Choose to Be Kind and Change the World

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~Plato

While volunteering my carpentry skills for Fundacion Uaguitupu on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama, I made a difference by assisting Kuna Indian communities in the renovation of their homes and churches. There was an abundance of necessary repairs, but unfortunately, funding could not keep pace with the work to be done.

After three months of doing what I could with the resources available, I had done little worthy of the evening news, yet a small patch of the world had become a better place because I had been there. Sadly, in many parts of the world it doesn’t take much to be considered an improvement.

I am forever amazed at the capacity of those who live difficult lives to treat others with kindness and compassion. I was welcomed into many homes, treated with great respect, and graciously thanked for my time in the community.

It is humbling to think that I have so much to give, when the truth is I have so much more to learn.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that…

Each and every one of us can change the world!

Too many of us believe we have no power to make a difference. I have entertained the thought many times.

Making a difference often takes time, and our kindness may not grow roots until long after we’ve fertilized the flower beds. Focus on the act of giving, rather than the results of your actions. Detach from outcome, and you’ll be free to make a difference in ways you never imagined.

You don’t have to eradicate world hunger. Simply do something good everyday.

It’s not results that soothe our souls; it’s actions. In a difficult world, kindness has amazing power.

Every day people endure stressful jobs, demanding relationships, and backbreaking responsibility. Every day people battle life threatening disease, face uncertain futures, and struggle to survive.

Each moment of our lives, someone, somewhere, is in need of kindness.

What you do for others energizes the Universe. What you do for the Universe energizes you.

Go slowly. Breathe, smile and be present. Seek opportunities to make a difference, embrace the moments, and be grateful for every choice you make.


Opportunities for relaxing meditation exist in every episode of your life.

One that I particularly enjoy is strolling through a bustling airport. Always surrounded by a whirlwind of activity I become entranced in a guessing game of intentions. Where have travelers been? Where are they going? Are they smiling or crying, bundled up or in flip flops? Conquering the world, or leaving the world behind?

One can choose to be engulfed by the mayhem, or detached, able to savor each moment.

Smile when you check in, even if the person behind the counter has obviously had a bad day. Help someone stow their carryon luggage, even if it takes the space you had spotted for your own.

Accept a delay as a chance to slow down, even if it means missing a connection. I doubt that pilots and flight attendants enjoy delays any more than passengers, and life will continue on its merry way with or without us.

My favorite moment is when the aircraft door closes. The past disappears and the future becomes real. I sit back, relax, and as the jet engines spool up, close my eyes and welcome the vibrations of another new journey.

Smile at everyone you meet.

A smile is a miracle worker.

It makes us more attractive and can change our mood. No one can deny that smiling is contagious. Many have written that smiling relieves stress, boosts your immune system, and releases endorphins and serotonin. A smile can light up your face and make you look younger. A smile is a gift that we receive only by giving to others!

The greatest gift of a smile is that it keeps nothing for itself. Its purpose is to give, to console, to inspire, to cherish, to love, to multiply. Give yours freely to others. Spread happiness and feel it grow inside you. Be contagious.

Your smile brings light to the world. Would you deny the world moments of brightness?

Share your thoughts.

My thoughts are my own, and unsolicited.

Contribute to Tiny Buddha and other sites that inspire your spirit.

Submit your best effort at expressing your thoughts. Post a comment on the efforts of others. Why wait until there’s a free book giveaway to share a few words? The world wants to hear what you have to say.

As I’m sure you’ve read here many times, blog posts can arrive at just the right moment in a person’s life. Send your thoughts on their way. Someone may welcome them with open arms.

It takes courage to put your thoughts out there. Be courageous. It only takes a few moments.

Practice compassion.

Many years ago my niece died of cancer at the age of 21. She was an adventurous spirit, confident and vocal. I spent many afternoons and evenings with her hand in mine as she rested uncomfortably. Her facial expressions unmasked the pain that spread within her dying body.

On better days she would tell me how she loved her visits with other patients, most of them much younger than her. These same young children I passed in the hallways, brave young children wheeling their life support beside them, and almost always smiling. I have no doubt that my niece helped create a few of those smiles.

As we all know, cancer spreads far beyond the children’s hospital that lovingly cared for my niece. We can make a difference in the lives of others by sharing our time and compassion.

Jacque’s favorite expression was “cool beans!” I don’t hear it often, but when I do, it’s like turning my gaze toward the sunshine.

