It appears that over the past year, many of us have been incurring hardships, drastic life changes and many profound challenges. From the large-global stage to the more personal circles of family, friends and neighbors – it appears as though we continue to struggle through hardships of increasing magnitude.
The path of least resistance often manifests itself as feelings of helplessness – and at times, overwhelming hopelessness that these personal and societal challenges will ever cease. Sometimes, it’s all we can do just to make it through the day with our head’s above water. We all know what it feels like – as if we’re sailing in turbulent waters in a sinking ship. And it’s all we can do just to keep frantically bailing out the water as quickly as it gushes in.
For many, this constant battle gives rise to the popular (although defeatist) sentiment of “It’s all I can do to keep my own head above water. What can I possibly do to change the world”? But the answer to this question may be less daunting than we realize. Perhaps our individual roles in bringing about the changes we wish to see in the world and our own personal lives are, not only simple, but entirely doable.
We tend to think that changing the world necessitates bold, grandiose, styles of leadership. We tend to attribute change to religious, political and social activists that publicly assert themselves through laborious and time consuming efforts. This perspective often defeats our purpose and desires. We can’t envision how we, as individuals, could possibly take on such monumental tasks.
It seems that few of us recognize, or give credence to, the fact that simple, everyday acts of kindness are powerful beyond measure. We needn’t protest, march in the streets, run for political office or shout from our respective “soap-boxes”.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem – all we need to, in the words of Gandhi, is “be the change we wish to see in the world” – as individuals. Everyday, people cross our paths. Everyday, we interact with and engage others in a variety of settings. From home, school and the workplace, to our local grocery stores, gas stations and city streets – we encounter a myriad of situations and circumstances that cry out for simple acts of kindness.
The elderly woman attempting to cross a busy street. The stray animal shivering in the cold. The mother struggling to juggle her baby and grocery bags while boarding a bus. The list goes on and on and on. How do you behave in these situations? Are you too busy or too preoccupied to extend a helping hand? Do you even take notice?
The power of a simple, everyday acts of kindness can not be dismissed or underestimated. When we take a moment (yes only a moment) out of our day to assist someone else – we are passing the flame of our candle to light another – bringing more light into the world. Being on the receiving end of an act of simple, everyday kindness has a visceral effect. It lightens the load, inspires joy, and renews a sense of hope in others. It has a warming effect that is contagious and motivates us to “pass it on” – to “pay it forward” (see the video link at the end of this article).
We all possess the power to share our light and express our humanity through acts of compassion and kindness. We can think of this as Heart Economics. Our need for connection and a sense of value and worth is the social demand – the spiritual requirement for well being. The willingness to extend ourselves to others is the supply – of which we have in abundance and unlimited quantity. The supply and demand of Heart Economics is, by its very existence, the love that makes the world go round.
Research has shown that helping behavior, not only breathes new life into the recipients, but also fortifies those that give. In the most dire of circumstances (such as concentration camps), people who found self-value in the assistance of others weathered the storm to greater degrees, were healthier, and experienced less stress and anguish than those who remained self-absorbed and downtrodden by their devastating circumstances.
So the next time that you’re feeling hopeless and depressed, angry and fearful or resolved that life is a hard and cruel taskmaster – stop, for just a moment, and look up from your life. Take time to notice those around you and extend a simple act of kindness. Even a smile can contribute a powerful message to a passing stranger that lifts them from feelings of invisibility. While we have no way of knowing what problems face the others that we encounter – the loving gesture of a simple smile can go a long way toward stoking the dwindling flame of their heart.
In this way, we can all assume leadership roles in transforming the world. And in terms of Heart Economics, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. After all, a simple cost/benefit analysis will quickly reveal that we have nothing to lose – and everything to gain. Again, in the wisdom of Gandhi, “A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of yourself”.
In conclusion, I’ll take it one step further. Not only will we not be diminished by simple, everyday acts of kindness – in fact, we will all become benefactors of a world where love is the only currency that needs to be exchanged – and the interest will compound daily!
Please take a moment to view this very compelling (5 minute) video that speaks to this message and “pass it forward” to everyone you know. Changing the world is easier than you think…