like, “Alright, this actually… ” You know what I mean?
22:36 S3: It needs to be evidence-based. Mm-hmm. For sure.
22:39 S1: And so you providing that is huge. People don’t know… Some people just don’t know where to start or if they don’t understand…
22:44 S3: Exactly. And teachers are… They have very, very full plates. And so I like that you called it a playbook. I’ve never actually called it that but that was really good. And yeah, so they know what to do with it when they come in. And then we do think… Like I love doing… I’m a public speaker so I love doing assemblies for kids and that sort of… So they can call us in to do extra stuff like that, murals. And so there are lots of enhancements they can do but they can also just run this programming by themselves, which allows us to make it free. If we had to be in there instructing everything, obviously, we couldn’t make it free or we couldn’t afford it. So what we’ve done is created materials that are user-friendly. And our teachers, of course, are so talented. They know the kids. They know the pedagogy. They know about teaching so it’s really, really not hard for them to take these materials and run with them.
23:36 S2: Yup. Yup. That’s great. And it’s obviously backed by… Like you said, it’s…
23:42 S3: It’s scientific.
23:43 S2: It’s solid scientific information so…
23:45 S3: Yeah. All the citations. Right.
23:46 S2: And teachers want everybody to be nicer to each other anyway. They’re just constantly saying that anyway, be kinder.
23:52 S3: But yeah. And I work a lot in… I work a lot in healthcare too and I find remarkable parallels in education and in healthcare. Just docs, nurses, just being asked to do a lot and so…
24:02 S2: And they’re being spread thin and they have to be the most patient people ever because they need to patient with the doctor who’s their superior but then also the patient who is technically the client-patient. You know what I mean? So…
24:14 S3: Yeah.
24:15 S2: It’s gotta be a really tough thing to do. So tell us, what do you find to be the hardest part? Is there a hard part or is there a difficult part to trying to teach this program and teach this kindness and to go in this direction? Do you find it to be…
24:30 S3: I don’t know if hard is the right… It’s I love a…
24:33 S2: Challenging. Yeah.
24:33 S3: I love a skeptical audience. I love it.
24:35 S2: Okay. Good.
24:36 S3: Just personally, I know not everybody does that.
24:38 S2: You like to flip them. [laughter]
24:39 S3: I love it. Well, because I’m not somebody who super loves the fuzzy woo-wooey stuff. And so I actually like the academic, evidence-based, show me some proof side of things. And so when somebody is like, “Oh you know this is… “They think, “Kindness. What are we gonna talk about? This is gonna be stupid,” or whatever or fluffy, I’d love to deliver a talk that really changes their mind about that.
25:07 S2: Yeah. That’s awesome.
25:08 S3: So… Yeah. There are definitely people who are challenging around this topic but I’m not one to twist anyone’s arm. Really, people come to it when they’re ready to come to it.
25:19 S2: If you get on, you get on. We’re going.
25:20 S3: Exactly.
25:21 S2: If you’re coming, you’re coming. That’s cool.
25:22 S3: Exactly. Exactly. And I really strongly believe, this is a sentence I use when I present. Kids really love unpacking this sentence, the sentence, Hurt people hurt people. And so just that idea that some of the times when people are super closed-off, super unwilling to consider something new, I’d assume they’re being pretty self-protective. And frankly, I get that. I get that because I also self-protected really hard when I was in my most hurt time. So I like to be able to chip away at some of that skepticism but I’ve also gotten pretty good at not taking things personally when people aren’t really ready to talk about this stuff.
26:07 S2: Yeah. Years and years of experience, I’m sure.
26:08 S3: Yeah, it is a lot of experience now, and mostly, 99 point something percent people are willing and excited to talk about it. And once we get going, they get more and more excited, because really, we’re not talking about anything like hardcore big changes in their life. We’re talking about making tweaks to what they’re already doing that will… And the cool thing about this work is that when you commit to it, when you do it, you feel the effects immediately, immediately. And you might be tentative and you don’t want try it and then you try it and then you get a good response back from someone and that makes you feel like your confidence builds a little bit more. And so it’s, the feedback loop is really immediate and it feels great. And so, it’s really exciting to see when people get it.
