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The World Is a Kinder Place When You’re Kind

Friends

“Don’t wait for people to be friendly. Show them how.” ~Unknown

Sometimes I stop to think about how in the world I ended up where I have. I started off with very little, and somehow along the way I have ended up generally happy and on my own two feet.

My adolescence up to my early twenties had its share of dark days. Whether or not we are lucky enough to have a small handful of people that stick by us no matter what, more often than not we can find ourselves feeling incredibly lonely.

For a long time through my rough days, I held a sort of grudge against the rest of the world. I had convinced myself that everyone was only looking out for themselves, and I had lost faith in the idea that people were mostly good.

Where was that feeling of community? Or helping out your neighbors? What about equality and accepting others’ differences?

The world felt large, dark, and lonely. I felt very let down.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that as much as those close to me have influenced my growth and my life, those I consider strangers have made just as strong an impact. By closing out the rest of the world, I was really hindering my growth and happiness. Let me explain.

I had an accident a few years back, and unfortunately, I was far from home and by myself when the incident occurred.

Many strangers witnessed the accident and casually passed by. Two people who could have just as easily done the same, leaving the accident for someone else to take care of, chose to step in and come to my aide.

They had no obligation to help, and in fact, had places to be. Instead, they stopped to help me, waited until the paramedics arrived, helped to contact someone I knew, and confirmed that I would be okay.

I was shocked that people who didn’t even know my name were spending so much time taking precautions to ensure my safety.

My world was jolted—and I kind of liked it.

This was the first instance of many that changed how I live my day-to-day life.

A complete stranger went out of their way to do good for me, and in return, I would do the same for others.

I opened myself to the idea that maybe not all people were selfish and maybe they were all, in fact, just like me: feeling alone, caught up and looking desperately for that one person to prove them wrong.

It took a while and a lot of courage, but I began to step outside my comfort zone and behave how I always wished others would. I spoke to strangers on the train and in long lines, made friends in waiting rooms, and more. I listened to their stories, even if they didn’t give me a chance to respond.

I have stopped to check on strangers who looked unwell, offered directions when someone looked lost, given advice, returned and watched strangers’ belongings, and made frustrated parents’ children stop crying by making silly faces or cracking not-so-funny jokes.

Once, while studying in a coffee shop, I heard the chaos of a car accident outside and saw an elderly man, looking distraught, alone, and waiting for the police to aid him. Remembering how alone I was and the help I had received during my own trauma, I grabbed a drink from the shop, delivered it to him, and ensured he was being tended to before returning to my work.

Each encounter I have made has had a different influence, a different story, a different result— some small, some large, and some that I cannot measure or know. Each has made my day, and hopefully, theirs, a happier one.

The bigger picture fell into a place for me a couple of years ago. I greeted a homeless man who was down and out and who I would run into frequently. I stopped briefly to listen to a joke he said he had written.

As I laughed and turned to head back on my way, he stopped and said, “Thank you for listening. I have been wanting to share that with someone for a long time. Have a good day on purpose!”

That was it right there. “Have a good day on purpose.” On purpose. 

Acting with goodness will bring goodness. Each day you wake up, you have a choice to make. You can either go on through your day, your routines, as you always do, or you can choose to broaden your world.

Opening myself up to these so-called strangers with a positive point of view, open mind, and a helping hand has changed my perspective on life a trillion times over.

Rather than waiting for and expecting others to prove me wrong, I began to take initiative and found that what I was looking for all along was always there. I just needed to pull myself out from the negative space I was in in order to see it.

I have seen the good come back around to me in so many ways.

From that first pair of strangers who helped me through a scary accident, to people approaching me with compliments, and even some offering a smile on days when I could not bear to carry my own.

I have had those who barely know me take a chance on me, trust me, and even lay themselves on the line to help me advance my career. Just recently, a woman gifted me a handmade scarf she was selling because she noticed I was shaking in the cold.

None of these people knew me when we reached out to support and pass positive energy to one another. Some became friends; many I will remember for a long time; all I am lucky to have encountered, whether or not I can pinpoint why.

Making the first move to talk to or help a stranger can be difficult at first, and I will be the first to admit that it won’t always be received how you expect.

Start with by smiling, holding the door open, offering a genuine compliment, or cracking a joke in passing.

The experience is jarring to some as, sadly, kindness is not an action most expect. Just know that no matter what the outcome, you have done something to trigger a positive thought and perhaps make a difference in that person.

All of a sudden, I realized I didn’t feel so alone. I felt a deeper understanding and connection to those around me. All of a sudden the world is not so large, dark, void, and scary.

Photo by oh_pretty_love

Avatar of Edit Danilian

About Edit Danilian

Edit Danilian is a teacher living in California. She is a passionate, forever student, who believes in humor, love and has a mouth with less than perfect timing. You can follow her on twitter @DaniandB.

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  • Melis

    I love this so much. It’s so true. Thank you very much for sharing.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thank you for this post Edit.

    it resonated big time because my new year’s resolution was to give daily. As I’m on the journey to give more and give daily (through acts of kindness), a lot of what you said rang true.

    If more people consciously decided to be kind the world would be a better place. but we can’t change more people – only ourselves. We can create the domino-effect of kindness in the world. Thank you for doing your part and encouraging us to do the same.

