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Twelve or 13 as the genocide accelerated, Roman Lubetzky would have been described by the other Jews in the camps as a “Muselmann,” his body so depleted of nutrients that his bones jumbled angularly, the spine jutting through thin rags like a Muslim (or Muselmann) at prayer. A wraith against a fence, Roman was near death when a German soldier walked by. Glancing about, the soldier tossed half a rotten potato at the boy’s feet. A small gesture, but hardly an empty one. The soldier could have been shot for the act. Roman credited the morsel and the kindness behind it with saving his life. “My mother thought I was too young to hear such things,” says Daniel, “but it was important to my father to pass along how dark humanity can be, and how, in the midst of that darkness you can bring light.”
In his career, Daniel has worked to improve relations between Arabs and Israelis by sourcing Turkish sun-dried tomatoes and packaging them in Israeli jars for his company PeaceWorks. He is also the founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks. You may have tried their wholesome bars packed with nuts and berries. KIND, which the company claims has helped to inspire more than one million “kind acts,” is a working example of social entrepreneurship. But, more than that, it serves as testament to Roman Lubetzky’s view that we have an existential duty to be kind to one another.
Out Living It interviewed Lubetzky upon publication of his first book, Do The Kind Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately.
Every day I think of the story of my father and the German soldier and I try to find parallels. I’m fortunate there’s nothing in my world directly involved with genocide. But on a different scale I do see many of my dad’s lessons in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Kindness is contagious. If you are kind to a total stranger, the more you go out of your way to help that person, the more you feel good about yourself and the better they feel about you. Standing up to bullying, helping someone with a baby stroller up the stairs. Kindness in that sense is a net aggregator.
Hatred is the same in a negative sense.
Ever since I was a little kid, I felt that improving relations between Arabs and Israelis was important. I wrote my college thesis on the subject of how business could do that. The idea was to pass incentives with American companies acting as intermediaries between Israeli and Arab suppliers. Everybody thought, who is this confused Mexican Jewish lawyer?
I was too busy to fail. The first product had the wrong wrappers. Oil was oozing out of the jars. The pricing was all wrong. Storeowners refused to buy it, but I wouldn’t leave until they told me what I was doing wrong.
It was 10 or 11 years of failures and challenges. But at the time I didn’t think I was struggling. An objective person would have sent me to an asylum.
The PeaceWorks mission was about working together, but I remember one racist throwing out pejoratives. A grumpy man in New York City in a small grocery. I left his store feeling angry. He was treating a race without dignity. But that only gave me more conviction to continue.
With KIND I was looking for a product that would make me happy. There are sports products on the market designed if you’re running 42 miles. But for daily life you need low glycemic, recognizable food. Do the kind thing for you body, your taste buds, and the world. Avoid diabetes and obesity. No genetically modified organisms. Slower digestion to keep you fuller longer. It wasn’t a genius insight. It just worked.
When I started PeaceWorks and KIND, social entrepreneurship didn’t exist. Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s was one of my mentors. The idea is to use market forces to address business, but also change society. Inspire a little bit of kindness.
Kind is a powerful word. I don’t try to live up to being The Kind Guy. I strive, but I’m as imperfect as anybody. Still, the name of the company makes me want to aspire to something.