26:55 S2: What I think is cool is that your program is bringing this out to have people partake in this type of action of being kind. And what I think is cool is that the people that have never heard of this program, or even before that, that do that already, so they have the self-awareness to know. You know what I mean? And you know the people I’m talking about.
27:16 S3: Oh absolutely.
27:16 S2: Those people that are just like… They’re like, “Hey are you?” Or “I really like your shoes” You know what I mean? So I think that’s really cool and it opens your brain up to different type of people and how they are. And how is this is… This has kinda been there already, but you’re taking it and just…
27:37 S3: Well, there’s a ton of kindness.
27:37 S2: Yeah.
27:38 S3: What we’re saying is…
27:39 S2: You’re reinforcing it and you’re…
27:41 S3: That we can be intentional about it and that we can grow it. That we don’t have to be just reactive to the world. One of the quotes that I use that I think people really resonate with. Kids do especially, teenagers do, is, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
27:58 S2: Yeah.
28:00 S3: So life is wavy. And we need to accept that. If we think our life’s supposed to be perfectly… We’re just supposed to sort of progress through our lives on this upward trajectory of things just getting better and better. It’s just not how it works.
28:14 S?: Nope.
28:14 S2: Right?
28:14 S?: Yeah.
28:15 S3: For pretty much everybody. And so life is wavy. And so what do we need to handle those waves are really good surfing skills. And if you’re a really good surfer, you can handle the waves, right? So these kind of skills are really, they’re relationship skills, they’re communication skills, they’re self-care skills. And when we have really good surfing skills, we can navigate these waters. And that’s a great feeling. Does that mean you don’t feel sadness? No. It means you feel sadness, but you know you’re gonna be okay. You know you’re supported. Other people know how to support you ’cause they’ve been practicing their kindness skills, right? Or they know well enough to do some research about how to support you or whatever. So really, we want people to understand how much of this they get to choose.
29:07 S3: There’s a lot we can’t control, that is fact. There’s a lot we can’t control in the world, but what we can control is our own awareness of ourselves, is our own ability to calm ourselves, to do the things we need to do when we’re in distress, and then to support each other, other people, when they’re in distress as well.
29:24 S2: Yeah, I really love what you just said with the surfboard and the waves. Like for me, that really hits home and obviously, being self-employed and just stresses of life and just going through some obstacles right now with inside of my life, it’s like this is probably some of the best therapy I’ve had. [chuckle]
29:39 S3: Oh good. Let’s talk about that.
29:41 S2: It’s great, yeah. No, it’s great though.
29:42 S3: Well, because we do and we talk about self-kindness. I worry that self-kindness gets a really bad reputation, right? You guys, I don’t know if you remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live.
29:52 S2: Yeah.
29:52 S3: Remember he was the… You’re too young. He was the character who looked in the mirror and he used to say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.”
30:01 S2: Yeah I remember that one.
30:02 S3: And I think that’s what people think when they think self-kindness, like, “Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re great.” And that is not what we’re talking about. Actually, when we talk about self-kindness, we’re talking about really, really basic things, like getting enough sleep and eating decent food, good food even, getting some exercise, and then really watching the thought spiral in our head. I mean, how many of us are self-critical? When I ask that question in front of hundreds of people, every hand goes up.
30:31 S3: Well, it turns out that it’s a human thing. The human brain has evolved to be pretty self-critical. So, okay, so it’s not just me. It’s not just me, it’s a human thing, so I can actually learn some skills around observing those thoughts that go in my head, and then I can learn to counter them. So if I’m about to do a big talk and I’m feeling like, “Oh geez, I’m a failure, I’m not gonna do such a bad job.” I can actually observe myself, catch myself and say, “You know. Wait a second, you’ve done… You’ve had many, many, many successful talks. This is gonna be fun, people are gonna love it.” I can counter it. But you can’t counter it if you have no awareness of it. If you’re just sort of reacting to it. So there’s just a lot we can do to take care of ourselves better. And as cliche as it sounds, that whole “put your own oxygen mask thing on before you help other people” is absolutely true because if you don’t, if you’re not in a good place, you can’t be good for other people, it’s just fact. So there’s one study about sleep. Sleep’s a big one.
