Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” Anthony Robbins

 

Growing up I was very fortunate that my mother had taught me the importance of kindness from an early age. She always said that it is more important to be kind than liked, and, as I matured, I’ve realized how right she was.

 

In the early nineties when I was twelve years old I went on holiday to Durban, South Africa, to visit my mom’s family. One hot and humid summer’s day I was standing in the driveway of my grandmother’s house talking with my dad.

 

As my dad and I chatted away, an African man walked by on the pathway at the foot of the driveway. He was wearing a grey suit and had on an old fashioned nineteen fifties hat. As he walked by the front of our house he noticed us and stopped. He looked at us and gave us a wide genuine smile and then slowly lifted his hat and lowered it to his chest to say hello.

 

I was so taken aback that this elderly man, someone who for all intense purposes I should have been paying respect to, had shown such kindness to me, someone he didn’t even know, despite his countries racist history when it would have been quite understandable had he hated whites for what they had caused his race to endure.

 

In shock at the genuine kindness he extended to me and humbled by his gentle and sincere soul, I had only just digested what had happened by the time the man had continued to walk on. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by love for him and so saddened at him having experienced the horrid apartheid regime.

 

I started to cry uncontrollably and plead with my dad to invite him into the house for coffee but by that time he was all but gone. I like to think he is in heaven now, though I am saddened by the thought that he possibly never knew what a profound and lasting impact he had on me.  His amazing kindness towards me and his sincere smile will stay with me forever.

 

Although I can’t claim to have shown an act of kindness of the same magnitude as that elderly African man, I like to think I have followed in my mother’s footsteps. I buy food for the homeless, I help write my friends resumes and I give money to causes that I care about.

 

Ok, but what is kindness exactly?

 

Often kindness is very hard to define as it can be so many things. The Oxford dictionary lists it as ‘The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’, the Your dictionary explains it as ‘The act of being warm or caring in spirit’ and the Urban dictionary defines it as ‘The act of going out of your way to be nice to someone or show a person you care’. To me, kindness is a combination of all of these, it is someone extending genuine understanding and compassion towards another and then expressing this concern through gentle, thoughtful acts.

 

The health benefits of kindness

During the times in my life where I have extended kindness I have been by far the happiest. Studies have actually shown that endorphins (otherwise known as happy hormones) are released whenever we do an act of kindness. What I didn’t realize was that being kind has actually been proven to produce Oxytocin which lowers blood pressure, and kindness even contributes towards having a healthier heart. Not only is kindness good for our long-term happiness and emotional health but it also improves our physical health too!

 

Stay tuned – next week we look into the different types of kindness and how we can all foster greater kindness within.

 

What is the most kind thing anyone has ever done to you? How did it make you feel and what impact did it have? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Exercises:

 

  1. Make a list of kind things you could do for your friends.
  2. Do one kind thing for a friend this week.

 

Further Resources:

 

‘The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life’ by Piero Ferrucci