When Kindness Comes From Joy

Have you ever wondered where kindness comes from? Is it innately inside each one of us or does something need to happen before it appears?

It feels to me that we operate with different definitions and ideas about kindness.

I say this because I recently heard someone suggest that ‘we should be kinder than necessary’. While I appreciate the idea that kindness is important, two things about this statement challenge me.

The first is the use of the word ‘should’. Personally, I’ve gone to great lengths to eliminate this word from my vocabulary, because it is a ‘shaming’ word, meant to enforce one person’s opinion on another.

I wonder if you react the same way that I do when ‘should’ is used. I am immediately suspicious of the motivation of the one using it. Why do they think I ‘should’?

The second concern I have about this statement is the word ‘necessary’. I have a difficult time reconciling the use of the words kindness and necessary in the same sentence. The implication being that there is some sort of requirement or obligation involved with kindness. That isn’t how I conceive of kindness.

I went looking for references to kindness and found one that seemed to mesh with my understanding. It suggested that it is any selfless act of caring or compassion and can easily be recognized in both our own or others large and small actions.

I wondered how often kindness flows to me and through me. I paused for a few minutes to see what would come.

If you sat back right now for a moment or two, what do you think would come to you?

Two events jumped to the head of the line for me. In each instance they were infused with joy, not only for the receiver, but also for the giver. And it seemed to me that joy was the real source for the acts of kindness. I recognized a deliberateness to the actions, a meaningful opening to spirit and a flowing from abundance, as if kindness was an endless source.

I’d like to share mine with you in the hopes that you see some of your own and let them wrap you up in a feeling of joy.

The first one happened a few weeks ago while I was at a workshop at Kripalu Retreat Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. After classes were over for the day our group decided to get together in the evening for a kind of impromptu ‘talent show’. One of my friends, whom I’d met six years earlier at the same workshop, stood up and mesmerized the group with her divine performance poetry reading. We sat spellbound. I could not believe the incredible growth in my friend and went over to her; hugged her and told her I was so proud of her. Some might view this as an act of kindness, but she and I knew it was more than that because it came from a deep well of joy we share.

A few days later I received an email from her with an attached video of her reading a poem she wrote just for me. I was touched to my very core and a kindness born of joy was returned to me.

The second event happened a few days ago, while my wife and I were on a day trip together. We stopped at a restaurant my parents loved to visit and sat down at an empty table. Our waitress came over and engaged us in a conversation and asked if she could get us something to drink. When she returned, she inquired if we were ready to order. She took my wife’s order and turned to me. I said I’d like to start with a piece of their coconut cream pie (knowing that they sometimes run out of it). She told me she liked the way I ordered the best first and from there we had an extremely pleasant exchange throughout the meal.

After our meal was over and she came to our table with our bill, I told her that I was awarding her my ‘best waitstaff of the year award’. She absolutely beamed with pleasure and told me I’d made her whole day…maybe her whole week, as she went to help the next customer.

I took the paper ring that encircled my napkin and silverware and made it into a small award certificate for her and gave her a tip that matched our bill total. I handed everything to her, and my wife and I started walking out. She ran after us and called out to me, that she was going to keep the certificate forever and that I’d made her whole year!

There was such joy in her voice, and I knew that my simple act of kindness came from joy and reached out to create more joy.

Each of these things are important to me because they represent a connection to our divine source, where joy and love exist in abundance.

Making Someone’s Day

Do you remember the last time someone ‘made your day’ and how you felt inside?

Can you remember a time you made someone else’s day? Was it something you said, perhaps some kind words. Or maybe it was something you did, like an unexpected, good deed.

Did it happen naturally, without any forethought or was it a conscious choice you made and planned?

Did any part of you wonder what you might get in return or was it an altruistic act, kindness for the sake of kindness?

One of the interesting things about either, making someone else’s day or someone making your day, is how deep the love feels. I’ve often experienced feeling intensely touched by the actions of others. Their actions don’t even need to be directed toward me. Just witnessing love in action is wonderful, no matter where it’s found.

This past Sunday, while driving on our way home from the local food co-op, my wife and I were approaching a traffic light and it turned red, giving me a chance to make a roadside donation. That’s my phrase for offering some money to someone by the side of the road. In this case, it was a couple. I handed the folded twenty I keep in my car door for this purpose, to the young woman standing closest to our car. She reached for the money and offered me a grateful smile and their thanks in return. The traffic light remained red for a long time, which gave her the opportunity to explain that she and her husband were on their way back home to Louisiana and this would be very helpful.

I know some folks think giving money to ‘pan-handlers’ (the term most often applied to someone asking for money by the side of the road), isn’t a very good idea. I respect their point of view, and yet have come to a different conclusion and from my experience it’s a sure way to ‘make someone’s day’, no matter what they use the money for. I have offered myself a lot of practice in fully releasing any strings I might have wanted to attach to the money and so, both the giver and receiver in this exchange can share in making each other’s day.

Awhile back, a friend of mine told me she reads a book I’ve wrote (Little Buddha Book One) every night before she goes to bed. She told me it makes her happy, calms her from her day and allows her to drift off to sleep smiling. These kind words not only made my day, but they brought tears to my eyes. As a writer, unless someone tells you, you never know if your writings mean anything to anyone, so it was a very precious gift to me.

Knowing how good making someone’s day feels, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. I need an answer to this question.

What could it be? Is life so filled with ‘necessary things’ that I don’t have any time left over?

I immediately poked a hole in this theory. The two exchanges I’ve mentioned in this post account for perhaps four minutes in total, which easily tells me I DO have the time.

So, what’s the real reason?

I think it’s pretty simple actually. It’s a lack of focus on my part, an absence of attention to things that could matter greatly to me in my life and to others I come into contact with. I don’t say this to criticize myself (or you by proxy, as a reader). I say this to myself to heighten my awareness of what is, or can be, important and deeply meaningful to me in my life.

Sometimes all it takes is a moment of recognition that making someone’s day is a pathway for love to enter the world. A simple, direct, heart touching way and it’s free for anyone who wants it.

What a blessing.