31:32 S2: Oh it is.
31:33 S3: It’s a big one. There’s one study that I found about sleep. It says something like, “The sleepless brain sees threats everywhere.” So if you’re tired, things that are absolutely not a threat to you will look like a threat. Somebody will be looking your direction and you’ll be like, “Why are they looking at me like that?”
31:50 S3: Actually, they’re just gazing at that really beautiful tree behind you. But when we don’t get enough sleep, that’s what we do. And then the sub-text for that article was, “The sleep-deprived brain mistakes friends for foes.” So it actually creates problems where there are no problems. That kind of thing makes me crazy, when we create problems that actually don’t exist, because there are plenty of real problems out in the world.
32:17 S1: You know what the hardest thing is, I think, is identifying when… A skill that I feel like a lot, that I need to work on and that I think everybody can use is that identifying when somebody else is going through a hard time like that, and that’s not really who they are. That’s reacting to you. And it’s just a result of all the negativity or bad circumstances that they’re encountering that, that’s what you’re encountering.
32:45 S3: Hurt people hurt people.
32:46 S1: That’s not the true person that you’re…
32:48 S2: I’m wondering if he’s talking about me right now.
32:49 S2: You talking about me, bro? I mean he sits right next to me. Just kidding. [chuckle]
32:54 S3: Exactly, and when we increase our own self-awareness and we see our own stuff. Like, “I didn’t sleep well last night, I’m not feeling well. Oh jeez, I’m snapping at people.” Then we realize when other people snap at us, that they are possibly also. It’s really an awareness builder, it’s really, we have to be able to look down and say, “Oh, there’s that human brain thing happening again.” This person is reacting. They’re reacting from that part of their brain that is completely defensive and they’re just not capable of using another part of their brain right now. The tendency when somebody reacts at us hard, is to react back. Right?
33:33 S2: Right.
33:35 S3: ‘Cause that’s that part of the brain.
33:35 S2: Yeah.
33:35 S3: The fight or flight.
33:36 S2: Yeah.
33:36 S3: The reactive… But building a skill set… And this works. You can catch yourself. Right? You can say, “I wanna yell at that person right now, but that would just be putting fuel on the fire.”
33:48 S2: Yeah. Yeah.
33:49 S3: I can actually… I can calm myself down because I have a skill set that I’ve been practicing and I’m gonna respond differently. Now, does that mean I let that person walk all over me? Absolutely not. But I, instead of just yelling back or snapping back or whatever, I might say, “Hey, can we talk about this in a different way or let’s talk about this in a little bit after we’ve taken a break or let’s walk away, or… ”
34:09 S2: Yeah.
34:10 S3: You can teach little kids to say, “Walk away.” I remember when my little child learned how to say, “Walk away,” when he needed a little break.
34:18 S1: Yeah. Yeah.
34:19 S2: Yeah.
34:19 S3: Walk away.
34:21 S3: Try that on your friends.
34:22 S2: Give me a few minutes.
34:23 S1: I have sort of a philosophical question for you. Do you think that it’s kind sometimes to be snappy to somebody or to put somebody in their place… Not in the… Put them in their place but… So is saying, “No,” to somebody sometimes an act of kindness? Being like, “You can’t do the… ” You know what I mean? Like working with them like that.
34:45 S3: Yes. Now, I think you asked me two really different things. So the first thing, is snapping back kind?
34:50 S1: Yeah.
34:51 S3: I would say it’s not… It’s probably not kind but it’s definitely not effective, right?
34:55 S1: Yeah.
