“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of rewards, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” ~Princess Diana
Recently I was reminded of the importance of kindness, particularly kindness to strangers.
I was given the opportunity to film the wedding of a family friend. As a videographer, I’m always looking for ways to build my client base and enhance my professional experience, so naturally, I agreed.
Most of the guests at this wedding were friends of my parents, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Although I recognized a lot of the people, most did not recognize me, particularly with a camera in my hand and “on the other side of the fence,” so to speak.
A few kind souls were extremely friendly, looked me in the eyes, sparked conversation, and spoke to me with dignity. But to my surprise, the vast majority of guests at this wedding pushed past me, bumped into me, or spoke down to me. Again, these were people that I knew!
If we had been in any other situation—if perhaps, for example, my parents had been there with me—I’m certain these very same people would be giving me hugs and asking about my life with convincing interest.
But instead, I was treated as I was seen, like just another person in the service industry. It was as if an invisible fence existed between “us” and “them.”
What bothered me most was not the poor treatment I received, but this notion of separateness that was so pervasive in the once familiar atmosphere around me. Here I was amongst families with whom I grew up, and those who did not recognize me treated me as though I was not worth recognizing. As if I wasn’t even here.
While the looks I received symbolized separateness, what they provided for me was an instantaneous sense of wholeness.
Almost immediately, I’m reminded of the homeless man who holds a sign beside me as I wait for the stoplight to turn green and try to keep my eyes averted. Or the clerk at the McDonalds drive-thru, at whom I roll my eyes when I’m late for a meeting and she’s slow to deliver my vanilla iced coffee.
In this moment, we are one. And that’s when it hits me.
We’re each a part of a whole, and everything we do (every thought, word, and deed) affects the whole. My mind wanders to the countless individuals who are disregarded in some way, shape, or form, every minute of every day. We’ve all experienced it and we’ve all been a party to it.
Why do we do this to each other? What is this invisible fence dividing us vs. them? Where did it come from? And why is it popping up across all areas of our lives?
Safe in the confines of our car, we feel distant from those who stand on cold corners asking for our help. In our own bubble of a morning ritual, we forget that our coffee servers have morning rituals of their own. A false reality exists around us, and most often, without even giving it a second thought, we choose to live in it.
Like a prison built on the delusional foundation that we are somehow separate from one another, we’re trapped. But what if we chose to live in truth instead? If we can recognize the intrinsic unity of humanity, perhaps we can finally be free.
Much like disregard, kindness for others is cyclical by nature. Kindness begets further kindness. And you never know how a simple “thank you” or smile could affect someone on any given day.
To be acknowledged and appreciated are among two of the greatest and most basic human needs. If we can fulfill this in one another with small acts of kindness that perpetuate themselves, why would we ever choose to do otherwise?
It’s the simple, unexpected acts of generosity that change lives, and a culmination of these small acts can change the world.
Let’s acknowledge the security guards and say, “thank you” to the janitors. Let’s start acting as if the conversation we have is the most important one we will have all day. Let’s look for the good in other people, and when we find it, let’s treat them as though that’s all we see.
We don’t have to expect anything in return in order to be kind. With kindness, the giver benefits just as much, if not more, than the receiver.
Let’s make it our goal to make at least one person’s day, every day, and see how our own lives are transformed in the process. After all, we’re all in this together…
Make someone smile image via Shutterstock