It has been 10 years but I have never forgotten the short and simple story my mom told me after she attended the first birthday party of her friend’s child.

It was a children’s party at a typical party venue, where the children played games, danced, sang, and ate sweet spaghetti and chicken. And as how most children’s birthday parties go, after the birthday song was sung and before the birthday celebrator blew the candle on her cake, the host asked the parents their wishes for their child.

My mom continued the story by saying: Most parents wish for their children to be healthy, enjoy their childhood, reach their dreams, or succeed in life. All of which are valid, reasonable, and good wishes—things that most parents would want for their children. These are the wishes that I expect to hear at most children’s birthday parties; but on that day, amidst the balloons, the sprinkles, and the big birthday cake frosted with a lot of icing, the parents answered with a short wish: “We wish that our child would grow up to be kind.”

My mom thought that it was a simple, meaningful, and beautiful wish—a sentiment that I had as well. And that is when I realized, why is it that the common wishes we make and the common goals we set for children are always about health, wealth, happiness, or success? Rarely do we hear wishes for a child to be kind, to be caring, or to be someone who puts utmost importance into helping other people.

And as children grow up, their mindsets are continuously shaped to prioritize and care for their own well-being. Study hard and listen to your teachers so you will get good grades and eventually have a good career. Pursue your talents and learn how to dance, sing, or play instruments, so you will be a well-rounded person. Play sports so you will be strong and healthy. Make friends and play so you will be happy.

But imagine the difference it will make if we teach children to also prioritize being kind. Imagine if, at an early age, children are taught to value kindness the same way they are taught to care about their intelligence, their health, their happiness, and their wealth.

As I myself have transitioned from childhood to adolescence and to adulthood, one of my most beautiful learnings that stayed true and constant through all the years is that: there is magic in kindness. When you share kindness, you don’t necessarily lose it, and it can grow and multiply further in the hearts of the people you pass it on to. They are also inspired to pass it on to others, and the cycle continues.

Imagine the difference it will make if all children grow up to be kind. What kind of country and world could we be living in right now if all of us put utmost importance into being kind? Maybe we’ll never know the answer; but on the other hand, maybe we will—if we start by telling our children to be kind.

I am thankful that my mom has shared the story with me, as it has helped me ground myself, adjust my focus, and understand what is truly important to me. I try to pass it on to others when I get the chance, because they may get something out of it, too. And whenever I myself attend children’s birthday parties or christenings and am asked to give a message, I make sure to end with the best wish:

“Whatever you want to be in the future, we will love and support you. Your dreams are yours to find.

But I hope you will remember that, wherever life takes you, the important thing is to be kind.”

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