34:55 S3: You will never get anywhere from snapping back at each other. But is saying “no” kind? Often. Absolutely. Saying no is… Can be kind. Now, it’s how we say it, right? So, it’s like the example I did before with you asking me to take on a project for you. It would be kind, if I can’t, if I’m already overwhelmed, if I’m already not seeing my kids, if I’m already…
35:14 S1: You’re doing me a favor by saying no.
35:15 S3: Well, and myself. I’m caring for both of us.
35:17 S1: Yeah.
35:17 S3: But I’m gonna say… I’m gonna say, “No. I really wish I could help you, but I’m already overwhelmed.” If I said yes… Right? We’ve talked. That was nice, right? I’m going to end up resenting you.
35:28 S3: And being stressed out myself. So, absolutely. Saying no when we need to say no is kind, if we do it in a kind way. This doesn’t mean that you just say no, and that that’s kind. But rather, it’s understanding. So I’m still caring for you, because I’m understanding you and saying, no. And saying to my kid, “No,” when I need to say no is kind too. They wanna eat chocolate cake for dinner. I’m gonna say no. It’s not nice, but it is kind, right?
35:56 S1: Yeah.
35:57 S2: Tough love.
35:57 S1: Yeah.
35:57 S3: You see what I mean?
35:57 S1: Tough love.
35:58 S?: Yeah.
35:58 S2: Yeah. Exactly.
36:00 S3: Yeah. Tough love can be kind, right?
36:00 S1: Yeah.
36:00 S3: Yeah.
36:01 S2: Awesome.
36:01 S3: Yeah.
36:02 S2: Well, Jeannette, thank you so much for coming on.
36:05 S3: This is really fun.
36:05 S2: We’re gonna get… We’re gonna get ready to wrap it up.
36:07 S3: Okay.
36:08 S2: We love everything that you’re doing. We’re so glad that you were able to kinda come… To come on.
36:12 S3: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
36:13 S2: And we’re glad that you come back and support everybody in the community and stuff like that with the program. And it’s just awesome, awesome work.
36:21 S1: Can I do my last question that I always do?
36:23 S2: Yeah. Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead.
36:24 S1: So I always kinda end it with someone who is… So if someone’s trying to develop kindness to use either in the workplace or at school, or at home with their family, what are your two or three tips to start? Where do we start with this?
36:40 S3: Okay. I’m gonna… This one will take just a little bit. So I’m just gonna do one ’cause it might be too long.
36:44 S1: Yeah. That’s okay.
36:45 S2: That’s okay.
36:45 S3: So this is a really… This is what I think is a super power, and we’ve been getting at it in different ways this whole time, is this thing called metacognition. Now, that’s a big word, but all it means is you’re able to think about your own thinking. Okay. You’ve been saying self-awareness a lot during this.
37:01 S2: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
37:02 S3: That’s what it is. So, if I’m sitting in a staff meeting or something and somebody disagrees… I say something and somebody disagrees with me, and I feel in myself, I feel like, “What’s that about?” Whatever. In my head, I’m hearing… I’m feeling defensive, and stuff. If I can catch myself and say, “Oh, Jeannette, you’re feeling kinda defensive right now.” That’s metacognition.
37:22 S2: Yup.
37:22 S3: You see it?
37:23 S2: Yeah.
37:23 S3: I’m actually thinking…
37:25 S2: About what you’re thinking.
37:25 S3: About what I’m thinking.
37:26 S2: Yeah.
37:27 S3: Now, that might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a massively big deal inside the brain because what it means is you’re having awareness of what’s going on in your head. With that awareness, you can make change. So here’s the little activity. So you get a rubber band or a bracelet or whatever you want, put it around your wrist. And then pick something you want to start noticing about your thoughts. Okay? Like maybe notice when you’re self-critical.
37:52 S2: Yeah.
37:53 S3: Right?
37:53 S2: Yup.