Feed the hungry.

I like to eat, and I would wager that you do too!

I was raised on meat and potatoes with sit-down family dinners, and never wanted for food on the table. I miss my mother’s cooking and the early evening conversations.

What I’ve never had to do is stand on a street corner and beg for food, dig through restaurant trash bins, or go to bed hungry.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, hunger touches every community.

Every community also has a food bank. It’s very easy to volunteer, and many who are hungry will benefit from your actions.

Live a giving life.

Life becomes complicated when its difficulties overpower our capacity to love others, to share our compassion, and to simply find time in our busy schedules to live a giving life.

Make a difference! Give to receive! Reap what you sow!

No matter what situation you find yourself in, come from a place of kindness and you will always treat others in the way they’re meant to be treated.

Let go of complicated. Choose simple. Make people smile. That’s how you make a difference!

Photo by mynameisharsha

About Cary West

Cary is a carpenter, writer, and wandering spirit who often trips over his own feet. Learning the art of getting back up has nudged him along on a path of exploration, though he can be a bit like Columbus, at times unsure of where he's landed. Nonetheless, the quest continues at

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  • Hi Carey and Lori,

    Your post was so inspirational.  What a wonderful idea to change the world by being kind. I especially liked your line, “One that I particularly enjoy is strolling through a bustling airport.” I am always curious as well about people’s stories. Flying can be stressful, and I know when I’m trying to get through the airport to my flight, I’m reminding myself just to breathe. But by helping others, we all do better. Taking it slow and being flexible makes the trip more pleasant for everyone involved. Thanks for sharing.

  • A great post Cary – and it’s important to remind yourself that small acts of kindness can make the world of difference, especially when the suffering in the world appears to be so overwhelming that you wonder you can do any good at all. Do you think that often it is those who have the most difficult of lives that seem most able to be kind and open their hearts to others? It’s something I seem to have found…

  • Hare

    Cool beans 🙂

    Thank you for an inspiring and thoughtful post. I am working on being present, going slowly and expressing kindness as often as I can. This post really helps.

  • Hey Andrea, I would agree that very little effort is necessary to make a difference. Saying thank you, making a phone call, opening a door for someone require brief moments of our lives, yet can have long lasting results. While I believe difficulty to be a great teacher, I think the true spirit of kindness is simply genuine concern for others. Getting wrapped up in ourselves too often leads to bitterness. Seeking opportunities to do things for others I believe to be liberating. We always have a choice.

  • Hi Cathy, thanks for reading. I’m like a kid in a candy store with the opportunity to share my thoughts. Lori makes it easy to be courageous. I find airports to be exhilarating. Another word for exhilarate is enliven. The dictionary definition of enliven is “to give life”. Who am I to deny life?

    Simple acts of genuine concern for others will indeed change the world. We have a long road ahead.

  • Hare, Thank You, for making me smile. Have a great day.

  • Candelaria

    This was one of the best posts I have read. As I get ready to travel to another country…the airport scene is one that always fascinates me and there I take time to observe everyone around me and for some weird reason never feel overwhelmed. I actually enjoy traveling.

    And believe it or not, but “cool beans’ is one of my favorite expressions! I use it almost daily and I am a very grown woman! =)

    Thanks Cary for taking a moment to share YOUR kindness with us…simply beautiful!

  • Debbie

    Wow this was amazingly beautiful, thank you so much for your kind words… I started following you on twitter And it has been the best decision I ever made, I look forward to your post just simply because I can relate and find comfort in it to continue doing what I do 🙂 blessings

  • Squawk44

    Remember, be kind to non-human beings. They deserve compassion and kindness

  • RidetheWave

    Thanks for the reminder!!  Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good life is –  How many things there are to be thankful for – and how simple it can be to make a difference.  🙂

  • Harriet

    This post was just what I needed right now! It’s so true that small acts that you might think are insignificant, like starting a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the plane, can make someone’s day.

    Thanks for such an insightful and inspiring post 🙂 I’m sure your niece would be very proud!

  • Pam :)

    What a beautiful way to start my day!! Thank you for sharing your words…..

  • Some of the hardest goodbyes in my life have been family pets. We would do well to learn from their examples of unconditional love.

  • and a very nice way to finish mine as well. Thank you.

