Guest Editorial: Orly Wahba is Founder of the nonprofit Life Vest Inside. Her new book, Kindness Boomerang—based on the name of the viral video at the end of this post—offers 365 easy ways to make a major difference in the lives of others.
While many have already begun utilizing the word “division” to categorize the sentiments of 2017, I feel a deep sense of hope, excitement and optimism for what this year can still bring. When we proclaim our positive intentions and our hope for good things, we set the wheels in motion for those dreams to become a reality, and whatever else is happening in the world does not have to have a negative impact on how we make a positive impact in it. As E.L. Simpson said, “Getting an idea should be like sitting on a pin; it should make you jump up and do something.”
The real test is whether we allow ourselves to get sucked into the negativity oftentimes shown to us by the mainstream media, or whether we decide to take it upon ourselves to pave a path of what our future will hold. The potential for greatness we inherently have as members of the human race is extraordinary, but change starts with each one of us. You don’t have to quit your job and join the peace corps to make a huge difference in the lives of those around you.
Here are 12 small acts you can practice every day that could set the wheels in motion for positive change with a surprisingly stronger ripple effect.
1. Our environment needs a little loving. Start becoming mindful of recycling. It may take you an extra moment to find a garbage can or recycling bin, but think of the impact!
Ever wonder why the cleanest places stay clean, while the extra dirty places seem to get dirtier? Our actions or lack of action is oftentimes a reflection of our surroundings and environment. Here’s something to consider, are you more or less likely to throw trash on the floor in a city whose streets are immaculate as opposed to one that is decorated in an assortment of waste? The cleaner the space, the more likely we are to want to keep it that way. The problem arises in a space where recycling is out of the norm. Let’s break the habit and do our part; recognizing that if each and every person made a small effort, the job would be done. Instead of speaking words of kindness for the environment, let’s live it and be a model for others to follow. Actions speak louder than words. So the next time you find yourself walking in a filthy neighborhood, consider whether you’ll contribute to the issue or become part of the solution.
2. Visit your old school and pop in on a former teacher that has impacted your life. Let them know how they’ve positively influenced you for the better and remind them how awesome they are.
My most prized possession isn’t money stashed away, a contact list of well connected people within my network, or a contract of my greatest business deal of all times. It’s five binders filled with pages upon pages of letters of appreciation from hundreds of students I’ve had the pleasure of knowing throughout my 7 extraordinary years within the walls of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle School. As I flip through the pages a common phrase repeats itself time and time again, “You’ve changed my life!” Tears fill my eyes, a great deal of warmth fills my soul and love most certainly fills my heart. The power of words, the power of gratitude, the power of acknowledgement. The years may pass, the ink on the paper may fade, but the experience will never be just a fading memory.
3. Leave a note of appreciation for your mailman.
We often check our mailboxes for letters, bills and unexpected gifts without considering how it got there. A thoughtful note can leave your mailman with an extra bounce in his step as he makes his way through your neighborhood, rain or shine. The differences are always found in the small, seemingly insignificant things we do to brighten someone else’s day.
4. Buy a dozen sandwiches and pass them out to homeless folks in a busy area. Your act may very well start a domino effect of kindness.
Mother Teresa told us that if we can’t feed a hundred people, we can feed just one. For those suffering from homelessness, much of the human interaction they experience is seeped in negativity and they are left feeling forgotten, ignored and unseen. We are all people. Each and every one of us with our own backstory, our own personal struggles, our own hopes and dreams yet to be realized. But each and every one of us also has a choice; a choice that shapes the way we interact with others traveling down their own path. We can turn our heads and pretend not to see them. Or we can reach out and make a small meaningful connection. A sandwich isn’t just a meal to them, it’s recognition that they haven’t been forgotten; that while many may see them as “bums” you simply see them as people.
5. Know someone looking for a job? Lend a hand and assist them with their job search or resume writing.
Procrastination, fear, and uncertainty are what I like to call the enemies of progress, preventing us from pursuing our dreams and achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Oftentimes all we need is a little push. My friend Jacq knew the time had come for her to leave her job. Working as an executive assistant was never meant to be her endgame, but like so many of us she became comfortable. She was ready to take the leap and begin the daunting task of rewriting her resume. Naturally, the “enemies of progress” reared their ugly heads. But Jacq wasn’t fighting alone. Together we jumped on a call and before you knew it we had taken the first step in what would become an exciting new venture in her life. Know that your guidance could help land them an opportunity of a lifetime.
6. Next time you go to a coffee shop, grab an extra cup for a co-worker. A hot cup of coffee can be all that’s needed to melt a cold, tough exterior.
Being thoughtful isn’t a requirement, but it’s precisely the act of thoughtfulness that sets you apart from the rest. It’s seeing beyond what a person shows you, to what a person hopes you’ll see all on your own. It’s the small gestures that take you by surprise, make you smile, touch your heart and magically inspire you to seek out ways to make someone feel just as great. Sometimes a dose of thoughtfulness extended to someone who may be far from thoughtful can give a positive spin to the uneasy relationship dynamic that has been present for longer than you care to imagine.
