Several years ago, while travelling home by bus, I lost my pen drive which had an article I had been working on for several days and had to be sent to be published the next day. The funny thing was I had no idea I had lost it till the next morning when I looked for it to do a final edit before submitting it in. When I couldn’t find it, panic set in. It was around 9 am and I had to send it within the next hour. I had been working on it for a whole week and I was frustrated and angry with myself for losing the pen drive and not realizing it till the last minute. I started to write the article from scratch and in this frenzy I received a call from an unknown number. My pen drive had been found by a boy and he had gone through it and had found my CV and called to inform me that he had my pen drive. I still remember the words he said, “I knew this was important to you so I had to find a way to give it back to you.” I was speechless. While he informed me where I should meet him to pick up my precious pen drive, I think I froze for a few seconds. I was dumbstruck, someone that I had never met in my life understood how valuable this pen drive was to me and went out of his to give it back to me. To this date, when I think of good karma, I think of him and I’m grateful for his random act of kindness.
As people, Sri Lankans can be recognized as a relatively kind bunch. From a young age we are taught to respect our elders, be kind to children and animals and practice general kindness. But with the advancement of technology among other things, we are slowly becoming more and more self-centred. The human race who are known to be social creatures are isolating ourselves because we’re too scared to let go of our egos and be vulnerable to compromise for a greater happiness instead of championing our individualistic needs and desires. We are more focused on ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ and we are forgetting to be kind to ourselves, to those we love and to those we share the earth with.
From the simple act of giving money to a beggar to donating large amounts to a charity, kindness has many degrees and forms. While not everyone has the means to donate generously to those who are less privileged, everyone is capable of speaking a kind word and making a kind gesture when it matters. As much as there are people who believe the value of being kind, there are those who strongly believe that kindness is also a weakness. That if you are kind, people will take advantage of you and given the opportunity will walk all over you. Don’t confuse kindness with assertiveness as they are two very different traits. There are many of us who suffer in the latter department and people mistake that it’s our need to be kind that gets us into bad situations. For a long time, I didn’t quite know the difference either but over the years I have learnt that I can be kind, spread kindness and still be assertive. Being assertive is about maintaining healthy boundaries, it’s about how good you are at negotiating and holding your ground. Kindness is not a weakness. If you let it, it could be your greatest strength and transform your life in ways you have never imagined.
So what’s the big deal with random acts of kindness and why should you be a part of it? Well for starters, kindness doesn’t always involve money, if you have lots of money and you want to help people, that’s excellent but if you’re a generous philanthropist who doesn’t talk to people kindly then your kindness is just a grand play with no meaning. The two main requirements to be kind are heart and sincerity and everything you do with these two ingredients will not only bring you happiness but also respect from those around you. So why should you do a random act of kindness? Why you? My question to you is why not you? We spend so much of our time asking ourselves why. Why should I do this? Why can’t someone else do it? Why should I sacrifice? Why should I work hard? Why should I be kind? At every question, remind yourself of an act of kindness that changed your life and helped you become the person you are today. Your mother’s unwavering devotion to you, your father’s commitment to provide a better life for you. You may say that’s what parents ‘should do’ for children they decided to have but also know that there are 153 million children around the world who do not have the luxury of having a parent. So why should you be kind? I personally believe that we were all born kind but somewhere along the way our environment and circumstances changed some of us, hurt some of us so much that we stopped believing in it because when we needed it the most there was no one to show us that kindness. So my question to you is, if you know what it feels like to not have had kindness when you needed it the most why would you deprive them of kindness and have them go through the same pain?
Here are examples of a few random acts of kindness which you can incorporate in your life:
- Compliment people more – people love compliments, it makes them feel good, recognized and appreciated. Whether it’s a friend pulling off a great dress or your buddy at work who has pulled off a great deal, learning to recognize and appreciate people for their efforts is one of the simplest ways of being kind.
- Be kind and compassionate when people are going through a difficult time – Whether it’s a friend, colleague or your boss, we have all had bad days and will have more in years to come. So instead of rushing to judge and bitch about his or her shitty attitude, give them the benefit of the doubt and try to be compassionate and kind. If that is too hard, maintain some safe distance till the situation changes. We all know that during our bad days we too are in need of patience, kindness, compassion and space.
- Uplift those around you – In a world where people are so focused on success that we are willing to sabotage and hurt someone in the name of winning, be the exception and overcome your insecurities and your ego’s desire to tear people down. Strive for healthy competition, hone your skills, and help those who are struggling, because success in the expense of putting someone down is not an achievement.
- Practice kindness every chance you get – We have all been given a limited time on earth which we tend to ignore as we’d like to think that we are exempted from things like illnesses and accidents till it actually happens. So make every minute of this life you have been given count, no one is going to remember your sense of style, how amazing your job was or how many cars you drove, they are going to remember how you made them feel. So be wise with your actions, no one gets to rewind time.
- Be generous with your time especially with your loved ones – Much of our time is spent looking from one screen to another that we tend to forget that there are people who are waiting for our attention and time. Make time for your partner, get into a new hobby with them, play with your children because this is when they need you the most and spend quality time with your family and friends because unbeknownst to you there is always a clock ticking.
- Most importantly, be kind to yourself – Learn to be gentle with yourself, kind to your emotions and feelings, be patient when you’re struggling and compassionate with your insecurities and fears. As much as the world needs your kindness, your body and soul depends on it.