A small gesture of kindness may be more important than you realize.
You may think it’s not a big deal. What’s a little kindness? It may not seem like much to you, but to the recipient it could change that person’s day. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or noticed by a crowd of people. It could be so minute; it’s not worthy of any attention. But a small gesture, like opening a door for someone next to you, giving an unexpected compliment to an elderly person, or saying thank you to someone who thinks it’s not necessary may have a lasting impact.
How often have you stopped to hold an elevator door for someone rushing to catch it? Or allowed someone into your lane while you’re driving? Or waited for someone limping to cross the street? You could say these are acts of patience or compassion, but they’re also sublime expressions of kindness.
Just taking that extra moment out of your day to help someone else, especially someone you don’t know is like spreading a rainbow around the world.
Oh you might say that sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. Because kindness is contagious. When someone is kind to you, you want to be kind to someone else. It simply spreads from one person to another, bringing tiny moments of joy to each of us.
You don’t have to go skipping down the street handing out flowers, but you could pick up a nail when you find it in parking lots, on city streets and public garages. Then, you know you just saved someone from getting a flat tire. I remember walking with a client across a parking lot toward the building where I was going to present a workshop. I stopped to pick up a nail and casually announced, “It’s my gift to the universe.” He asked, “What does that mean?” I said every time I see a nail I pick it up, so no one ends up with a flat. He was amazed. I didn’t think much about my action. When he introduced me he told the audience about my “gift to the universe.” He said it was such a thoughtful gesture. I simply said, “I like knowing I helped someone else avoid getting stuck on the side of the road.” Then I said, “If you like my Nail Removal Mission I’ll tell you about my Umbrella Project.” They were curious what they meant. So explained it.
I always hand out umbrellas when it’s raining. I’ve been doing this for years now, actually even decades. I carry extra umbrellas in my car. When it’s raining, I pull over and hand it to someone who needs one. And tell them to keep it. You would not believe the reactions I get. One person asked, “How can I return it to you?” Someone else looked up and said, “You’ve saved my life today. I have an interview.” Another person smiled and said, “G-d bless you.” All I did was give each of them an umbrella. But, to them it was a symbolic gesture. It showed them that someone cared. Cared about their well being, cared about keeping them dry, cared about them as an individual. Just simply cared.
People are usually stunned. Then, they’re hesitant to accept it. They act as if they’re receiving a precious gift. It’s not. It’s just an umbrella. But, to each of them it was so much more. I love seeing strangers’ reactions. So, when I run low, I just go out and buy more umbrellas and put them in the car, waiting for the next impromptu interaction.
This simple act makes me think of the famous Mahatma Gandhi quote. It’s used so often, it almost lost its power.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
But, the truth is, you’ll feel that change the second you pick up a nail or hand out an umbrella. Be kind, even if for a moment. Not just to family, friends and colleagues, but also to strangers wherever you see them. You’ll surprise them and you’ll surprise yourself. And you may even discover what I did: Kindness is the greatest gift of all.