At a few key points in our lives, we see or go through experiences that will change us forever. Or so we think. A week, maybe even a few months later, we forget. Revert to the old. Continue with what’s easy instead of what’s right. Since I started my blog, I have often talked about how I believe people are inherently good, proving it with the many wonderful acts of kindness I have received on my travels round the world. From being taken out for a fantastic meal by people I’d only just met in Los Angeles to the man who spent half an hour searching every bus in the depot in Indonesia to find the one where I had left my kindle. These people never ask for anything, they simply have this innate desire to help and bring happiness into the world. I am humbled by them.
However, it was one particular event back in my early twenties that first opened my mind to the kindness of strangers. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and of all the people around me that could see the signs, it was a girl who I only knew from playing squash once a week at university who reached out to me. We hadn’t even been friends but she took me under her wing completely and, with her support, I began to patch my life together. Without her, it’s impossible to know where I would be right now. As quick as she came into my life, she left it, her job done. I never got the chance to thank her and probably never will but, in that moment, I realised that being kind to someone, no matter who they are, can have untold consequences.From then on, I have attempted to see the good in all people and have made my own small gestures of kindness to strangers – from giving a bag full of leftover groceries to an overjoyed homeless lady to running a one-off bingo night to raise funds and collect old clothes for orphans in South Africa. It’s a small token that can bring a smile to many faces, not least my own. But, in all honestly, it hasn’t been enough. I’ve been lazy in my day-to-day kindness, something which has been brought to my attention only recently by a few fateful clicks of my mouse.First I read the story of a girl whose boyfriend kept smiling at every stranger they passed on the street. Thinking it odd, she challenged his behaviour. His response was that he had recently read about a girl who had committed suicide. In a note she left behind she said that had even one person smiled at her that day, reached out and touched her tired soul with the simplest and most human of acts, she wouldn’t have done it. But no one did. No one cared. So she died alone and bereft of a world where kindness has lost its way. I don’t smile at everyone I see. Why not? It’s not hard and it may just brighten up someone’s day. I guess it’s the ultimate fear of rejection that keeps us from connecting with people – what if they don’t smile back? Well, from now on I’m going to throw rejection to wind. Who cares if someone I’ll probably never see again didn’t smile back at me that one time? I might just change someone’s life and never know it.
That was a few weeks ago. Then recently, out of the blue, I stumbled on a blog post on projectlighttolife. For no reason at all, other than to spread a little bit of happiness into another person’s life, she had placed a bouquet of flowers, anonymously, on a complete stranger’s doorstep. She never saw them be received and has no idea who lived there but did it in the hope that she might just brighten their day. You can read about that post here on her blog.
If I didn’t think the world was sending me a message by then, this morning it became crystal clear. I clicked onto this link detailing 21 random acts of kindness by strangers (watch the slideshow at the end!). By the end of it I was in pieces – sobbing at both how tragic and how good our world can be. I was ashamed that I thought handing over a few scraps of food once in a blue moon made me a kind person. Don’t get me wrong, I still BELIEVE that I am kind – I hope that I would never intentionally be mean to another person, but not being mean isn’t quite the same thing. I need to SHOW the world that kindness still exists. So this is it. My affirming moment where I promise to live my life differently from now on. To prove it, over the next week I’m going to make a list of random acts of kindness that I plan to carry out in the coming year. I hope I stick to it. I hope I’m not one of those people that can only be a better person for fleeting periods of their long and prosperous lives. But most of all, I hope that I can finally pay my dues to the Universe and bring just a little bit more kindness into this world. After all, we would all be richer for it.
Have you performed or been treated to a random act of kindness by strangers? Or would you like to join me in making a pledge to be kind? I would love to hear your story! Pop it in the comments below