Blame it on the holiday season, but lately I’ve been thinking about the unparalleled power of kindness. Paradoxically, this wonderful quality sometimes eludes us, as we rush around, under the stress of a deadline, worried that our loved ones won’t be sufficiently delighted when they open their gifts. Add a tight budget to this mix, and we might understand why otherwise sane people find themselves fighting over plasma television sets at 3 in the morning on Black Friday, when their tryptophan-filled bodies would clearly prefer a good night’s sleep. In depth psychology, we say that very strong energies often bring up their opposite counterparts. For example, after the horrific events of 9/11, the city of New York saw compassionate connections forming between people who may otherwise have remained distant strangers. In that same way, I wonder if the positive dynamics surrounding Winter’s festivities can also activate some of our negative human traits, like impatience, selfishness, and greed.
It’s for this reason that what happened to me a couple of weeks ago remains at the forefront of my mind. I was walking with my husband and daughter through an upscale outdoor mall when we passed a young man sitting on a wooden bench outside a book store. I can’t remember exactly what the twenty-something looked like, except that he had a kind of grungy appearance, and was smoking a cigarette. Having suffered allergies all of my life, cigarette smoke is probably my biggest pet peeve, so I am sure that I immediately formed all kinds of unconscious judgments about this person. But then came the miracle. This kind soul turned his cigarette in toward himself, presumably so that we wouldn’t have to inhale the toxins. I literally stopped in my tracks and thanked him for his gesture. It may have meant more to me because of my own intolerance for that smell, but the fact that this person was considerate enough to shield my family from second-hand smoke floored me. It seriously made me reconsider my unfair assessments of people who smoke.
I tell this story because I think it illustrates how beautifully affected we can be by simple acts of benevolence. This guy not only made my day, but he made me a better person by causing me to look deeply into my thoughts toward others, who, like me, are not perfect. And that’s how kindness works. It catches fire and spreads, just like love.
Dave says that “If kindness is your king, then heaven will be yours before you meet your end.” Especially during these hectic times, this seems like a wonderful mantra to live by. If every one of us performed just one small act of generosity a day, the results could be monumental, as big as a beach ball! So, let’s roll out the red carpet and let love shine. The world is a beautiful, strange, and forgiving place, full of gamblers, robbers, drinkers, and jokers, all soul searchers, like you and me. And still, love, love, love is all around.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self