by Theresa Conti
What if kindness and service were synonymous?
I grew up thinking service was related to work; to being on call; giving up my autonomy; helping others at the expense of myself. Such a distorted worldview! But what if service and acts of kindness (random or otherwise) actually energized and nurtured us?
It’s up to us to define it. To open to ways of being and giving that lift us, while being in service to others.
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
Some years ago, while running an errand, I saw an elderly woman crossing the street with two bags of groceries. She was walking slowly and looked like she was struggling. Without much thought (accept to recognize her potential need), I went into the street to greet her, and asked, in my imperfect Italian, if I could help her. She agreed! I carried her groceries for several blocks, until we reached her home. She was most grateful (and gracious) and offered to pay me. Of course, I refused.
The experience lifted me, as I felt a sense of fulfillment and gratitude.
So often, it’s easy to let experiences, such as this, slip by. Perhaps we’re in a hurry, have something on our mind, or are in a crappy mood and just don’t feel like giving. But maybe, that’s just the time to do it! To step outside the confines of our own life and greet others with an open heart and mind.
Acts of kindness are good for us and others, but that’s not why we do it.
Think of a time you were kind to someone or when someone was unexpectedly kind to you. How did you feel? What was your experience? What value did it add to your life or the lives of those involved?
According to the Mayo Clinic, kindness…
- Increases self-esteem, empathy and compassion
- Improves mood
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces cortisol (a stress hormone)
- Increases our sense of connection
- Can keep us healthy, and
- Increases our life span
Not bad for simple acts of service.
Kindness can be contagious! I love the practice of paying it forward. If you haven’t seen the movie by the same title, (Paying it Forward), it’s bittersweet and inspiring.
There are myriad ways to be of service and express kindness- like the paying it forward example of buying a stranger coffee! But we can also extend kindness by planning something in advance – like making a date to read to someone whose eyesight is failing; or offering to go grocery shopping for someone who can no longer get out and about; or listening to a friend who’s hurting. These small acts of service grow our sense of connection and help us share in our common humanity.
What can you do to express kindness this week? It can be something planned, or staying open to spontaneous opportunities- like helping the elderly woman I mentioned at the beginning of today’s post.