Our world needs more kindness. It is a sad state of affairs when a simple act of kindness is so rare that it jumps out at us.
That happened to me today when delivering a few groceries to my mother-in-law. Her apartment is on the 9th floor of her building. When I got in the elevator behind an older man and woman, each of them using walkers, the man asked us what floors we wanted. The lady said she needed the 8th floor and I said the 9th and we were on our way. I assumed the man was also heading for the 8th or 9th floor because he didn’t push another button.
When we got to the 8th floor, the lady exited, but the man remained. When we got to the 9th floor, I paused to allow the man to get off first, but he went for the elevator buttons again, this time saying that he was going back down to the 5th floor. I thanked him and exited. While walking away, I just shook my head in disbelief that the man apparently intentionally passed up his own floor just to operate the buttons for us and to get us to our floors first. What a simple, selfless act of kindness from a man using a walker who was very much my senior!
Think about your typical day. How many acts of kindness do you witness in others? How many do you initiate? Do you hold doors open for others, or do you let them close as someone else approaches, pretending you didn’t notice them coming? Do you let cars in front of you or do you inch closer to that bumper ahead to keep another from sliding in? How do you respond when people on the street ask for assistance? Do you throw a few coins their way, ignore them, stop to find out their story or take them to a nearby restaurant for a meal? How many see a family member – much less a stranger – in need and stop what they’re doing to help? How many of us put aside our own agendas and task lists long enough to assist a coworker who is stressing out over a deadline or long list of things to get done? How many times a day do you offer words of kindness that can encourage and lift up another soul?
Acts of kindness don’t have to be very time-consuming, although they may be. They don’t have to cost any money, although they might. They certainly don’t have to be planned in advance or broadcast afterward. But they do need to be. They need to happen, and it seems like that is only going to be the case if we are, indeed, kind people.
Kindness is not just an act; it is a character trait. It is a quality that one chooses to value so much that it is a seemingly instinctive response to the world around us. It may be demonstrated by those raised in environments where kindness was the norm, but it may also be a chosen response of those who experienced anything but kindness in their past – a determined response to break a chain of unhealthy behavior and replace it with something good. Yes, kindness is a choice, but repeated often enough, it can and should become a way of life that hardly requires conscious choices any more. It just becomes natural.
One simple example: I love stories of people in restaurant drive-through windows paying for the order of the people behind them as a random act of kindness. Doing so tends to cause the beneficiaries to pass it on to the people behind them.
Kindness is included in that great list of spiritual gifts in Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Kindness is an indicator that we are no longer living just for ourselves, but that our hearts have been transformed by our Maker to be more like Him.
Yesterday I started following Jeremy Scrivens on Twitter. In his profile, he states: “Many people are unhappy at work. This matters; so I devote my life to help leaders create Cultures of Kindness & social collaboration at work.” Just a few of his tweets from the past day include:
Acts of kindness can be so very simple, yet the impact can be great. The impact may change immediate circumstances for the better of the beneficiary, but it may impact attitudes and future behavior which extends the life of the original act through ripples not tracked or even known by the original persons involved. Also, the impact isn’t just on the recipients of kindness, but on the ones who extend the kindness to others. Our motive for kindness should not be that we might feel good, yet there is something very satisfying in the soul about being kind. We know in our hearts that it’s the right thing to do.
Today and each day this week, I encourage you to try to be more mindful about being kind to others in word and in deed. Both can make a very big difference in someone else’s day and in their life. And it may just make a big difference in yours as well.