I’m a sucker for a feel good story, and for being a positive influence in the lives of others. For me, having a positive presence in someone’s life not only makes you memorable, but makes you influential.
Call it my Catholic school upbringing or having an angel for a mother, but I believe in the power of little acts of kindness.
I started this particular post a few months ago, when I was blogging in a coffee shop – a staple in my weekend routine – when, as I waited in line for my coffee, heard a noise that just didn’t sound right. As I turned around, I saw a gentleman laying facedown on the ground in the hallway leading in. The man was, from my estimate, in his late 30s, but was having trouble walking. I was able to make this assessment after helping him up, and noticing that he walked with a pretty serious limp.
It had been raining and when the man fell his clothes then became covered in the dirty wet that covered the floor. My heart sank for him. I know if I was in his place, I would have felt embarrassed and frustrated. I wanted to do more than just help him up, so I tried to pay for his order when I placed mine. “Tried” is an important word, because the guy wouldn’t let me. I tried over and over to convince him to let me, but he wouldn’t. So I gave up. I wished the guy a good rest of his day and found my table in the crowd.
What followed was a pretty awesome sight. The guy ordered a dozen donuts and was walking out with the boxes filling his arms. I knew he would have trouble opening the doors, especially right where he had fallen moments earlier. But before I could get up to help, another gentleman got out of line to open and hold the door for him.
You might be thinking, “Okay, what’s your point?” And the point may just be that there barely is one. It’s so little, in fact. But then I was reminded of this encounter months later.
I walked out of a therapy appointment feeling the most positive I have in a long time. And a lot of what came up was holding your own power to be positive and enjoy the time you have on this earth. So as I reflected in the drive thru before placing my coffee order (sense a pattern?), I decided I’d cover the person’s order who was in line behind me. To me, it was a reminder to whoever this lady was that there are people out there that she doesn’t know that can be kind and good. I’m not sure what happened afterward – if she had been having a bad day and this act made her smile, or if she was already having a good day and decided to pass it on, or maybe nothing at all. For me, I just wanted to put some goodness back into the air we breath, and to help someone feel as good as I was feeling that day.
Flash forward to the next day and it was the first “big” storm of Buffalo’s winter. I put big in quotes because in total accumulation it was underwhelming but the storm was enough of a pain to cause cars to get stuck, accidents and back ups. When I headed out to my car to clean it off and head to a friend’s house, I found two guys trying to push a car that had run out of gas. I brushed my car off, got in my car and had a moment of telling myself I should go help. I won’t lie I wasn’t exactly eager to help. It could have been the cold, or the food order that was calling my name, but I decided to put all on hold to see how I could help. When I did, the one gentleman by the name of Paul told me how appreciative he was. There were times when his car would go on the fritz and he’d be stuck with no one to help. He recalled a time when his alternator went and car after car passed him by, some even screamed at him to get out of the way – as if he could help it. I could believe that people would keep driving because our society has almost trained us to be afraid of helping those in need. But what shocked me was that people would kick someone while they were down. For me, and I told Paul this, if I was ever in that position it would mean the world to me if someone stopped to help. And so while I was reluctant at first, I helped because I would want to be helped.
Yesterday, I set up a new television and antenna for my great aunt whose old tube television finally called it quits. A few weeks ago I gave my last dollar to a homeless vet who positions himself on Oak and Genesee downtown as a way to help him out. My aunt was happy to have a television again (and one with a much better picture) and the guy who got my last dollar (which is surprising as I very rarely carry cash) smiled as if I gave him a million dollars.
I’m not reliving these little acts to boast myself and claim that I am the next in line for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Rather, I’ve sensed a few results of little acts of kindness. The first, you feel good. The second, you provide the same for someone else. I’ve always felt happier and more positive when I’m able to help someone else. To the person receiving your kindness, whether it is direct or indirect, can mean a world of difference. It could help them in their greatest time of need, when they need a simple boost, or can act as a reaffirmation of their own goodness and influence on the world.
The power of little act of kindness can have a ripple effect to literally in small and big ways change the lives of others. Never underestimate the power of little acts, as those moments can be enough to inspire, to change, to smile – and that, my friends, is pretty incredible.
What will your little act be, today?