The ancient Greek story-teller, Aesop, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” He wasn’t wrong.
There is a lot of suffering in the world, and suffering is a part of our daily lives. We don’t have to be consumed with it full-time, but it lingers in the backs of our minds. Just because you aren’t in a third world country, wondering when your next meal will be, doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering.
People suffer for a number of reasons. Most commonly, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, financial troubles, guilt, and regret. The truth is, we never know what someone is going through. What about the person in the elevator, the car next to you at the red light, the person behind you in the line at the grocery store? They may not show outward signs of suffering, but unbeknownst to us, they could be teetering on the edge of a breakdown.
This is why it is so important to remember to do little acts of kindness.
Small acts of kindness can be powerful. We hear stories of people who were at the end of their rope but were saved by just one small act of kindness. It’s amazing to think that little things like a smile, asking “how your day is going,” holding the door, or sparing a dollar or two, can change someone’s life.
Small acts of kindness don’t always have to be life-changing. They can be moment changing. Suffering is not mutually exclusive to these life-threatening situations. We have all got up on the wrong side of the bed, and are just having a bad day. But, there is nothing more uplifting than a perfect stranger going out of their way to help us. They did not know what we were going through, but they smiled and helped us anyway.
Why we should remain humble.
As human beings, we all share in this suffering. It is unavoidable. Knowing this to be true, the suffering is something that bonds every person on this planet together. What that means, is that although we come from different walks of life, and we have different problems, we can all share in the fact that at one point or another we have experienced suffering. This brings us all down to the same level, and as such makes us equals.
When we see someone suffering, we need to be reminded that, although we may not be suffering at the moment, we have suffered in the past. We need to remain humble, and when readily available to offer help to others, remember to do so.
Take the all too common scenario of the homeless person on the street corner. They sit there, day in and day out, with the cardboard sign, asking for help. Thousands of people pass by a day and are remiss to even make eye contact, let alone lend a helping hand. We tend to create narratives in our head about that person. We ask ourselves things like, maybe they are a drug addict? Why don’t they just get a job? How could they be so lazy?
The point is, you don’t know why that person is on the corner, and it is not your job to judge. If we find ourselves in a position of less suffering, we should take it upon ourselves to pass on a little kindness. This doesn’t have to be picking them up off the street, taking them home, and letting them have a room in your house. Try just making eye contact and smiling. Try acknowledging them as a human being. If you have a little extra change or leftover food from lunch, pass it on. By remaining humble, we open ourselves up to the opportunities to engage in small acts of kindness for others.
Make kindness a habit.
By reframing the way we think about people, we can place ourselves in a unique situation to approach every person as if they may be suffering. If we approach all daily interactions with this mindset, we find that we are able to provide small acts of kindness to everyone.
With all things in life, the more you do something, the better you get at it. It might be hard to approach our day in this way. It is normal to find ourselves forgetting, and falling back into our old behaviors. But, with a little practice, before we know it, we will find ourselves naturally being kind to others, and ultimately making the world a better place.