7. Bring along an extra apple or banana as you head out today. An opportunity will undoubtedly present itself to share.
My friend Jeff didn’t see himself as a hero, but then again he didn’t see himself through the eyes of those whose lives he touched simply by being who he is. To Jeff stashing a bag filled with extra treats in his bottom right draw at work at the off chance that someone may have forgot their lunch or need an extra boost of energy during a long, draining work day was something that was simply part of his DNA. Being mindful of the needs of others as much as he is mindful of his own—the bags of goodies have gone back and forth with him to work as it patiently awaited the moment when it could be put to good use. For Jeff, 1 out of 100 was all he needed. Lisa’s smile as Jeff popped open his drawer and invited her to help herself to a tasty treat made the wait worthwhile.
8. Kickstart someone’s day by sending them a good morning text when you wake up.
We all have those days. From the moment we wake up, the endless list of questions and challenges cross our worried minds. Am I ready to face another day? How am I going to get it all done? What am I doing with my life? What if I mess up at the meeting? What if it doesn’t go well? What if I never get married, never start a family? What if I never find happiness? What if the test results are exactly what I thought they would be? Hesitantly we grab our cell phones knowing that we need to get up. As we take a deep sigh and open the phone we unexpectedly find an encouraging text message from someone. The length doesn’t matter—simply knowing that on that day you were the first person they reached out to leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Almost instantaneously your energy level shoots to new heights, and the questions are silenced as you pop out of bed with a big smile on your face ready and prepared to face the challenges the day may bring.
9. Leave a collection of positive news clippings in a hospital waiting room.
At first glance it may appear that the hospital hallways and rooms are filled with worry, fear, despair, pain, suffering, aggravation, anxiety, doubt, sadness, anger and confusion. But with a closer look and attentive ear you’ll hear the sounds of love, friendship, and most importantly hope. Hope for a better outcome, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for the simple things. Hope that he’ll be able to eat today, that she can finally breathe on her own, that she’ll take the first step, that he’ll wake up, that it’s fully gone. But hope needs its positive reinforcements, its reminders, its signs that even when things seem more dismal than ever, hope is always there.
10. Help an elderly person across the street. Go ahead, ask their name and share a bit about yourself. A personal touch makes all the difference.
One of our Kindness Ambassadors, Jeff Kuske, told me this story: As I walked out of the store the sound of the downpour was evident. It often rains during the summer afternoons in Florida, and today was no exception. As I looked to my right, I saw an older woman without an umbrella. She looked around, and placed her purse on top of her head as she slowly started across the parking lot to her car. I thought to myself “The only thing she is going to accomplish is getting her purse wet.”I opened my umbrella and approached her slowly so as not to startle her. I covered her with the umbrella and said, “Excuse me ma’am, may I walk you to your car?” Her smile was radiant. She clutched my arm as we made the slow journey to her car. During that time, I learned her name was Helen and she recently moved to the area from New York. She told me her husband recently passed, and she didn’t have any family or friends nearby. When we reached her car, she grabbed my hand and thanked me. Tearing up she said, “This is the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a long time.” I don’t know who took more away from our brief exchange. What I do know is that my feet didn’t touch the ground as I made my way back home that day.
11. Holding the elevator open when you’re not in a rush is great; holding it open when you’re running late to a big meeting, a concert, to catch a train – now that’s priceless.
The most beautiful forms of kindness happen in the midst of the everyday rush! Don’t be so quick to hit the close door button on the elevator. Keep your eyes peeled for someone rushing to make it. You won’t remember how those extra 30 seconds of time you lost from holding the elevator doors opened as someone hopefully dashed to make it would have benefited you; but you can bet that they will retell their kindness story with such excitement. Your story will live on in their heart and amazingly enough in the hearts of those who hear it.
12. See someone who appears lost? Offer to give directions or provide assistance.
Another Kindness Ambassadors, Chamith Wijayasekara, recalls the time he was on a bus en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka when he found himself sitting a couple of seats away from an older lady. Unfortunately, she had no idea where in Colombo she was headed to or how to get to her final destination. Everyone could have remained within his or her own bubble, unaffected by the woman’s troubles, but on that bus, on that day something special happened. One passenger after the next comforted her; reassuring her that she will get to where she needed to be. Within the two and a half hours it took to reach Colombo, a plan was hatched for some of the willing passengers to escort her to her destination. The rest of the passengers chipped in and raised a considerable amount of money to ensure she was taken care of. The feeling of solidarity was overwhelming, inspiring, and humbling; a group of people who made a conscious decision to put their own plans on hold, to help another.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” ~Lucius Annaeus SenecaShare this article: