Several years ago, when I was first beginning to write on the topic of kindness, I got a speaking request.
A group wanted me to come and talk about the health benefits of kindness. It seems this should have been right smack dab in my realm of knowledge, but it wasn’t. I knew what kindness had done for me, but I didn’t know what it had done for others. So I hit the internet.
I couldn’t believe what I found… nearly nothing. No research on the effects of kindness in our lives. It was an unstudied topic.
In less than a decade, our world has awakened to the powerful force of kindness and it’s been studied in magnitude. We now know about the chemicals that are released into our bodies and even how to craft situations that will fire off these hormones.
But back when I was looking, all I found were two studies on volunteering — one done by the federal government and another done by a man named Allan Luks.
Mr. Luks had written a book about his research in the 1990s called The Healing Power of Doing Good. It sits on my shelf still today, because the findings remain true.
Before I headed off to that very scary first speech, I took a long shot and decided to email Mr. Luks and ask if perhaps there was an arena of research that I was missing. He wrote me back just a few hours later. No, this is still primarily unchartered territory. Researchers haven’t caught on to the power of kindness.
I was so touched that this very busy pioneer of social change would take the time to respond to my email. I bought his book, absorbed every word and started telling people about the amazing work that kindness can do in a body and the man who coined the phrase “Helper’s High.”
Allan Luks is still blazing trails in the political and social scene, but just like way back when, he agreed to pause for a moment to talk. He shares his original ideas on volunteerism and what he knows now about kindness.
She’s not really going to do it, is she?
The woman in the BMW was edging closer and closer toward the front of my car.
Columbus, lunch hour, Christmas shopping chaos. It was complete gridlock and this woman was holding up 6 cars behind her as she insisted on sneaking between my car and the one in front of me in order to turn into a parking lot that had another entrance 50 feet down the lane. I had no where to go and neither did the car in front of me because BMW Lady was creating a standstill.
I wanted to get mad at her. I really did. I wanted to roll down my window and tell her she was a crazy so-and-so. I wanted to give her the bird.
I wanted to, but then I remembered.
Just last week, I was tired. I was sapped of emotional and physical energy. I was on my way to record five podcast interviews and I desperately needed a large peppermint mocha to make that happen.
Our Uptown parking is tough. No way, no how was I going to find a spot anywhere near the coffee shop. I only needed one teeny tiny spot for like 4 minutes. I was desperate.
That’s when I got the brilliant idea to pull into a spot marked “Business Loading Zone.”
There were 3 of those spots in a row and I knew if I pulled way up, it would leave plenty of room in the off chance that a big delivery truck pulled up in the 4 minutes I was in the coffee shop.
Feeling a touch guilty and a teensy bit worried that I might get towed, I ran into the coffee shop. My gut sank when I saw the 5 people already waiting in line. This is not going to take 4 minutes.
I should’ve turned around right there and scrapped the whole idea, but I was beaten down. I needed a warm, sweet treat more than I needed air in that moment.
So I stuck it out and 15 minutes later walked back to my car.
I immediately looked at the windshield. No ticket. Thank you Jesus.
As my mittened hand took the handle of the car, I heard a gruff voice come up behind me.
“Ma’am. Did you not see the big red sign attached to this meter?”
It was the parking attendant. She was trying very hard not to yell at me, but it wasn’t working, and I immediately felt like the size of a small lump of coal.
I had no good excuse. I was busted for arrogantly thinking my needs came above the needs of the rest of the community.
And I was on my way to record my kindness podcast. Ugh. How can I be so close to getting it right and so far at the same time?
I apologized to the parking attendant. We didn’t exactly leave as friends, but she didn’t give me a ticket.
The rest of the day, I felt like a terrible person. I had broken the rules and made someone very angry, and I can’t remember the last time I had done either of those things.
That’s what I was thinking as I sat behind the wheel a few days later, watching one woman in a BMW flirt with hitting my car and messing up loads of traffic around her.
Instead of feeling really angry at her like I thought I should, I felt compassion.
I wondered where her mind was… and how she slept last night… and if she has a group of girlfriends she can do life with.
I was in no position to judge. So instead I just wondered.
In light of my recent experiences, I thought it was sort of funny when I stumbled onto this week’s memory verse: “If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” Galatians 6:3 (NLT)
May God continue to remind me (and you, if you need it) that the main reason we must make an effort to always give grace to others is because we need it so often for ourselves.
I never knew the radical effect kindness could have on a life until it had an effect on my life. Isn’t that the way it always goes? We can hear about something again and again, but until it becomes real for us, it’s simply not real.
I went from seeing the world through mostly grey colored glasses to suddenly finding a kaleidoscope of kindness in front of me. One act of kindness, which led to a weekly newspaper column, which led to the need to intentionally search out kindness, totally rewired my brain. I never would have believed it could have happened. And then it did.
Lisa Barrickman is a woman who has come alongside me in this kindness journey. I’ve never met her face-to-face, but we’ve shared ideas back and forth online and over the phone. I was stunned the first time I talked to her, because I realized, it’s not just me. Kindness is sneaking up on other people and changing their lives, too.
After challenging herself to do 40 days of kindness for her 40th birthday, Lisa was so taken with the results that she convinced her entire church to try it. Then her relatives tried it at their churches. Seeing the positive ripples that were happening around her, Lisa decided to put her program into words in the form of a book, A Case for Kindness: 40 Ways to Love and Inspire Others.
Lisa talks about taking on a kindness program without making it feel like a diet or exercise regime and without totally draining your bank account in Episode 9 of The Kindness Podcast.