The Ripple Effect
When things get ugly, try a little kindness and watch it spread
By David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
With all that’s happening in the world these days, friendliness and kindness have all but gone away, replaced by crabbiness, aggravation, anger, stress, frustration and fear. Everyone always seems to be in a bigger hurry, with less time for anyone else. Common courtesy and civility have gone by the wayside.
Sadly, it’s way too easy to get caught up in this frenzy.
I consider myself to be a calm, happy person. Yet, I snapped at my wife recently over a ridiculously trivial matter. That’s not like me. I very seldom get upset, and when I do it only occurs over significant issues. My wife just happened to catch me at a bad time.
How often do we explain away our behavior nowadays with: “Sorry, you just caught me at a bad time?” My outburst was such a shock to my wife that she started crying.
There’s just something about a woman’s tears that makes a man feel really, really bad.
I decided I had better get a grip and stop getting caught up in the world’s agitation.
That goal became magnified later that same day when I was checking out at a cash-and-carry store. My bill totaled $2.54 more than I had on me. As I looked over my items trying to determine what to put back, the mature woman at the register told me not to worry. She said she’d loan me the $2.54 and I could pay her back my next time in the store.
To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement.
Because of the cashier’s simple act of kindness, I left the store feeling really good. She made me realize the power of nice — something that is in very short supply in today’s tempestuous world.
Her gesture also got me to recall something my dear father told me many, many years ago: “Every act of kindness is like a pebble thrown in a pond. That pebble sends out ripples far beyond where it entered the water.”
On my ride home from the store, I resolved I would make a concerted effort to be kinder and nicer to others. I believe that behavior is contagious. So if I’m kinder to someone, they will be kinder to someone else and this will spread from person to person to person creating a domino effect.
A number of scientific studies actually prove the positive effects of kindness on both psychological and physiological health. According to the research, performing an act of kindness causes a rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm. Often referred to as a “helper’s high,” it involves physical sensations and the release of the body’s natural painkillers: the endorphins.
What’s more, a person who acts kindly to another gets an increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness and optimism.
I’m not suggesting you loan people money as a way of being kinder, although you will certainly enhance that person’s outlook. Being kind can be as simple as offering a smile or saying thank you. I invite you to join with me in using the power of nice to put more kindness out into the world, as this will beget more kindness.
Imagine the impact and effect that everyone’s random acts of kindness can have.
Start spreading kindness:
- Let people through in traffic.
- Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Make a donation to your favorite charity.
- Pay someone a compliment.
- When you see someone doing a great job, tell them.
- If you find something that’s not yours, return it.
- Smile at others, make eye contact and offer a genuine “hello.”
- Hold the door open for someone on their way in or out.
- Help with chores around the house without being asked.
- Make someone laugh.
- Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.