Kindness has been in my thoughts over the past few weeks. And then life brought me a ringside seat to witness a random act of kindness, profound in both its simplicity and depth, and it touched me deeply.
The humidity got to me one recent afternoon, as it always does, and I adjusted my walk home to stop at a soft serve ice cream shop to cool down. This is a tiny shop in Greenwich Village, and I found a place to stand at their counter where I could feel the blissfully cool air conditioning as I enjoyed my treat.
I heard the door open, and a woman who appeared to my right immediately started rummaging through the trash. She squealed with delight upon finding a discarded cup with unmelted ice cream. And then I heard a voice of kindness.
One of the people working there asked if she would allow him to take care of her with her own cup of ice cream. She said no, and he asked again in a very soft voice, speaking from his heart. After a pause, she said yes.
He asked if she’d like toppings. She thought about it for a moment and asked for one. He asked if she’d like another, and she said no. He gently asked again until she said yes. She left holding a giant cup of ice cream covered with the toppings she requested, and I’m sure she enjoyed every drop of it.
Reflecting on Kindness
I was now alone with the two employees and told this remarkable man what a wonderful kindness he did for the woman who had just left. The action itself was one thing, but he went above and beyond in the way in which he spoke to her – soft, warm, caring. His voice was like a warm hug. I could feel it and I hope she could, as well.
He said he was just happy that she let him do this for her. She comes in often and usually only takes what she can find in the trash. He mentioned how hard it can be “out there” – everyone needs some help now and again.
What a beautiful soul this man has. I felt the ripple effects of his kindness and immediately needed to share the experience and allow those ripples to continue flowing. That’s what kindness does.
“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.” – Morgan Freeman
I remember when “random acts of kindness” were popular in the late 90s or so. A common example at that time was that someone would pay for the coffee or take out order of the person behind them in line. The recipient would often be so touched that they would do the same for others.
It was a very pleasant surprise to discover the existence of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. They offer tools to bring kindness to homes, schools, and work. How noble is that?! They also list 50 random acts of kindness to get people thinking. One that spoke to me touched on conversation:
“Try to make sure every person in a group conversation feels included.”
I hadn’t thought of that as an act of kindness since it’s something that is second nature to me – but I have been on the receiving end of that dynamic and can validate that it is indeed a kindness.
Their 50th suggestion is one of my favorites:
“When you hear that discouraging voice in your head, tell yourself something positive — you deserve kindness too!”
Being kind to ourselves – I, for one, need more of that.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” –Dalai Lama