Originally published on positiveimpactmagazine.com on February 11, 2011
By: Linda Burhans
Kindness is a simple response to sometimes difficult and challenging situations in our world. I know that to be true. For a long time now, it has been my mission to acknowledge and appreciate all people and to encourage others to do the same.
When my 7-year-old granddaughter Skylar and I go out, we have a contest called “Who Can Make the Most People Smile.” This contest makes for a wonderful, glorious day. We are walking in the supermarket and someone is walking down the aisle with her head down. Skylar walks up to this woman and gives her a big smile. I watch the woman continue to walk down the aisle, but she turns around, and smiles at Skylar again or will smile at someone else. Kindness is that chain that links us all. Anything that lifts up another person is kindness. And every single act of kindness has a ripple effect.
In 2002, my dad had a series of strokes and suffered with other illness. At that time, I was the facilitator for a large women’s networking organization. One day, I asked the ladies if, on a personal level, they could send their positive energies my dad’s way and maybe go out and do something nice for someone – someone who normally would not be on their charts for an “act of kindness.” My dad had been doing nice things for all sorts of people for years, from the street crossing guard, to the waitress in a restaurant, to a friend’s mother. That same day, I made cookies for the janitor at the post office. When I gave him the cookies, he actually looked a little embarrassed.
“Because I appreciate you!” I answered. “When I get here at 6AM and it is still dark out and a little scary, I know you are inside and I feel safe. And when I first moved here and my post office box was always empty because no one knew me, you always cheered me on. And you keep this place spotless.”
That evening, his wife called me and said that he was overwhelmed. “No one even knows his name, never mind bakes him cookies! What can I do for you in return?” she asked.
“Nothing, just go out and do something nice for someone else,” I answered.
Well, that woman and many other women started practicing acts of kindness on a regular basis. It was wonderful to witness. After that day, I started becoming more and more aware of the kindness that goes around in this wonderful world of ours.
In fact, a few weeks later, I was in a drugstore looking at some items, when I noticed three people standing in line at the prescription counter. The last person was a young woman with a crying baby. It was obvious that the baby was sick. When the woman got to the head of the line, the pharmacist said he was sorry but he did not have the medication she needed; they could get it in about two hours. One tear trickled down the young woman’s cheek. Suddenly, an older gentleman who was sitting on the side, came over and asked if he could be of assistance. The young woman looked up at him bewildered. The man said that he didn’t have much to do and that he had to wait for his prescription, so if she wanted, he could deliver the prescription to her home.
“But I don’t even know you,” she said.
“I won’t come into your house,” he replied. “I’ll just leave it by the door and ring the bell. “
“But why?” she asked.
The man looked at her with kind eyes and said, “I live on a really limited income and my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren all live up north, and I rarely get to see them. So, this would be a privilege for me. “
With that, people in the store started encouraging the young woman to go ahead with this man’s offer. She mumbled a consent, wrote her address on a piece of paper, and gave it to him. The baby stopped crying and the young woman left the store. By that time, needless to say, I was crying. I walked over to the gentleman, introduced myself, and told him how wonderful it was that he was so kind. Michael was 82 years old. We became friends and had breakfast and lunch a few times. About three months later, he phoned me to tell me that the young woman had told all of her friends about what he had done by delivering the prescription. They knew they just had to do something very special for him, so they all chipped in and sent him airfare to visit his family. Another wonderful act of kindness. This was to be the last time Michael would see his family; he died shortly thereafter.
When I am having a tough day, I recall this act of unsolicited kindness and it always brings me waves of gratitude. We are surrounded by kindness every day. Unfortunately, we get so wrapped in life that we forget to stop and smell the roses, as they say. Little acts of kindness and love are the best parts of one’s life.
As the Dalai Lama said, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us develop inner happiness and peace.”
So, got out today and experience the kindness around you. Bathe in it and be kind to others. You may discover that being kind to others is actually being kind to yourself.