“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” ~John Holmes
Have you ever been stressed and cranky and having a terrible day when someone was unexpectedly kind to you?
When this happens, it lifts your mood and changes your state of mind. You want to hold on to that feeling of goodwill. Maybe even pass it on.
The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
It is always possible, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes acts of kindness for people in our lives can be more difficult than random acts of kindness for strangers. We all have people in our lives that are negative, grumpy, or angry. They make us feel negative, grumpy, and angry, too.
It helps if we remember that difficult people are usually incredibly unhappy. Something is making that person miserable. If we think about that and find compassion instead of letting negative emotions overpower us, it’s surprising how much easier it is to remain kind.
Real Benefits of Kindness
It’s scientifically proven that being kind makes us happy. Feeling compassion, laughing, touching, and hugging release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone.
Try this exercise: Pretend everyone is your friend. Treat them accordingly. When you’re in traffic and see someone trying to turn in, pretend the other driver is your friend. Pretend you know and like the person. Be friendly! Smile and wave them in ahead of you.
Kindness combats depression and even chronic pain. Studies show that pain, depression and disability all decrease after doing volunteer work.
Kindness also makes us live longer. We just learned how kindness makes us happy, and happy people are known to live longer lives!
When we are positive and kind, we spread goodwill and happiness. Don’t we want to be surrounded by goodwill and happiness rather than negativity?
Negative people are rarely kind. Kind people are rarely negative.
Heather and the Johnsons
Even though being kind is beneficial for ourselves, real kindness isn’t about us at all. It’s about thinking of others, having someone else on our minds and hearts.
The Johnsons are an amazingly, incredibly kind family. If I didn’t know them, I’d have a hard time believing this story:
Heather was a drunk driver. She ran through a stop sign at an intersection where Mike Johnson was heading home from work. She crashed into his truck. He was injured so severely that he was not expected to survive. But after several surgeries and many months of physical therapy, he recovered.
Mike and his wife Gene are such kind people, they not only forgave the intoxicated driver, but they also helped her and changed her life.
Heather was a very young woman going down a dangerous path of partying and drinking. She was arrested after the accident, and she was terrified of going to jail when it was time for her court hearing.
The young woman visited the hospital where Mike was supposedly dying. When the family noticed Heather there, they warmly welcomed her. Can you imagine that?
Heather said they consoled her. Mike and Gene’s adult children hugged her and told her it would be okay. They told her, “No one is perfect. We all make mistakes.”
Shortly after, Heather met Gene in the hospital. Heather was still expecting anger, screaming, and hatred. She knew she deserved them. But Gene hugged the girl and told her she forgave her. Heather said it was like “a 10,000 pound boulder was lifted off” her.
Heather decided to do something to help the Johnsons to try to give back to them. She organized a live music fundraiser and raised three thousand dollars for the Johnsons before her court hearing. Mike and Gene spoke on Heather’s behalf at the hearing for a reduced sentence for her.
The incredible, amazing kindness and forgiveness from the Johnsons changed Heather’s life completely. It changed her whole outlook and made her want to be a better person.
The Johnsons consider their pain a fair price for saving Heather from killing someone else, possibly herself.
They befriended her and visited her after her trial when she did go to jail. She is incarcerated for thirty-three months at a correctional facility in Florida, where she is keeping a journal of her past experience to inspire other young people towards responsible life choices.
We all want happier and better lives. To improve our lives, we have to improve ourselves first. Let’s choose to surround ourselves with goodwill and positive energy. Let’s commit to living lives of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, resulting in a healthier and happier life for ourselves.
Do you have a story where someone else’s kindness affected or changed your life?
Photo by Heath Brandon