This month’s message is inspired by an experience my husband, Kevin, had the other day. He was in the 7-11 convenience store getting his usual morning cup of coffee to go. Other people were there for the same purpose; fueling up on caffeine to get through the day. As he approached the register to pay, another man in the store announced that he was paying for everyone’s coffee. My husband said this person did not look like a man of means, and the total bill came to around $20.00, but Kevin was completely taken by this man’s spontaneous and unsolicited act of kindness.
When my husband got to work, he e-mailed all of his employees to share the experience. He also used it as an opportunity to inspire them to focus on their own acts of kindness, recognizing that this could lead to a whole culture change if everyone made a personal commitment to do small acts of kindness for one another.
Recently, I spent four days at a large conference for mental health professionals. We literally took over the DC hotel. I, too, was struck by the many acts of kindness that I witnessed throughout the four days. Repeatedly, strangers genuinely and spontaneously smiled and said hello to one another as they passed. People complimented one another on their attire or a piece of jewelry they were wearing. Many times, doors were held open, people allowed others onto elevators first, content to wait for the next ride up. I heard folks thanking a fellow student for asking a brave or pertinent question during a workshop. And I was blessed to be on the receiving end of many kind words, as colleagues spontaneously stopped me throughout the conference, graciously letting me know how much they benefited from my book or my workshops.
It was a contagious dynamic. I found myself thanking presenters for their contributions to the field. I tipped waiters and cab drivers a little more than usual. The positive mood and energy in the hotel was palpable. It was like a small microcosm of how the world should and could be when we look for and create opportunities to say and do things that are kind. So, I am taking the lead from my very wise husband, who made the choice to bring acts of kindness into the conscious awareness of his workplace. My invitation to you is make it a daily intention to be kind to yourself and to others, and to acknowledge and reward acts of kindness when you see them. You never know how your gesture might impact someone’s day or their sense of themselves in the world. The anonymous stranger who bought a group of people their cup of morning coffee created a powerful and lasting impact that reverberated beyond the kindness of the people he directly reached out to.