We live in an interconnected world where everything we do affects other things. This is encouraging because it means that when you are kind, you are usually affecting more than the person right in front of you.
I have used the analogy on many occasions that an act of kindness is like a pebble dropped in a pond. Just as the pebble lifts lily pads at the other side of the pond, so an act of kindness lifts the person you help but also many of those connected to that person. As their own spirits are lifted, their behavior towards others is kinder too.
I went to my local co-op this morning to buy some coffee. Knowing that today (November 13th) is World Kindness Day I was on extra alert for opportunities to be kind. I didn’t pass a single person on the way so the only thing left to do was to smile and be extra pleasant to the shop assistant.
It left her with a smile on her face, which she used to greet the very next customer. I smiled to myself as I saw how my tiny little kindness had created a little ripple.
We don’t need to do big things to make a difference. Most of us today won’t be able to change a person’s life. But a smile and some pleasantness is always a good thing. Know that it does make a difference, even if you don’t see it.
In addition to that, take some time to think of some of the ways you could be kind today. Who are the people in your life, from your home to your work, to the other people you interact with? Is there any way that you can help any of them today?
Here’s some of my favourite kindness quotes:
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” HH the Dalai Lama
“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” Mother Theresa
“Go out and serve others and see your depression lift.” Patch Adams
“The dew of compassion is a tear.” Lord Byron
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
Wired for Kindness
Kindness is natural to us. Being kind to each other is part of who we are, both on a spiritual level and also on a genetic level. ‘Survival of the fittest’ has been misinterpreted for years as the fastest, strongest and most courageous. But the fittest is actually he or she who is better able to help others and to cooperate for the greater good. And we see the effects of this wiring today: Kindness is good for our health.
It boosts the immune system; it impacts the brain in multiple ways, leading to positive feelings and closeness to others; it impacts the cardiovascular system, protecting us from the seeds of heart disease; and it even relaxes the nervous system. These positive ‘side-effects’ exist because kindness is wired in us. It gave our ancient ancestors a healthy edge and was thus selected by nature. Like an angel unfolding its wings, it’s ancient spirit is now spread throughout the 80 trillion cells in our bodies. There is no part of us that does not know who and what we really are.
So to be kind or not to be kind? That is the question! You can make a difference today!
If you want to read up on zillions of pieces of research on kindness, from how it impacts the brain, the immune system, and the heart, to how it makes everyone happier and spreads like a wave, and much, much more, plus over 250 scientific references, I’d recommend, ‘Why Kindness is Good for You’.
Yes, it’s my own book, but I feel that it is one of the best resources out there that collects all the evidence together into a single package.
You can check it our here: Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Amazon US, Kindle US
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~Dalai Lama
I had an old trench coat that was balled up on the floor of my garage, gathering dust near the washing machine. It was raining. It was unusually cold (for California, anyway).
I was driving home when I saw a man in a short sleeved shirt wandering through our neighborhood, pushing a shopping cart. He was walking painfully slow. He was dripping wet.
I paused at the intersection to my street and watched him for several minutes, thinking. My heart was heavy seeing him move so slowly, so wet, so cold. I suddenly remembered the crumpled-up coat. But what if I needed it sometime in the future? A story I had once heard at a church conference came to mind.
An Inspiring Story of Kindness
Two boys walked down a road that led through a field. The younger of the two noticed a man toiling in the fields of his farm, his good clothes stacked neatly off to the side.
The boy looked at his older friend and said, “Let’s hide his shoes so when he comes from the field, he won’t be able to find them. His expression will be priceless!” The boy laughed.
The older of the two boys thought for a moment and said, “The man looks poor. See his clothes? Let’s do this instead: Let’s hide a silver dollar in each shoe and then we’ll hide in these bushes and see how he reacts to that, instead.”
The younger companion agreed to the plan and they placed a silver dollar in each shoe and hid behind the bushes. It wasn’t long before the farmer came in from the field, tired and worn. He reached down and pulled on a shoe, immediately feeling the money under his foot.
With the coin now between his fingers, he looked around to see who could have put it in his shoe. But no one was there. He held the dollar in his hand and stared at it in disbelief. Confused, he slid his other foot into his other shoe and felt the second coin. This time, the man was overwhelmed when he removed the second silver dollar from his shoe.
Thinking he was alone, he dropped to his knees and offered a verbal prayer that the boys could easily hear from their hiding place. They heard the poor farmer cry tears of relief and gratitude. He spoke of his sick wife and his boys in need of food. He expressed gratitude for this unexpected bounty from unknown hands.
After a time, the boys came out from their hiding place and slowly started their long walk home. They felt good inside, warm, changed somehow knowing the good they had done to a poor farmer in dire straits. A smile crept across their souls.
Inspired by the Story
I drove home, took my coat from the garage, and went looking for the old man in the rain. I spotted him. He hadn’t gone far. The rain had let up some. I pulled up alongside him and asked him to come over.
He hesitated, then walked closer. I asked if he had a place to stay. He said he did and was close. I offered him my jacket. He looked stunned, like I was violating some accepted code of conduct. I urged him to take it. He slowly reached out and took my old coat. He smiled.
So did I.
We all have poor farmers toiling in the fields of their trials and difficulties along the roads of our lives. Their challenges might not be known to us. But their countenances often tell a story of pain. We have opportunities to hide shoes or hide silver dollars in them.
This day, this time, I removed a “silver dollar” from the floor of my garage and slipped it in an old man’s shoe. A life was blessed for having done it. And I think the old man’s life may have been blessed by it as well.
When I hear of stories of kindness being done to others, I’m inspired to do the same. I think most of us are like that. We need each other’s inspiration as we travel life’s highways, trying to figure it all out.
So please share your experiences with us. We need them. They help make us better people.
What acts of kindness have you performed?
What kindnesses by others have blessed your life?
Please share your thoughts.
Photo by eflon
About Ken Wert
Ken Wert is a teacher and personal development blogger at Meant to be Happy where he inspires readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage. Sign up for his free eBook, A Walk Through Happiness and newsletter! Connect with him on Twitter.