There used to be a bumper sticker that reminded people that Random Acts of Kindness were a good thing. Sad that we have to be reminded to be thoughtful and considerate, but I guess we do. The reason for this blog is to revisit that thought and remind everyone that Random Acts of Kindness are more than gestures unto themselves; they are also ways to show your heart to another person; the first steps to showing love.
I’m adopted – so throughout my adult life, I’ve paid attention to topics or comments related to the psychology surrounding that subject. I’ve heard adopted parents say that they love their child every bit as much as a biological mother does and I believe that from experience on the receiving end. It is the ongoing act of caring for another person that develops that love and deepens the connection over time. There is a responsibility involved in having a little person entrusted into your care, making sure that little one has enough of the right things to eat, ensuring their comfort and warmth, helping them relieve a potential tummy ache with a little pat on the back and that eventual burp. All those sweet, gentle acts of kindness nurture the seeds of love. Kissing a boo-boo; wiping a few tears or the extra hugs and cuddling time help create the kind of security little ones require.
So, it is perfectly logical that if our responsibility in this life is to develop our capacity for truly loving our fellow man, we might begin with worrying more about their individual welfare. There are sincere expressions of concern and there are the just the “doing duty” ones. Sending off a check is third-hand affection. Making a perfunctory phone call is just execution, since it’s the content of the call that defines the sincerity. A mandatory lunch or dinner is a second-hand deal but only if you pick up the check. Yet if you offer some much-needed help or advice, that’s caring. If you then follow-up to see how they’re doing, that’s showing your heart. Finally, if you care enough to listen with an open heart and compassion, that’s love.
For the most part, we all know when an act is sincere and when it’s not – whether it’s something we do for others or visa-versa. When any act is a complete surprise, is when it’s the most meaningful. I have a friend, Rita, who is actually more of a casual friend, but over the years she has trained herself to check-in with others, give them love, always see the best in them –reminding them of their talents/gifts and always providing support. People feel her warmth and caring. In fact, she built a gigantic network marketing company by using this gift, along with her southern charm. Actually, when she’s in gear, Rita is simply irresistible. She called the other day just to see how I was and signed off with her standard, “I love you.” I’ve known her for 50-years and although we’ve never been close friends, she’s someone I care deeply about. She said she tries to call 3 people each day to let them know how important they are in her life. Short chats but very memorable and meaningful ones. Rita is doing God’s work - whether she’s aware of it or not.
Another meaningful experience happened a few weeks ago at the grocery store; I’m sure this has happened to you, too. I jumped into line to check-out my limited items – actually only 2 things from produce, which I held in my hands. There was a middle-age woman just paying her bill as well as an older woman just ahead of me with a half-full cart, which she had just begun to load onto the conveyer belt. I was the third person in line but not for long.
“Go ahead of me. You just have a couple things.” That sweet older woman said to me. She was totally sincere as she motioned for me to step-up while she pulled her few items back a bit on the conveyer belt. I could have hugged her because I was in sort of a hurry. I thanked her several times while I checked out and she was very much aware of how much I appreciated her very random and very kind gesture.
The wonderful thing about such acts, when we extend them, is that they surprise and delight the person receiving them, always. I also believe they restore one’s belief in the humanity and goodness of others. Conversely, the person offering the kindness – is allowed to express love they might have just held inside, sometimes with no one else to give it to. If you ever experience a dry period when there doesn’t seem to be anyone to love, try bestowing some on a stranger. Doing nice things for others bring us joy and helps us practice opening our hearts to others.
Writing this blog has reminded me that I don’t do thoughtful things for other people quite often enough. I have neighbors next door who are living angels and they always humble me with their thoughtfulness – but I somehow feel inadequate in that arena. I love everyone I meet, live life with an open heart but not every person is capable of receiving the feeling of love that flows to them. Some are blocked to receiving that – so for those folks, a demonstration of love is much more effective. That’s why a random act of kindness would go a long way to open such folks up to the goodness of others. They might not be able to feel it but they can certainly see it.
I’ll have to remember to let someone else enter the building ahead of me next time, or hold the door open, reach the tall item on the shelf the short person next to me is having difficulty with or bend over and pay a little more attention to the homely little baby. We all know that beautiful little children always attract attention – but the unattractive ones generally are ignored. Not with me, they aren’t. I always fuss over the scraggly looking little thing with the dirty face and perhaps the one who is fussing a bit. You’d be surprised how a baby or small child responds to being wide eyed with a big smile, and sending a ton of loving energy flowing their way – especially from a complete stranger.
No question, tomorrow I’ll begin to turn over a new leaf and to show my heart to others in a way they can see – instead of just feel. These won’t be forced efforts but when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll deliver. It makes me smile just thinking of bringing a physical demonstration of something to create joy in another person’s life – even for a fleeting moment.
Sending a sweet note to a friend you haven’t seen in a while or simply telling someone how grateful you are to have them in your life are perfect examples. Neither of these things – or any of the ones I mentioned earlier - take any time and none of them take much effort – yet people seem stunned when they are the recipients.
It was the woman in the grocery store a couple weeks ago who inspired this blog and she inspired me, too. See the residual effect one little act of kindness can have?