  • Hey Harriet, I think we believe things to be insignificant when we focus on results. We might assume that the person next to us has no interest in conversation, but we can never know what effect our efforts will have on that other person, unless of course we can read minds. I can’t. But that doesn’t matter because my goal should be to let go of complicated, and simply be the person I can be, hopefully kind and genuine. When we detach from the results and offer ourselves up to the Universe, things begin to work, and for me it is awe inspiring. We have great power available to us. We simply need to remember.
    Yes, my niece would be proud, but only for a moment, then, as was her nature, she would say. “ok, so you wrote one post, now get started on the next, or comment on someone else’s, times awastin'”.

    I was blessed to have her in my life.

  • You’re welcome. I like your name. I grew up in Southern California and spent many years riding the waves from Baja to Santa Barbara. Life was indeed good.

    Sometimes life’s difficulties make us forget how good we really have it. If we take the time we can always find things to be thankful for, and yes it is incredibly simple to do something to make a difference.

    One of my favorites is dropping change into the little box in every convenience store that says “you can help”. Somebody, somewhere benefits, and I honestly cannot remember any store employee who has not said thank you.

  • Hi Debbie, you’re very welcome, and thank you for your blessings.

    I think the opportunity Lori provides here is a great way for people to come together. My niece would say it’s under used, and would be cracking the whip to inspire more participation. But it works, and it works well, and I’m glad that my small effort has brought you some comfort. Enjoy doing what you do.

  • Candelaria, I enjoy traveling as well. It can be a time of great exploration, not only of new lands, but also of who we are and how we deal with adversity.

    I’m sure “Cool Beans” will keep you young at heart, and present you with many opportunities to proclaim your enjoyment of life.

    Thank you for your thoughts, and have a safe journey.

  • Narasimha

    wonderfu article great work may the Divine help you in this great work of uplifting so many people and motivating them to to atleast a bit towards a better world.

  • I think there might be another article in your words. Divine uplifting toward a better world. Thank you for your comment. 

    Lori provides an incredible opportunity for people to share. I’ve thanked her several times, but today I’m going to take advantage of this little box I’m writing in to say thank you once again. I’d also like to encourage everyone, I know you’re out there, who comes to her site, to participate, if only a few words. The Divine help we all seek comes from the Divine in each and every one of us. Share yours.

    Have you ever watched a cartoon where a tiny snowball begins it’s march down the mountain, grows larger and larger, moves faster and faster, until it literally becomes unstoppable?

    Just sayin’

  • Simona Prem

    Real truth

  • Nellie

    I think this might be my favorite post on Tiny Buddha of all time…thank you.

  • Jazzie Palacio

    Very nice! I am fond of giving away smile and it does make me feel good, there were even a situation that a shop owner gave me a free shoes just because he saw me smile as I came into his shop

  • Clayglen

    Great post!  Thanks for the inspiration!

  • May

    Such an amazing post Cary! Thank you so much, I really needed it 🙂 I made a huge mistake thinking I was helping someone, in fact I was coming back  from school, and I had a candy, a beggar asked me to give it to him, I said its okey! with a big smile, but then he didn’t grab it with his hands, he wanted to take it with his mouth! I found it very rude, because in my country it is considered as a lack of courtesy towards women, so I just left him…and then he simply said ‘I have no hands’. God it was awful, I dont’ know what happened in my mind, I went on, I was so shocked! when I realized what I committed, I went back to search him and apologize, but I din’t find him, I was almost desperate…And I still don’t forgive myself. I wrote this to remind people to always take the moment to see things around them, because I could have seen the guy had no hands, and I could have avoided this embarrassing situation. May God help you!

  • Hello May, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t forgive yourself. The fact that you returned to apologize for your perceived mistake gives me a pretty good idea of what’s in your heart.Though you felt disrespected, your intentions were good, and you will be given many more opportunities in your lifetime to help someone.

    Thank you for the reminder to be in the moment, and to see what’s around us. I’m sure many will benefit from your kindness in the future.

  • Is there any other?

    We live in a world of daily deception and trickery. I suppose that could mean much of the world is not real. The choice is ours.

  • and you my friend might be my favorite person of all time. Thanks for reading.

  • There you go. Living proof that a smile is a miracle worker. Enjoy your new shoes.

  • You’re very welcome. Be contagious.

  • Amber Nicole

    Thank you for the reminder to smile as much as possible–it reminded me that I gave a speech on this very subject in college–that smiling (even when you don’t necessarily feel like it) makes both you and others feel better! I will try to do this more every day for myself and others 🙂 

  • Narasimha

    Thank you Cary it wonderful when the movement of love has begun it gathers momentum and is unstoppable and becomes more powerful engulfing the entire world when our intentions are really good.

