When I was in first grade I entered into a contest to see how many books I could read over the summer. Ever the competitor, I read like a champ that summer. One of the books that I absolutely loved was Aesop’s Fables, a book of tales for children. The stories were so creative and wove a tale that always illustrated a moral. One of my favorite morals from the Fables is “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” It is derived from the story about the lion and the mouse. The lion reluctantly spares the mouse who later saves the lion by chewing threw the ropes ensnaring him.
Despite the fact that these Fables are for children, they are instructive at any age. Sometimes it feels like our world is spinning so fast that we have forgotten some of the simpler things in life, such as kindness. But kindness isn’t hard; it’s as simple as a smile or acknowledgement. The dictionary definition of kindness is “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others.” Simple, right?
Truly, kindness is a choice we make throughout the day. It’s easy with people we love, but what about everyone else? We interact with people on a myriad of levels and places: in traffic, the grocery line, over the phone, and on the elevator. Some of these interactions take place in the blink of an eye. I have found that expressing kindness through the simplest gesture – a smile – can have an earth shattering effect on my mood and that of the other person. A lot of times you can just see the person relax a bit when you flash a smile and say good morning.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of stories about random acts of kindness. It reminds me of the principle that you can change your thinking by the actions you take. That is, I can mold negative thoughts about myself or the world around me by doing something for someone else, no matter how small. It takes me out of my own head and puts me in a position to think of others. The key, of course, is to keep my ego out of it and to keep my motives in check (that is, not expecting you to praise me for doing something nice). This is accomplished by doing something nice for someone else without letting that person know. In a way, it made me feel like a fairy godmother when I had an opportunity to slip a coin into someone’s meter that was low.
For me, the key to kindness is being awake, conscious and aware of what’s going on around me rather than living in my head 24/7. If I observe life going on around me, it’s easy to find ways to be kind. Of course, acts of kindness need not be kept secret or be done without someone knowing. Like I said, it can start with something as simple as a smile.
PHOTO from Des Moines Register