Do you want to be healthy, happy, prosperous, passionate and purposeful? Is that the dumbest question you’ve ever heard? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. I had the pleasure of an amazing conversation with Brad McEwan, well-known Australian media personality, on my podcast this week, and, as he has transitioned from sports reporting and news-reading to the mental health space, his message to me was loud and clear. That message… kindness matters.
He told many stories and shared how kindness can help improve your mental health, your happiness and the clarity of your purpose. The immediate physiological impact of this, is a healthier body, mind and heart. He told a powerful story about two conflicting experiences in the same day, one with a selfish driver on the road, which increased his stress and anger levels, and another with the kindness he showed to two strangers walking past his home. I’m not going to tell you the story, you will have to listen to the podcast, Kindness Matters, if you want to hear it from the mouth of Brad. What I will tell you is that the act of kindness will long live in his mind and heart, and the incident on the road will be forgotten immediately.
With this week’s blog in mind, I did a little social experiment on Facebook. I asked people, who were open to it, to commit a random act of kindness and then share, what they did, how it was received and how they felt as a result. There were many responses. If you were one of them and are reading this, I want to thank you again for your willingness to act in kindness and then share about it. There was the lady who bought a tram driver a coffee, a lady who paid for an elderly man’s scripts at the pharmacy and another lady who gave cookies to a widower at the bus stop. There were people who gifted services and pre-paid coffees for people at cafés and many more wonderous acts of kindness. In every situation the person receiving the act was surprised, grateful and happy.
As nice as it was for the receiver, the power is really for the giver of kindness. Each person stated how wonderfully warm and satisfied they felt after acting in kindness, even if, as in the case of the pre-paid coffees or the lady who gave a coffee to the tram driver, they didn’t hang around to see the response. In fact, the lady who gave the coffee to the tram driver said; ‘How did he react? I don’t know. I left before he realised. How did it make me feel: great! It was a good ‘pick me up’ at a time I was feeling a bit blah!’ This is powerful.
So, my week of kindness was an interesting one. I gave a copy of one of my books and some time to help someone financially struggling. Her response helped me feel amazing. I offered to do something for a new friend, that seemed insignificant to me, yet she responded with tears of gratitude. I felt wonderful. I met up for a meal with an old friend I bumped into the week before, but hadn’t seen for many decades, and I paid for her dinner. She was quite resistant at the start, but as I insisted, she was really grateful. I felt warm inside.
Then, as I was walking home during the week, in kindness-mode, I was approached by a teenager. As he walked towards me, I thought, ‘Great, here’s another opportunity for kindness.’ It was outside a convenience store, and he said to me, ‘Excuse me, could I ask a favour?’ I was ready to say yes, when he continued, ‘I am only seventeen, could you go into the store and buy a packet of cigarettes for me?’ Okay, that stopped me in my tracks. My mind was racing. Do I say yes, because it’s being nice, or is it kinder to say no? I have seen my heavily smoking mother die of cancer and I am a passionate non-smoking advocate, so, whilst I’m sure this young man did not appreciate my kindness, I said to him, ‘You seem like a really nice guy. I have seen the negative effects of smoking and I can’t, in good conscience, buy your cigarettes. The best thing I can say to you is, no. You are worthy of a long, healthy life.’ And, with that I walked away.
Now, do I for a moment think he cared about what I thought? Not really. I am sure the next person he asked, actually bought him cigarettes, but do you know what? I felt great that I had been kind to him. Not in a way he recognises now, but one which hopefully he will appreciate one day. I want to encourage you to spend this next week in kindness-mode and, as you do, notice how other people respond, but more than anything, notice how it makes you feel inside. Enjoy the power of kindness this week.