Kindness is a virtue; no matter what religion you follow, no matter what country you are from and no matter what language you speak. It can be expressed in, literally, millions of different ways ranging from the smallest and most subtle to the loudest and most profound! Kindness is a universal language spoken by all, even the mute. It is desired and felt by all, even the harshest of people. It is appreciated by all, even the unexpecting. Once a gift is given, the receiver is the one that benefits from it and the giver loses his possession, but not when it comes to the wonderful gift of kindness! It is the only gift that rewards just as much to both; the giver and receiver. I have been on both ends of the spectrum and, let me tell you, it feels wonderful either way.
But today I don’t want to talk to you, my readers, about your compassion, your kind nature or your charitable character. Although such traits are truly commendable, I’d rather like to shed light on the smaller, more spontaneous acts of kindness … the random kind that surprises even you as it happens. It’s a truly wonderful and most admirable thing to be the sort of person who is always kind towards others as well as oneself. In my opinion, those always on the giving end are the best of people with the purest of hearts. But what about those who kindness doesn’t come as naturally to them? Those who have to dig deep or even plan in order to be kind? Those who find being kind a struggle that needs to be won? Don’t they deserve equal respect? I believe they do, maybe even more so! Their struggles, essentially, show how much it means to them and how badly they want to do good, to the extent that they have to fight themselves in order to bring out what’s best in them. It means they are trying, sometimes really hard, and they deserve to be respected just for the fact that they tried and persevered.
A random act of kindness, to me at least, always warms up one’s heart more than that from a friend or someone you know who you would expect such behavior from. It’s the fact that you know that this person will gain nothing from helping you, cannot hope you’d pay him/her back in any way and doesn’t really care about you enough to feel “obliged” to be kind that makes it so special. Random acts of kindness are just that, random, so how can you not feel blessed for being “chosen” as the recipient of such a heartwarming gift? Hands down, random acts of kindness from both, strangers and non-strangers, are the best gift I have ever received!
Let me give you some examples from my own life that truly brightened my day. I will only mention those where I was on the receiving end so that no one thinks I’m boasting about being kind to others 🙂
Less that a year ago I was at the grocery store with both my children, here in the USA. Normally, when people see us they get nervous, stare and sometimes even leave the isle we’re at because of my hijab (Islamic veil). Although such behavior bothers me, I have gotten used to it and seldom notice it anymore unless someone overdoes it. That day, my then 1.5-year-old son decided it was time for one of his tantrums. And I don’t mean a tantrum that can be taken control of with distraction or even a favorite toy, no, I mean a full-blown, red-in-the-face, head-banging tantrum! So, naturally, I swept him and his sister out of the store as fast as I can (I hadn’t started loading my cart yet, thank God). We sat on a bench outside and I tried to reason with him, hug him, distract him, promise him to take him home to sleep afterwards if he’s tired, you name it. My daughter tried to help me by trying to engage him in a game but nothing helped. He got louder and louder so I finally strapped him to his stroller and decided to rock him back and forth until he calmed down. I couldn’t go home since we were in dire need for some things and going home just wasn’t an option. We were also supposed to walk home and there was no way I was going to be able to do that safely without being distracted by his screaming. Right about then, I put my head between my palms and was on the verge of crying because of how overwhelmed I felt and how sad I was to see him behaving this way. Out of nowhere, a lady pulls out from her parking spot, rolls down her window and yells at the top of her lungs, “is everything OK?”. I looked up at her thinking that she is concerned for this screaming child, is probably judging me in her head and has passed the verdict that I am a horrible mother! Reluctantly, I answered that everything was fine. She then asked me if I needed a lift anywhere … I didn’t see that coming! How nice of her to make such an offer? I managed to draw a smile on my face and thanked her for her kindness but said “Thank you so much, but we’re OK”. I imagined that was the end of the conversation and she’ll pull away so I just looked the other way towards my son. That’s when I heard a sentence that was never said to me before (or ever again), “I am more concerned about you than I am about him!”. I’m sorry, what?! Me? You are concerned about me? Wow, someone can actually feel what I am going through right now and isn’t judging me! My eyes teared up and I couldn’t say anything except for, “thank you, thank you”. That magical sentence drew a real smile on my face, gave me strength to deal with the situation and, essentially, made my day.
