Today I'm Thankful for Human Kindness, and I Want to Pass It On
Listen to any newscast, read any paper, tune into talk radio, or follow any of a number of bloggers and podcasters, and you're sure to hear what's wrong with the world. Hatred, inflation, shortages, disease, disaster, crime, corruption, and climate change – it's all happening, and it impacts all of us.
It's easy to start feeling hopeless about our planet and all of humanity, and to start looking at everyone and everything through a sad, dark lens. I do it too.
Hope springs eternal.
Today, as I was leaving the post office, I tripped and fell hard on my right side. My purse, keys, and receipt went flying. I cried out in pain and fear that I might have injured myself. In the past, I've broken my right elbow and wrist while tearing several ligaments. I've also had an avulsion fracture in my right ankle and destroyed several bursae in my right knee. I always seem to fall in that direction.
Almost immediately, a young woman who had been heading into the post office came to see if I was okay. A middle-aged man riding by on his bicycle stopped and came to assist. And as they were asking me if I was hurt or had hit my head, an older lady and her young granddaughter stopped to see if they could help as well.
I am not a petite person. But these three kind people first made sure that I was not dizzy or ill, but only bruised and scraped, and then together helped me stand and made sure I was steady on my feet. I asked their names and they asked mine.
Erin, Ron, and Maria, you are angels! People like you, willing to do whatever you can for a stranger, remind me that humans love to do good for others.
Never doubt that the vast majority of people have it within themselves to be gentle, kind, and generous. Whenever we focus on the capacity we all have to be greedy and selfish, we must also remember that God considers all of us worthy of redemption. That kernel of goodness is real.
What the science shows
Many studies show that doing acts of kindness boosts serotonin and dopamine, chemical neurotransmitters that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being and cause the pleasure/reward centers of your brain to light up. Endorphins, the body's natural pain-killers, may also be released.
Dr. Bhawani Ballamudi, a Bay Area child psychologist, says that whether we think about, witness, or engage in acts of kindness toward other people, the results are positive. Kindness reduces cortisol, a stress hormone, and increases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that can decrease blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and promote a sense of bonding with others.
Doing kind acts makes you feel useful and competent, increasing your self-esteem. Being kind makes you feel valuable and worthy. And I can attest to the fact that being on the receiving end of kindness makes you feel seen and appreciated, comforted, connected, and thankful!
The positive difference
We also keep many of our personal challenges hidden. If you knew that your snarky coworker had recently learned of a serious illness in her family, would you cut her some slack? Might you even want to offer some support and encouragement? Compassion lets us recognize our shared human condition. When I'm tired or worried, I can recognize that my husband, child, friend, or even a stranger might be tired or worried too. That helps me extend grace.
Being kind makes you feel good. It allows you to have at least some control over your circumstances, and reminds you that your actions can make a positive difference in the world. Just as a bully can foster a culture of cruelty and fear, kindness can foster an atmosphere of goodwill and camaraderie. Why not be the kind person from whom others take their cues?
Do your little bit of good where you are.It's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
It's easy to feel cynical about the state of the world. There are many things we may feel helpless to change. But if you look again, you'll see that you do have opportunities to influence the people and the world around you. You don't have to wait for someone to fall down in front of you to show some kindness today.
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Call a friend you haven't talked to for a while.
- Send a handwritten thank you note.
- Tell your family how much you love and appreciate them.
- Help with household chores without being asked.
- Have a conversation with a coworker you don't usually talk to.
- Listen to a friend or coworker who's having a bad day.
- Praise someone for a job well done.
- Declutter children's toys and donate to a shelter or preschool.
- Smile and greet people you meet in the course of your day.
- Be a considerate driver.
- Pick up and dispose of trash you see lying around.
- Leave a positive comment on a blog/social media post you like.
- Donate to a good cause.
- Leave an extra-generous tip for your server.
- Double your dinner recipe and deliver the meal to a friend or neighbor.
- Hold the door.
- Take a bag of canned goods to a food bank.
- Mow or rake for your neighbor.
- Leave a positive review of a local business.
- Slip a love note into your child's or spouse's sock drawer or lunch bag.
- Donate blood.
- Compliment a stranger.
- Give up your place in line.
- Pay for the coffee of the person behind you.
- Bake a treat to share at the office.
- Leave motivational Post-Its on shared mirrors (public restroom, fitting room, gym locker room).
- Send an encouraging text message.
- Call your parents (or a sibling) just to talk.
- Read or tell a story to a child.
- Send flowers "just because."
- Check with a friend or neighbor to see if they need help with errands.
- Refrain from complaining.
- Put your cart (and any strays) back in the return area.
- Make a special effort to be pleasant to someone who annoys you.
- Remember to say "please" and "thank you."
- Declutter your bookshelves and donate to the library.
- Politely refuse single-use anything.
- Offer a hug.
- Ask for a favor, and give someone else the joy of being kind.
- Support a content creator. (If you appreciate my work, why not buy me a coffee?)
Thank you so much to Erin, Ron, and Maria who made my day and inspired this post!