37:53 S3: So you wear this rubber band on your wrist and you go through your day, and you do something, and you’ll, “Oh that was so… I’m so stupid” or whatever. “Oh, I was just self-critical. I’m gonna move the rubber band to my other wrist.” Okay? Keep doing that. “Oh, moving my rubber band to my other wrist.” After a couple of days of that, you become more metacognitive. You see what I mean?
38:12 S2: Yeah.
38:12 S3: You’re able to notice it.
38:14 S2: Yeah, ’cause you’re making a… You’re doing something.
38:15 S3: Yeah. You’re sort of catching yourself.
38:16 S2: That’s like… Yeah.
38:17 S3: And what it’s doing is it’s you’re not just sort of being habitual to your thoughts, you’re actually catching your thoughts. You’re catching them. And only when we can start catching our thoughts can we sometimes then disagree with our thoughts.
38:30 S2: Yeah. Or adjust them.
38:30 S3: It’s that don’t believe everything you think.
38:32 S2: Yup.
38:33 S3: Don’t believe everything you think, especially what you think about yourself, because it’s usually… We’re often kinda mean to ourselves.
38:39 S2: Yeah. Yeah.
38:40 S1: Yes.
38:40 S3: So practice that. This is called noticing, this activity. Just noticing. Noticing your thoughts. At my workplace, we decided to notice complaining. Notice when you complain. Right? Move that bracelet, every time. Move that rubber band, whatever, every time you notice yourself complaining. So building that little gap between the sort of thoughts that just run through your head and your awareness of those thoughts is like a super power.
39:04 S2: Yeah. That’s awesome.
39:04 S3: Does that make sense? That might have been too deep.
39:07 S2: No, that makes total sense.
39:07 S3: Okay. Okay.
39:08 S2: I think it’s awesome. It’s actually something similar… It’s a lot different because you’re catching yourself but it’s… You’re in the same routine, and you’re not thinking about that in that moment. You’re just… You’re emotionally tied to your reaction to that.
39:21 S3: Exactly.
39:21 S2: So I like to say the same thing about business, because as a business owner, you are an employee inside of the business. But if you keep staying in that little circle, you have to come above and look at it from above.
39:35 S3: Exactly.
39:35 S2: And be like, “Okay, let me look at it from a higher view and be like, “Okay. That’s what’s going on down there.”
39:39 S3: ‘Cause otherwise, you’re in the water, and you don’t know what it is.
39:41 S2: Yeah. You don’t know.
39:43 S3: Exactly.
39:43 S2: But yeah, I think that’s… I think that’s awesome.
39:45 S3: Cool. Awesome.
39:45 S2: Thank you so much.
39:46 S3: All right. Thanks.
39:47 S2: So Chase is gonna wrap us up, give everybody… Give the websites and…
39:51 S1: Yup.
39:51 S2: Instagram handles and everything.
39:53 S1: Yup. All right. Thanks so much for coming on, Jeannette. It was great having you.
39:57 S3: Thank you.
39:57 S1: Thanks everybody for joining us. If you’re looking to learn more about Jeannette and Ben’s Bells project, you can visit their website, www.bensbells.org. You’re also on Facebook and Instagram, just search Ben’s Bells. And then anything else?
40:15 S3: We have a studio in Bethel.
40:16 S1: Yeah.
40:16 S2: Stony Hill.
40:17 S3: Yeah. Come on down to the studio.
40:17 S1: Yup, Stony Hill Road in Bethel.
40:19 S3: Yeah. Yup.
40:19 S1: They have a studio there. Come down and learn more about Ben’s Bells. And for all of our listeners, if you wanna learn more about the Mack Talks, how to listen, watch, subscribe, go to our website, www.themacktalks.com. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, leave us a review on iTunes. We’re on Instagram @macktalks. And that’s it.
40:41 S2: All right.
40:41 S1: That’s it.
40:41 S2: Thank you so much, Jeannette.
40:42 S1: Thanks.
40:42 S3: Have a great day.
40:42 S2: Have a safe trip back.
40:43 S3: I will. Thank you.
40:44 S2: All right. Bye-bye.
40:44 S1: Awesome. Awesome.