I read a moving letter in an advice column from a lonely widower who had been the surprised beneficiary of a generous act of kindness from two strangers. His tale lodged a lump of emotion in my throat and filled my eyes with tears.
His wife of 40 years had died suddenly, unexpectedly. When he was finally able to venture out for dinner at a favorite restaurant to ease some of his grief and loneliness, the couple at the table next to his had struck up a conversation with him, providing welcome companionship. He was moved to tears when he learned that they had paid for his meal on their way out of the establishment.
How lovely! It warmed my heart.
And, not surprisingly, it made me want to go out and be kind! That’s some of the magic of kindness. When we human types witness others’ displays of compassion, generosity, heart, we are more likely to follow suit.
I remind myself of this when I am not feeling as expansive as I might like. The knowledge that my positivity will not only affect the direct recipient of my gestures, but also the people around us, galvanizes me to get my kindness game face on :).
Unfortunately, as we know, the reverse is also true. Take yesterday, when I was picking up a cup of tea in between errands. I walked into the lovely tea shop with its extensive array of teas and imbibed the calming ambience and aromatic scents of the free tea samples brewing on the table. The young woman assisting me had given me a warm welcome and we chatted and joked as I made my selection under her guidance.
As I was waiting at the counter, another woman came in and ranted about not receiving some rewards points. The staffer gently and patiently reassured the complaining woman, who finally realized she had been mistaken, that there was no problem. Yet, she continued to harumph.
She and her harangue had palpably poisoned the vibe of the small shop. The employee, who had also been preparing my drink, was discombobulated, as was her colleague. Other customers stepped away from the negative one, and returned my smile nervously.
When my tea was finally ready, I tossed my Santa Hat back on, walked up to the counter and volubly thanked the young employee for her generous advice and wished her a lovely holiday. I turned and nodded at Ms. Negativo, who did a doubletake when she saw my hat and actually managed to mutter something about the holidays. The salesperson threw me a grateful look.
It reminds me of the wise words of neuroscientist Dr. James Doty:
“…What we forget sometimes is, even smiling at another person, which takes very little effort — for that person who receives that, it can mean an immense amount. And not to forget that these small, little actions, these little ripples, can actually end up creating a tsunami if each of us engage in them. Remember — and we know this from the science — when a person sees another person engage in a positive behavior, they’re many, many times more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. When they see another person act with kindness and with generosity and with gratitude…”
May abundant kindness be yours.
Media credit: 2nd from top–@scriptfancy