Another instance took place back in 1996. I was living in Budapest, Hungary at the time. I loved everything about the 3 years I spent at school there. I was blessed with the best teachers, loved every day of learning, had the best classmates, had tons of fun and made lifelong friends and memories. But one particular girl remains engraved in my memory and, I believe, always will be. 4-year-old Amelia! I don’t even remember her surname and don’t have access to our yearbooks to try and figure it out (if any of my classmates do, please help me out). I used to supervise the nursery class whenever I could, I always loved children and their age group was perfect. There were several “popular” kids in class who my colleagues gravitated towards, but Amelia wasn’t one of them. She was shy, quiet and almost never smiled. It took me some time to find out that her father had died recently and that she and her mother were trying to deal with the circumstances the best way they could. Amelia is the one who taught me what strength means! Yes, a 4-year-old taught my 13-year-old self what it takes to be strong. She was a determined little soul, always had to achieve her goal, always had to be part of whatever group activity she chose to participate in even if her classmates weren’t so inviting, always knew what she wanted. But one thing I found both admirable and heartbreaking is the fact that she never cried! She’d fall and hurt herself yet not shed a tear, she’d be made fun of but never shed a tear, she’s see other kids playing while she sat on her own yet never shed a tear. One day I sat with her and told her it was OK to cry if she felt like it, like if she falls and hurts herself or something, she responded with, “I can’t cry, I don’t know how!”. Those words sliced through my heart like a dagger, I felt so bad for her. But I have to say, years later I discovered that Amelia was right all along … I don’t think it’s that she didn’t know how to cry (I did see her cry one time later on but she quickly wiped away her tears), I think she didn’t want to cry and was so in control of her emotions (probably had to do with what her family was going through) that she could actually prevent it from happening if she wanted to! Amelia remains, until this day, the strongest person I know and one of the people I admire and look up to in my life. Months later, I was going to leave Hungary for good and only a few days before the end of term someone knocked on our classroom door and handed my teacher an envelope. He turned around and handed it to me telling me that it’s from a parent! I looked at the name printed on the envelope and it said “Heather”. After class I read it and it turned out to be a note from Amelia’s mother, who believed my name was Heather, where she was wishing me well and telling me that Amelia is so sad that I am leaving but she loves me very much and will miss me. The most beautiful gift of all was her last sentence where she thanked me for being Amelia’s friend and for helping her smile again! I never realized that I influenced her in any way. She had been my mentor, not the other way around. I tried to look for her afterwards to give her the biggest hug in the world but her class was already done with school and I never got to see her again. Their act of kindness is the main reason behind why I always try be a better person and help others if I can. Their act of kindness made me believe in myself. I love you Amelia, and always will 🙂
There are tons of beautiful acts of kindness I could iterate. I have been blessed with meeting so many wonderful people during the course of my life, even if for seconds, and so I could literally go on and on. The reason why I chose those two examples is because they changed me forever and helped me evolve in to a better person. One has taught me about being strong and being able to make a difference in someone’s life in the smallest of ways while the other taught me about compassion and the fact that some people out there can feel your struggle and pain and have empathy towards you rather than judgement. One taught me to be as kind as I can towards others, the other taught me to be as compassionate as possible towards others. One taught me that anyone can inspire you, the other taught me that anyone can be your hero!
What other examples do I have? There are my wonderful children who come and pat my head and hug me first thing in the morning. There’s my fabulous husband who gives me “days off” and takes charge of the kids when he feels like I need it. There’s my long-lost friend who I found 15 years later and who is kind to me every single day. There’s that friend who stood by my side on our graduation day when I was feeling horrible due to personal circumstances and made sure I celebrated my success. There’s that classmate who I didn’t know that well at the time but was the one who offered me her car and driver and even came with me to take me to my grandparents’ house once I found out that my grandmother had passed away and none of my other friends were able to help. There’s that friend who was a true brother and stood by my side every time I needed advice. There’s my friend who was swamped with her own life yet offered to create my baby pictures wedding clip to make my day even more special. There’s my friend who has been my sister from the day I met her and we even had both our kids just a month apart each. There’s my friend who was so happy for me when I got engaged and made the most touching presentation in honor of my engagement. There’s my classmate who always stood up for me and didn’t let anyone bully me when I was a child. There’s my friend who has been my rock ever since I got to the US. There’s my friend who was the reason I had any friends at all during high school because of how kind she was to me the day we met. There’s my classmate who came to me and told me my name sounds like it’d make a good name for a movie star right after others were making fun of me. There’s my friend who motivates me every day and has helped me tons since I got to the US. There are my beloved cousins who are always there for me and who say the kindest words to me whenever I need to hear them. There’s my neighbor who took wonderful care of my family when I fell ill and was in the I.C.U for weeks and continued to take care of me and my baby when I finally went home. There’s my neighbor who cried when I was leaving Bahrain for good because of how close we’ve become. There’s the bus driver who got my daughter stickers when he found out she was staying home from school. There’s the waiter who was courteous and didn’t want me to apologize for others in my party being absolutely absurd and actually said that he was the one who’s sorry. There’s the office boy who still speaks kind words of me although I haven’t contacted him in a few years. There’s that lady at the grocery store who saw me trying to maneuver my cart while feeding my son and trying to pay attention to my daughter and smiled at me and said “I don’t know how you do it”. There’s my classmate and family friend who helped me pick up my phone which slipped and shattered to pieces because I was in a hurry to get to class while others laughed at my clumsiness. There are my friends and classmates who complimented me on the first day I wore Hijab even though many of them never spoke to me before. There are those people who apologized (even if 15 years later) for hurting me when I least expected it. There’s that old man on the bus who tried to make my child laugh when he saw how overwhelmed I was trying to handle him. I could go on and on and bore everyone to death, trust me!
The moral of the story is; be kind towards one another but don’t forget to be kind towards yourself as well. Appreciate every little act of kindness that comes your way, it can change your life (or that of someone else) forever. Make an effort to be kind, even on your bluest days, you are going to reap the results just as much as the person receiving your kindness. As Ellen Degeneres says at the end of every show. “be kind to one another” 🙂