by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA

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.

6 thoughts on "Acts of Kindness"

  1. Linda Shapiro says:

    Dear Lisa,

    Your many acts of kindness certainly include these newsletters you send with such important, down-to-earth messages for we caregivers. Your personal warmth and insights are so important to a whole new generation of professionals. Thanks as always

    1. lisaferentz says:

      Linda, thank you as always, for taking the time to acknowledge my efforts and express your gratitude. It’s one of the kindest things about you!!

  2. I love your theme! Recently, I had a similiar experience that reminded me of the gift of kindness. I arrived in Chicago at OHare Airport and got on a train to visit my young adult child who was struggling. A couple of stops along the way two young men got on the train – both looking a little rough around the edges. One began sharing his thoughts and feelings in a very loud voice, commanding the full attention of everyone in the train car. He spoke of being homeless, of being abused by his father, of wanting to commit suicide and of the profound despair he was feeling. He was begging for $14.80 so he could get a bus to a cousins home in Rockford and enroll in a job training program. This event occurred about 2 weeks after the Sandy Hook shooting so I watched both young men carefully, feeling a bit scared as to what would come next. After listening to him for a few minutes, feeling my fear and compassion, I decided to give him $20. I got up from my seat, walked over to him, looked into his eyes, handed him the money, made a few loving and affirming statements and reminded him he is not alone. He wanted to give me change but I told him to use to money to invest in himself because he mattered. Next, the young man standing next to him (who in fact was a stranger) told him that he had been suicidal in the past and gotten help. He spoke to him in a loving and compassionate manner and shared resources of how he got help. I watched as they connected as human beings and it was beautiful. The struggling young man then sat quietly in a seat, went about 6 more stops and got off. He waved goodbye with a smile and one more thank you to both of us.

    1. lisaferentz says:

      Janice, I cannot thank you enough for sharing such a powerful and moving experience. I have to believe that you helped save/change a life that day. What an inspiration you are to all of us!

  3. Joyce Wolpert says:

    recently I attended a filled concert at the last moment and was worried I might not get a ticket. as I stood in line, a man I had never seen came up and asked if I wanted an extra free ticket he had. was this an angel or was there some catch? he said: “pass it on” (which I assumed referred to the acts of kindness) so I took the ticket and got in to see the concert for free and sat in the second row. the fact that this was a famous ’60’s folksinger I got to see encouraged me to think that maybe there are still people around, from that communal and collective ethos era, who subscribe to the intrinsic value of sharing…

    1. lisaferentz says:

      What a great story, Joyce, thanks so much for sharing it! I agree that the era of folksingers seemed to be a kinder, gentler time, but I am holding out hope that we can re-create that environment of kindness even in 2013!

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