“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” ~Scott Adams
I was ten years old and growing up in a home that I can only describe as hellish. Among other things, our father forced us to stand against the wall for long periods of time until we shook from exhaustion. On one such day, he sent me to McDonald’s to buy him a cup of coffee.
I was happy to get out of the house and escape my punishment momentarily. As I headed to McDonald’s, I wondered what it would be like to never have to go back home. I hoped that I would have a better life someday, but I could not see how.
When I arrived at my destination and opened my mouth to order the coffee, I burst into tears. I just could not hold them back any longer and they came pouring out right there at the counter in McDonald’s.
As I stood there, a sobbing, broken little ten-year-old girl, a lady came out of nowhere. She said, “Sweetheart, would you like something for yourself? I will buy you anything you want. Just tell me what it is and I will get if for you.”
I was so touched by her kindness that I cried even harder. There was nothing on that menu I wanted. I wanted a better life. I wanted never to have to go home again.
Eventually I stopped crying and went home with the coffee, but I never forgot that lady or her kindness to me. I’ve often wished that I could find her and thank her for what she did that day.
We interact with so many people every day, in traffic, at the office, and online. If you walk down the sidewalk in a major city you will walk past hundreds of people. The next time you do this, look at them. Really look at them.
Every single one of these people has had his or her heart broken at one time or another. Guaranteed. You never know what other people are dealing with.
The person who cut you off in traffic may be struggling with a difficult child or spouse. He or she may have just gotten fired. Of course, it’s possible that they’re simply rude, but you never know. We can’t always be at our best, but we can try.
It is not always possible to know why people act the way they do, but I can guarantee that you will feel better if you give people the benefit of the doubt more often than not.
When in doubt, be kind. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.
Can you express concern for someone today? Will you take a minute to hold the door for someone or let them in front of you in traffic?
Why not pick up the phone and call a friend who could use a kind word? You could send a quick email or text to someone you’ve been thinking of. If you want to go all-out, send a hand-written note or card to someone.
When you encounter a person who is less than charming, consider taking a deep breath and trying to understand where he or she is coming from. Do they have a point? Can you let it go?
Instead of rushing through your day, try slowing down and seeing how you can be of assistance. Be open to being of service, even in small ways. Instead of worrying because you’re too busy at work to volunteer on a regular basis, you could just volunteer for an hour or two.
You can make an enormous impact on someone’s life, even with one small kindness. I still struggle to find the words to describe how much that simple act of compassion meant to me all those years ago.
I went back home and life was still hard. Nothing changed for a very long time, but I had a tiny seed of hope in my heart that began to grow.
I went to bed that night knowing that there is kindness in this world. Good things were possible and all was not lost. Somehow, it would be okay because there are good people in the world.
Even today when I’m struggling with something and all seems lost, I remember that day. I remember that there’s always hope. I send a silent thank you to my would-be benefactor.
You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Abraham Lincoln to make an impact in someone’s life. You can simply take a minute out of your day to encourage someone. You never know how much of a difference you can make with one small act of kindness.
If you lived in the south suburbs of Chicago in the late seventies and offered to buy something for a crying girl at McDonald’s, I want to send you a very belated thank you. This post is dedicated to you.