  • Nicole

    I really enjoyed reading this post and its so true what you wrote.

  • Verite

    I see my own story in this post. My early life was spent with the same attitude as yours. Then, throughout life, I have come to the same exact conclusions…we need to give what we want to receive. Beautifully written.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julie.kelty.7 Julie Kelty

    Thank you Edit, wonderful post, I have been feeling like I am very alone etc, and I will now try that extra bit harder to be friendly etc. x

  • http://twitter.com/KinestheticT Omar Von Gimbel

    I learned this lesson last summer. I was feeling down about how it seemed no one cared about me, I chose to reach out and serve others instead of thinking only of me.

    I began volunteering at a soup kitchen every day in Albuquerque, NM where I was at. At first, I did it with less than altruistic motives, but I started to really feel good just giving to others.

    The crazy thing was I began to notice that people would start treating me more kindly, and seem grateful to have me around. They weren’t just people from the soup kitchen, but random people too.

    I was on the receiving end of more smiles, assistance when I needed help, and even random gifts like you mentioned.

    Omar
    The Kinesthetic Tiger

  • lv2terp

    Truly inspiring post, thank you for such a lift and excitement to be more observant, aware, and mindful of my surroundings and follow in your footsteps! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.eliff Rose Eliff

    Edit, I’m so glad that you’re learning this! Connecting with others allows us to connect with our Oneness, the Divine within each of us. In church, I learned the greeting “The Christ in me salutes the Christ in you.” In yoga, I learned “Namaste,” which means that we recognize the Divine within each of us. It’s funny, but I’ve always talked to strangers, smiled at others in passing, said a friendly hello. My granddaughters laugh at me and called me “The Lady Who Talks to Strangers” after I got into a happy conversation with a couple when we were standing in line at Disneyland. I took my eldest to the DMV for her permit and got into a conversation with an older woman in a colorful outfit and we had such a grand time for those 15 minutes. Ah, the world is such a joyful place! Extending ourselves to others, connecting with them in ways large and small, adds to the joy we all experience and brings us closer to heaven on earth. Namaste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.eliff Rose Eliff

    Omar – That was a beautiful way of helping yourself by helping others. I volunteered at a soup kitchen for seven years and it was a profound experience in so many, many ways. It’s truly amazing how the world is transformed when we open our hearts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1612354164 Richie Boone Anderson-Grant

    What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing it. I’m a widow-9 yrs now after 25 yrs of marriage-the kids are grown up and gone their ways. Suddenly my family filled home was empty and I was just as empty-so I decided to get out of myself. I trained my dog to be a Therapy dog and headed out to visit the elderly-think of how alone many of them are. I could leave the house in a grumpy mood, but I always felt better when I returned home-why? because I helped someone today. I go out of my way to say hello to strangers, if people are short of money in the store I give it to them. You just never know how difficult their lives are-Kindness & Compassion makes the world a better place.

  • Shelby

    I had a similar experience today. I gave a homeless man a yogurt that I realized I wasn’t going to eat and he looked at me and said, “I love yogurt! Hey let me tell you that on April 9th I’ll have been sober from drugs and alcohol for fourteen years!” He was so happy and pleased that I had stopped my car and given him something. It occurred to me that he had no one in his life to be proud of his sobriety and I was one of the few who would stop and listen when he told me about it. This made me happy because I suddenly felt like this strange man needed me.

  • Edit Danilian

    Thank you! I’m so happy you are doing that! It’s definitely true… we can’t just expect others to change if we are not willing ourselves.

  • Edit Danilian

    That’s a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it. I’m so glad you were able to get up an turn things around for yourself (especially by helping others). We’re never really as alone as we think we are.

  • Edit Danilian

    You are a wonderful example of kindness and that our world is a playground! What a great nickname! It’s perfect!

  • Edit Danilian

    You are never really alone, Julie! Life has a lot of pitfalls and bumps. You’d be surprised at how many people feel exactly as you do. Take small baby steps! You’ll be lifted up in no time. (Joining extracurriculars is wonderful and easy way to get you out there as well!)

  • Edit Danilian

    That’s so great! You definitely resonate something different when you are more open. People can feel and feed off of the positive vibes. Thank you for sharing that!

  • Rain

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts Edit! I am travelling right now and have come across behaviour in both extremes- horrible and amazing. Your thoughts were both reassuring and thought-provoking!

  • Falene

    Perspective is everything. Thank you for this.

  • Lissy

    You are all so inspiring! Can I share this on the “Organized Acts of Kindness” FB page? Do you mind if I share your story for others to read?

  • http://twitter.com/KinestheticT Omar Von Gimbel

    You are more than welcome to share this.

  • Anna Puchalski

    I used to practice under the “If you have the time to be courteous, do so” motto. Yet, it has been awhile since I have made it my daily goal. What a brilliant article! As the Buddha says “Happiness is never decreased by being shared”, thank you for sharing your light!

  • John

    Beautiful post, Edit! A lot of what you said resonated with me and how I want to live my life. I have also full-on experienced that when I commit to an attitude of kindness toward all throughout my day, that compassion and love tends to bounce back to me (sometimes in very surprising ways).