I often sit and ponder about what I could be doing to make the world a better place. Sometimes I think that I need to do a grand gesture to make a difference. I forget how something as simple as acknowledging someone when I walk past them is a kindness and that adds positivity to the world. Deepak Chopra has a fantastic guided meditation, “Free to Love,” that goes into detail about how one smile, one act of kindness has a ripple effect throughout the world, because we are all connected. This was pretty powerful for me to hear and inspired me to continue to give to every person I encounter, even if it is a simple smile.
This lead me to think about all those small acts that usually go unnoticed by the person doing them, and yet we often times have no idea how much it impacts someone’s life. I remember a friend asked me once, “What are the three nicest things anyone has done for you?” I had to really think about this, because I have received so many kindnesses in my life. I think my answer to these questions may change as I age if I can only pick three. However, I wanted to share with you a couple that stand out to me today.
- It was after a girl’s basketball game that our team had lost and we were driving back to our hometown. I was a cheerleader, and the cheerleaders rode in the bus with the basketball players. I lived with my dad and he had a limited income and I did not have the privilege of getting to have the most fashionable clothing. I wore what I had and dressed as nice as my closet allowed. I remember the girls from the basketball team making fun of my dress outfit for the away game. It hurt, because I thought some of these girls were my friends. As I sat hidden in my seat up front and behind the coaches, tears ran down my face. One of those coaches noticed and eventually got me to tell her a bit of what was bothering me., that I didn’t have the money to buy nicer clothes to wear to the away games. I thought that was the end of it. Then a week later, the coach approached me with a gift certificate for a clothing store downtown. She had said that her and the other coaches got together and wanted to buy me a couple of outfits that I could wear to the out of town games. I was so shocked and felt a bit embarrassed. She insisted and said they were happy to do it. It was one of those moments when I felt a sigh of relief because I knew people cared and love is strong and kindness is real.
- I was extremely excited to start my life as a college student. I was going to go to a University that was 393 miles from my hometown. The problem… I had no way to get there. My parents weren’t able to take me or didn’t want to, either way, I wasn’t getting a ride from them. And Montana doesn’t provide a lot of options for public transportation. I finally had the courage to ask the mom of a friend and she happily said yes. Her and a friend made it a road trip and took me to start the next chapter of my life. I remember some of the priceless advice they gave me. One of the biggest tips was to do what I want in life regardless of what others think I should do so that I do not feel resentful in life. I wanted to prevent resentment because it was a poison. They helped me set up my dorm room and gave me so much love and comfort for this next stage in my life.
- When I was pregnant with my son, we had two vehicles that were not doing so great. We were living in Arizona and it was the heat of summer. I opted to take the truck that had no air conditioner for my hour commute to the job that I was working as a Marriage and Family Therapist for $17 a therapy session. The other car was leaking fluid into the cabin. That didn’t seem very safe for the little baby growing inside me. My husband and I were doing all we could to save up to trade in one of our vehicles for a new one. A close friend of ours sold us a vehicle for a fantastic deal and every time I am in that car with my son, I am reminded of how blessed I am because of the kindness of others. Because of that kindness, I was able to sell the leaky car to a friend that needed it for a fantastic deal as well (she knew about all the problems that came with) and that car lead her to meeting her future wife.
- I have to share this last one because it changed the way I saw myself. In 7th grade gym class, we were playing basketball and I took and elbow to my front teeth. It killed them. Super sad face. From that moment until the summer before my freshman year of college, I had two grey front teeth. As you would expect, this influenced my smile… and how often I would hide it behind my hands, especially if I laughed too hard. I also needed braces on my bottom teeth. I had stubborn baby teeth that didn’t want to come out so my adult teeth grew around them. My freshman year of high school my mom took me to the dentist to finally get those baby teeth removed. Anyway.. .as you can imagine, I had a gab in my teeth and it sucked. Guys that I had crushes on wouldn’t go out with me because of my teeth. This was heart breaking. I remember when I did have a boyfriend in high school, I was so surprised because he was able to look past my injured teeth and see me. That felt amazing. There were moments when I felt beautiful regardless of my teeth. Eventually, I am dating a guy who was living with his aunt and we developed a friendship. For high school graduation, she fixed my teeth for me!!! Can you believe that!!! She actually scheduled me a dentist appointment, had them put veneers on my top teeth so that they would be white and then I got braces for my bottom teeth. This was a life changer for me. I don’t think I stopped smiling for a year after I was done with the dentist. I was unstoppable and on top of the world.
None of these people expected anything back from me. They just gave because it was a need or want that they could help me meet. They gave because they love, because they care, because they believe in giving. It is in giving, we receive. When I receive a kindness it reminds to make sure that I am paying it forward. I may not be able to do a kindness at the same level that was given to me, however I still do something.
Often I will think of the kindnesses that others have done for me and I will write them a gratitude letter. This is more than a thank you card. It is letting them know how much their kindness meant to me. I also include how their kindness and them as an individual impacted my life. What are some of the kindest things someone has done for you? Maybe there is a gratitude letter you could write.
Let’s make a commitment to show kindness every chance we get. Who’s with me?