Avocado

I absolutely love avocado! Along with being delightfully delicious, it is a versatile fruit. Not to mention that it’s outstandingly healthy—one of the best sources of natural oils and many vitamins.

In Chile, where I spent many of my growing-up years, avocados—called “palta” there—are abundant and are included in many local dishes, including a variety of salads, sandwiches, and even hot dogs. It always impressed me how adding a few slices of avocado to a salad, or a layer of guacamole to a burger or sandwich, could totally transform it—essentially turning “normal food” into something glorious. That’s how I feel about it anyway. Avocado is one of the staples of my diet, and I find that it pairs well with almost everything. It’s even great on its own as a snack or small meal—slice in half, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and perfection.

I think that the accomplishment of the avocado, as it were, insofar as its transforming power, is in a way representative of what active kindness and compassion add to our lives. There are a lot of things that we do in the course of our work or caring for our family or just being concerned citizens, that are good things, nice things, caring things, necessary things, but also things that become somewhat the “default.”

You know how when you see a sign all the time, it starts to feel like wallpaper and you don’t really see it anymore? Sometimes, the things we do for those around us become like that. We aren’t particularly mindful when we do them, and the recipients aren’t particularly grateful for what we do. Or, sometimes it’s the things others do for us that fail to be properly noticed and acknowledged. Either way, when we go the extra mile and add a little “avocado” in the form of, say, a few words of welcome or appreciation, it makes a big difference.

Recently, I traveled home by bus after a few days’ visit in a nearby city. I’m an experienced traveler, and handle long trips pretty well, but naturally I always prefer when I end up with a free seat next to me rather than another person. I had settled into my seat, and the bus seemed nearly full, but nobody was beside me yet … but, sure enough, a young man soon approached and asked if he could sit beside me. I said “Yes, please do,” and he smiled and replied, “Never in my life has someone replied with a ‘please do.’ That’s refreshing.” I try to make a point to be kind to strangers—strangers have been kind to me many a time—and it made me happy to have made a memory like that for someone.

He settled in to the seat, we started chatting, and had a pleasant conversation for a while before we both sank back into our devices and earbuds to relax. There was a “warm and fuzzy” feeling in the air—so much better than that prickly feeling when you and your fellow passengers inevitably bump elbows on the tiny seat rest between the tiny seats. We didn’t have any of that. The journey was smooth and creamy, like avocado.

You’ve probably heard of the “Pareto Principle.” Also known as the 80/20 principle. The concept is that about 80% of one’s effectiveness is derived from about 20% of one’s efforts. I was thinking about that in relation to guess what—avocados. I feel, and this is purely personal opinion, that while they’re usually about 20% or less of the content of a meal, they are easily worth 80% of the delicious. Bringing the thread back around to mindful and active kindness, I think it’s fair to say that when doing a “routine” helpful deed, if you add a few words and a personal touch, then that 20% of the effort is easily going to end up as 80% of what the other person remembers about the exchange.

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In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noted that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the people, then that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of his pea plants. The Pareto Principle—that in general 80% of consequences stem from 20% of causes—has been observed and studied in sales and marketing, management, technology, economics, and other fields.

“We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.”—Paul Bloom (b. 1963), professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University