My life is starting to get back to normal. I started teaching a few weeks ago and it feels good to be somewhere besides a doctor office, physical therapist, a grocery store, or my kitchen. Mostly…it feels good to be contributing in a meaningful way outside of our home.
You guys have heard the saying “you can’t give away what you don’t have”…yes???
That’s exactly why I haven’t posted a blog for a few months. I was feeling a bit depleted and actually haven’t had much to share.
That is…until last Friday when I spent the afternoon with The Victim Advocates Division of The Summit Prosecutors Office. Victim Advocates are amazing, strong, caring professionals that do anything they can to ease the suffering of victims of crime in our community…I call them “light workers”.
I meet with this group on a monthly basis as part of a well-being effort. My job is to inspire them, but the truth is …they inspire me.
Our last topic was Kindness and the effect it has on a person’s health and happiness. Research shows kindness can reward our bodies and minds by increasing:
Oxytocin: This “love hormone” plays a role in forming social bonds and trusting other people. It’s the hormone mothers produce when they breastfeed their babies. It’s tied to making us more trusting, more generous, and friendlier, while lowering our blood pressure.
Dopamine: a chemical messenger in the brain that can give us a feeling of euphoria. This feel-good brain chemical is credited with causing what’s known as a “helper’s high.”
Serotonin: A neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and often why anti-depressants work.
Enough of the science stuff. The bottom line is kindness creates an upward spiral. It not only helps the recipient, the giver also benefits just by seeing themselves as someone that does good in the world. It is also very likely that the recipient will pay it forward. When that happens, we build better selves and better communities. Each act generates a deeper connection and trust…not just between in giver/receiver but with humanity. Similar to the “Butterfly Effect.” This theory states that a single small occurrence can have large affects elsewhere. The metaphor used is a simple movement like butterfly flapping its wings in one area of the world can give rise to a Tsunami in another part of the world.
OK…here is the real inspiration from Friday.
As an experiment, I gave each participant $10 the previous month and the assignment to do a good deed before our July meeting. The stories they shared and the energy around the topic was so beautiful that it was totally worth the price of admission for me. Just hearing about how they used the money and the effects on them, totally increased my feel good chemicals. I walked out of that meeting on a natural high.
Although, I can’t share everyone’s random act of kindness story here, I can give you a few examples. Just know selecting what to share is no indication of how each of them touched me or made an impact they made.
Mark stocked up on umbrellas to keep in his car. Mark works in the city and there are a lot of pedestrians. He often sees people in the rain without protection. He just wanted to ease their discomfort in a moment of need. Can you imagine, being stuck in a storm and receiving an umbrella from a total stranger?
Kelsey paid for an older gentleman’s groceries after witnessing him having to negotiate what he would keep or put back since he didn’t have enough money for all of it. Kelsey asked the young (and impatient) cashier to send it all through and she was paying for his entire bill. Kelsey said it felt awkward for the man and her but only for a hot second. The byproduct of this act was the cashier seeing kindness in action.
Alyse bought note cards and chocolate. She wrote personalized, heartfelt notes to everyone in the group saying how they have inspired her personally and professionally. I received one of those notes and can’t tell you how good it made me feel.
Jenn and Kim both involved their children/grandchildren in the fun. Jenn’s teenage son was so excited to be part of deciding when to use it. They offered it to young guy working at a tire store that went out of his way to help a family member with a flat tire. A “pay-it forward” approach. Kim’s granddaughter picked a charity that helped horses and her granddaughter doubled the donation.
As a group, we spent a part of our time together, brainstorming ways to generate kindness. One that really stood out for everyone was keeping extra hats, gloves, scarves in the car during the winter to pass out to those that look like they could use them. I’m definitely going to stock-up and share when I see the need. Oh…and I won’t forget the umbrellas.
I hope you join me in making a big wave in the world one small act at a time.
One final, very important, note on the subject of kindness. Above all else, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You cannot give away what you don’t have. Offer yourself some compassion when you don’t feel well or make a mistake; Listen to your body and give it nourishment; make self-care a priority; don’t believe everything you think! We are often our own worst critics. Watch for that and be gentle with yourself.
Here is our entire brainstorming list of ways to generate kindness:
1. Just notice acts of Kindness. Simply witnessing generosity can spur more acts of the good.
2. Offer your seat in a crowded room.
3. Bring your neighbors trash can in.
4. Let a car cut into your lane during high traffic.
5. Be kind to your server.
6. Reminisce with an older friend/relative.
7. Hold the elevator for someone.
8. Pay for someone behind you at the drive-thru.
9. Help a Veteran – pay for their meal, mow their lawn, etc.…
10. Stock up and pass out winter items and umbrellas.
11. Have you family (or work family), adopt a family at Christmas.
12. Get the door for someone one.
13. Make eye contact – really, really “see” them.
14. Allow someone to cut in line - a grocery store, getting off a plane, in a buffet line.
15. Share your talents – sewing, cooking, plants, etc.…
16. Give items that no longer serve you to someone who could really use them.
17. Have a “Halloween Toy Table”. Fill it with toys your kids have outgrown that kids can grab while they are getting their candy.
18. Do not participate in negativity.
19. Do not judge someone based on what you’ve heard.
20. Write a “reasons why I love/respect you” or “how you make a difference” note.