Kindness is one of the rarest gifts we have to give: it doesn’t exist until we give it, and only in giving kindness does it exist. It even has a secret of it’s own: when you give it, you get some in return. Not if you’re looking for it, but on its own: from the space in which you give, you receive.
I recall walking down a street in London about 5 years ago. A woman was walking towards me in the opposite direction. She was middle aged, looked like someone’s mother or third grade teacher. She wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd. But she was smiling. A true, genuine smile. And she smiled at me. Not in way that was trying to say “greetings” or “I like you” or “I want something from you”. No, the smile just said, “the world is beautiful, let me share that beauty with you.”
I don’t really know what she was thinking, and she passed by quicker than I could snap my fingers and the moment was gone. But the impact was powerful — my mind had been racing with the things I needed to get done, my todo lists, the e-mails, all the junk of the day — and I wasn’t paying attention to the world around me. I was in my usual place of planning and worrying and letting my internal dialog fly wild. But when that smile hit me, it came with such kindness and sincerity that I couldn’t help but smile. It was a gift that asked nothing in return, and overwhelmed me with such intensity that my mind stopped. It was as if my eyes had opened up, and I realized how beautiful the sun was shining off the buildings, and how warm and delightful the buzz of the city was. That smile carried me through the day.
It made such an impact, that every time I would walk down that street, even if I was lost in my thoughts (and I usually was), I would come back to a place where I was observing the beautiful world around me. Just 5 blocks from my house, I walked down that street many times a week over a few years. In fact, here’s the exact spot: https://goo.gl/maps/VRrPGKtTvqE2
Now imagine that, 5 years later, I can still remember exactly where this lady smiled at me. That’s a powerful smile. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. A gift which cost nothing to give, which asked nothing in return, has brought countless moments of awareness and joy into my life.
The current political climate has built more division and anger into our public discourse. This discourse reverberates, even if we think we’re avoiding it, and typically leaves people feeling more defensive. It also feeds skepticism and resentment, and a deep desire to defend “your way of life”.
But in defending, we naturally close ourselves to strangers, instead of inviting up and embracing that we’re all on this journey together. In this climate, sharing kindness is more critical than ever.
So, smile, be kind. You never know when a small gesture will reach out and touch someone deeply and transform their life.
And you have nothing to lose.
Also published on Medium.
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