  • Hey Amber Nicole, you’re very welcome. Every now and then when I look up at the moon It resembles a smile. I like to think God is smiling, and it reminds me that there is much to be thankful for. I will try to smile more every day for myself and others as well. Thank you.

  • Curious Lounge

    “Conquering the world, or leaving the world behind?””- This is my favorite line! So well said. The post is amazing and so is your blog Cary! The positive aura is just so existent on every word on your blog. Amazing work!

  • This was a beautiful post. I am of the same philosophy – that kindness, compassion and a spirit of giving can change the world and help in some way. I meet resistance somrtimes because I am judged at times as naive for being kind to those who are not always so kind to me. Some say I do not give others an opportunity to learn their lessons by always forgiving. I wonder if you have any thoughts about this Cary?

    Again – thank you for YOUR kind and insping words! 🙂

  • Hey Taryn, you’re very welcome.

    True kindness asks for nothing in return. I don’t believe it’s meant to teach lessons, and we certainly have no right to decide who is deserving and who isn’t.

    Kindness is not what you give, how much you give, or who you give it to. It is who you are. A truly good person who gives freely and unconditionally.

    Many people think that to be naive or weak. Well, we live in a complicated world, one that believes in return on investment, one that is never satisfied, one that always has conditions.

    The simplicity of selfless giving gets lost because it asks for nothing, requires nothing in return. Not a good business plan.

    But that’s the beauty of kindness. It’s not a business, it is remembering who we are.

  • Curious, Thank you sincerely for your kind words.

    It’s nice to know that we we’ve connected through writing in a positive way. After all that’s what this is about, participation, sharing and connection.

    I’ve been slow to begin, been swinging a hammer for over 30 years, but am excited to see what I can build with words. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Whether we believe it or not, we’re all in this together, and when kindness and compassion are no longer thought of as weakness, the ball get’s rolling.

    Not in my lifetime, but when I look up at the sky, and feel incredibly insignificant, I am reminded that kindness and compassion are not concepts created and marketed by self help gurus, but rather Universal love within each and every one of us. 

    All we need to do is remember.

    One of my favorite quotes is this one by Plato,

    “All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.”

  • Jazzie Palacio

    I have so many short stories  that I hope I can share someday when my writing skills become better 🙂

  • jj

    Love this article. Made me happier just reading it. I’ll keep these tips in mind. More of us (people) need to help make our world a better place. It just takes imagination and generousity.

  • Jessica-Rae

    I absolutely love this post. Lots to learn, lots to act upon. I could use alot of this advice in my own personal life, right about now. Thanks a ton.

  • Madhu

    Great blog….. I cannot stop reading one after another……. Feeling inspired, motivated and it is way of living…. Even few points taken seriously would change a person’s life…. Thanking you author for creating such a beautiful blog…..

  • Ash

    Such a wonderful article! 🙂

  • Sushma Narula

    I am from India where I learned in childhood the story of 3 monkeys. A monkey with hands on mouth means no bad talk, hands on ear means no hearing of bad stuff, hands on eyes mean don’t see bad things. I have followed these principles throughout my life. I have control on what I say, I say all positive things, I have sense to see all positive attributes in every person, young or old irrespective of their color, or religion, God has gifted everyone something, go deeper into it, why a person is behaving in a certain way, get emotional connection, then you can feel the empathy for others. Try to hear the other person, then one will understanding what the other person meant. You can interpret same thing in a positive way, not in a negative way. I met an old women in the store, looking for laundry detergent which was on sale, with her weak eyes, she could not read or see clearly. I was shopping there, I asked her what she needs and brought the detergent she was looking to her. I could see the joy in her eyes. In other instance a young boy in J.C. Penny story seems confused which COLOR to pick, I helped him pick up the bright COLOR and told him, you’ll look very handsome in that COLOR, he was so……pleased with my little gesture. All these small acts in our day today life can bring smile on others. Volunteer yourself to bring that smile in any way to others, it’ll give you real happiness.. Tell everybody smile is free, it is infectious, it is contagious and it is healthy. Love all, love is God, God is love. Sushma

  • Preschool2Teen

    Love this. I also believe in smiling at people. If I pass you in the store I’m going to give you a smile and say hello. A smile goes a long way.