I experienced an act of kindness many decades ago. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember it. I had moved from Massachusetts, where I grew up, to begin a new job in upstate New York. My boyfriend at the time had broken up with me and I felt incredibly raw, vulnerable and depressed as I unpacked to move into the small apartment I had rented. The bleak looking frozen meal I had purchased for my dinner only added to my sense of loneliness. As I began to eat, I was startled to hear a knock on the door because I didn't know anyone in my new location. When I opened the door a woman handed me a plate of freshly made cookies along with a piece of paper. She rapidly walked away simply saying "Call me!" I looked down at her scribbled note. Along with a phone number, it said "I know it's scary to move into a new place. If you'd like to grab a cup of coffee or lunch sometime, call me. — Kate."
That one small gesture made my despair transform into hope. It made me feel that perhaps I had made the right decision and that things would work out. I called her the next day, thanked her profusely and enjoyed her friendship for many years to come. We still keep in touch.
I often feel overwhelmed when I read or hear about the violence, fear and adversity in the world today. So many of us are struggling. We're scared. We feel anxiety about what's happening in the world or in our own little corner of the world specifically. I want to retreat and shut the door and hide behind the idea that there's nothing I can do. However, I've come to realize that that's a flawed belief for both myself AND you. I believe the world needs more people like Kate.
What can you do? What can you give? How can you be the one to change things? It doesn't have to be big. In fact it can be a seemingly small thing like Kate's note. To begin, try kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, gentleness and love. There's a wonderful song by singer/songwriter Jana Stanfield entitled "All the Good." The opening lyrics are "I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do."
I believe that love, compassion and kindness are a kind of GPS from your soul. It's part of your inner guidance system. I'd like to suggest to you a new technique. Begin to make it a daily practice to ask yourself "What could I do to bring more love (kindness, calm, understanding) to the world today?"
Need some ideas to get you started? Try any one of these:
- Send a card to someone who could use some cheering up.
- Make an extra portion of your next meal and bring it to a neighbor or friend.
- Smile at strangers on the street.
- Volunteer to drive someone to their doctors appointment.
- Teach someone how to read.
- Offer babysitting services to someone who could use a break.
- Offer a small gift (candle, book, card, inspirational quote) to a stranger.
- Donate to Random Acts. They support random acts of kindness the world over.
- Thank a police officer, firefighter, your child's teacher or anyone else you can think of!
- Give someone a hug.
- Share your favorite skill or talent with someone.
- Bring someone flowers (and buy some for yourself, too!)
- Shovel a driveway, rake leaves, do some gardening.
- Spend time really listening the next time you're in a conversation.
- Pray for someone. Pray for more love and kindness in the world.
- Get to know someone from a different religion or ethnicity.
- Buy some grocery store gift cards to give to the homeless.
- Visit someone in the hospital or nursing home.
- Volunteer at a non-profit that is aligned with your interests and skills.
- Buy some toys for a family who doesn't have any at the holidays.
- Offer to pick up groceries for an elderly or ill neighbor.
- Leave an extra tip for a favorite waiter or waitress.
- Make some homemade gifts (cookies, scarves, art) and share them with others.
What are YOUR favorite ideas? Please add to my list. Has someone given something or done something for you that touched your heart? I'd love to hear about it!
In closing, I remember the statement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. —
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."