After I left the gym I discovered that my pocket holding over $50 in cash was empty, no doubt having fallen out while I was working out. With scant hope of ever seeing it again, I went back to the gym and feeling a bit naive, asked the office people if anyone had found any cash. To my amazement they replied in the affirmative having placed it in an envelope just waiting for me. Gratefully, I asked who had returned it. They didn’t know his name. That, was a random act of kindness, and it impressed me. There are millions of kind acts like this that go on every day, contrary to most of the news we hear every day.
At the park district where Joe DeRosa and I use to play racquetball twice a week, there was a small classroom teaching a group of children on one of those days. What they were teaching escapes me now, but we would always look in to wave and say hello to the kids and they would all wave back. After asking permission from the teacher, we started bringing a couple dozen Dunkin’ Donuts and a gallon of milk for them each week, enjoying it more than the kids did eating the donuts. It was great feeling—a little act of random kindness that was fun and we looked forward to it. Joe eventually quit playing because he could never win despite spotting him 17 out of 21 points, unable to cope with my dazzling footwork, gazelle-like movements, uncanny reflexes and precision hand-eye coordination. I’d say more were I not humble.
A definition of kindness I like, is the behavior that is distinguished by the act of being charitable, with an authentic heartfelt empathy for others. The concept of love is used a lot, and many times loosely. We talk of having love for our fellow man and religion sermonizes about it, but kindness is the evidence of love, the action of love, where the rubber meets the road—the bottom line. We are all too aware of the overabundance of pain in our world, and that anytime we act with discourtesy or animosity toward another person, we simply add to it. Kindness is truly a subtractor from that aggregate pain. There are many of our fellow citizens who are operating in desperation and on the brink of a breaking point, and we, with one unkind word or gesture could topple those people off the edge, or with a kind word or act, possibly be their savior. We most likely would never know.
There are those who have the pathetic mindset that kindness necessarily equates with weakness. Ironically that attitude is a reflection of a person who fears exhibiting kindness as an opportunity for another to take advantage of their already weak make-up. Kindness operates from a profound strength, not meekness. One of the most interesting aspects of performing an act of kindness is the production of serotonin, an endorphin that has the dual benefits of strengthening the immune system and helping to nullify depression and stress.
I couldn’t find any research corroborating what I heard a lecturer relate about an act of kindness, but if true, the utterly fascinating thing is that not only does the giver of kindness have an increase of serotonin, but also does the recipient, and even those who witness the act of kindness! We are not talking about major acts here. We are talking about small acts of kindness that can, if you choose, punctuate each and every day of your life where everybody wins. The effort is nothing paramount, but the intent is.
If you Google Random Acts of Kindness, you’ll get 4 million results. So there seems to be a kind of movement in an effort to make this a better world for us all…something that moves everyday kindness up a notch. I could continue writing about what that means, however, the following photos of kindness are far better depictions than I could express pecking away at the keyboard. They should inspire us all to look for opportunities to engage more, to touch people, and enhance our world.