There’s a homeless woman who sits outside of my local supermarket selling The Big Issue. She’s been here a few years, and we acknowledge each other when I walk by. I’ll give her a smile. And when I have the chance, I’ll give her some money, a voucher or bring her something to eat from the store. She nods appreciatively. There’s a lot of warmth in those wordless exchanges. She’s not so confident about her English.
The other day it was freezing. I walked by, smiled and gave her a fiver. She said, ‘Wait please. I have for you something.’
She dug in her bundle and handed me a handwritten card, sending me a prayer and a blessing for supporting her so often. She thanked me for being a force of kindness, for bothering to notice her. It’s hard going days, weeks, months, without being noticed.
I was touched. She chose to give from where she was, not waiting till she had ‘enough.’
Even when it feels like we have nothing to give, we always have access to kindness and good wishes. Opportunities are everywhere when we’re awake to them.
Wellbeing isn’t just about eating our greens and moving our butts. Acts of kindness boost our happy hormones and generate calm and connectedness. In short, doing good is actually good for you. Bonus!
My mindfulness teachers suggest that kindness is a form of meditation. These acts are opportunities for exploring our own reactions and responses. As part of my home practice, I’ve been invited to do acts of kindness and to observe the effects on myself.
Here in no particular order, are things I’ve either been doing, or are still on my ‘to try’ list. Feel free to pinch any/all of these ideas:
*Make it a habit to re-tweet or comment on someone’s fine work on social media
*Being patient with someone who’s challenging your patience
*Go a day without complaining. Do the same tomorrow. And the next day…
*Leave a magazine you’re done with on a train or bus
*Forgive someone. Let it go. Really
*Say thank you (ideally on paper – so elegant)
*Be on time.
*Give away stuff you don’t need
*Include people in conversations
*Encourage someone. They might need your support more than you know
*Donate some non-perishables and warm clothing to your local shelter or community help centre
*Be sincerely enthusiastic on hearing someone’s good news
*Do what you say you’re going to do
*Listen deeply to a child. Be interested. Ask their opinion.
*Bring a cake to a neighbour, or flowers, or a bar of chocolate through their postbox
*Don’t ignore The Big Issue salesperson
*Are you well-connected? Help someone to get a break
*Send good chocolate often
*Talk to yourself with loving kindness
*Breathe instead of blowing up
*Acknowledge someone for the good they do. Honour someone’s talent by telling them how it moves you.
So here’s what I’m discovering. Kindness has a ripple effect, kind of like a Mexican wave at a football game. Giving often keeps giving.
I’m finding that being kinder than necessary – especially if my judgmental ego voice is saying, ‘they don’t deserve it, look how badly they’re behaving!’ – I’m finding that’s when it really feels good. I don’t need to make kindness conditional.
I am kind because it’s who I am, not because someone deserves it.
Doing what makes my heart soften and stay open is the way that I choose to live. If I listen deeply to what my heart wants to express, it’s about our relatedness. The more I allow myself to receive support from others, the more I open to living consciously in a kind and connected way.
And I’m finding this is fun, this being tuned into the cosmos for opportunities to express my kindness and connection. It’s being in the moment, being awake. It’s switching off the autopilot.
I believe deeply in the good in all of us.
I invite you to be awake to the opportunity all around you. As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’