Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lesson #35: Random Acts Of Kindness Can Save The World

If the Winter Blues are still getting you down (especially out here on the East Coast), if you are ever in need of pick-me-up during the day, try doing ONE random act of kindness for another person.  A "random" act is usually unexpected and generous.  A few examples can be:  holding a door open for someone, letting someone go in front of you in line, paying the toll on the bridge for the person behind you, giving someone a subway swipe, saying "thank you" to a mail carrier, giving an extra tip to that waitress working for pennies in your local restaurant, getting a cup of coffee for a co-worker, leaving a nice comment on Facebook, or just calling a relative to say "hi."

I learned the ecstatic joy of this act from my dear friend Chris Bender.  We once ate lunch at Jerry's Deli in Marina Del Rey, California, and Chris wanted to get a homemade treat at the bakery afterward.  While waiting in line a very loud woman behind us commented how much she loved those round black and white cookies, and how much they reminded her of the kind her mother used to make.  In my cynical jaded mind I was thinking, "Geez lady, do we all need to know this?"  The next thing I saw was Chris at the front of the line ordering two cookies, one for himself, and one for this woman.  As he turned around and gave her the treat, the look in her face was one of shock, amazement, happiness, and tears.  "I hope you have a great day," he said as he smiled to her and we departed.  For just 75 cents Chris was able to transform this woman's entire day, and gave her a great story to tell others. 

Why do random acts matter? Because negativity and cruelty are like nuclear waste—they continue to create and increase more of the same.  If I am being an impatient jerk to someone, they are simply going to absorb that energy and dump it on someone else.  That someone else could be a spouse, a child, or another driver on the road who then might in turn use their car to express hostility.  The child that absorbs negativity may bully another child believing that violence will help him or her to feel better, when the reality is that bullying only makes the perpetrator and the recipient more prone to use violence and aggression to communicate.  And so on and so on. This need not be.

Random acts of kindness not only reward the receiver, but they help the giver as well.  They diffuse toxic hostility and make our world an easier and safer place to live.  Will wars end because people buy each other cookies? Maybe not.  But I've learned in forty years that my life is a lot sweeter when I find spontaneous ways to give.  I encourage you to test this for yourself.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com

1 comment:

Matthew said...

We always believe in Random Acts of Kindness, Damon. And it can be as simple as holding the door for someone, or stopping your car, and letting someone cross the street! So many people don't do those things and are always in a rush!