Small Daily Actions Make a Big Difference
Our daily actions don’t have to be big or heroic. They can be as simple as a kind word, a hug, or keeping quiet while someone else talks to us about what they’re feeling. Sometimes tiny acts can make a big difference in other people’s lives. They can reverse a bad day or help someone feel wanted and important. And let’s face it, we all want to feel important.
By increasing your awareness of what others are experiencing, you can learn to put kindness into daily action. And while of course you want to be kind to others, it is often best to start by looking inward.
Here are four things I do to exercise kindness:
Smile at myself. We can be so cruel to ourselves when we look into the mirror, zeroing in on every imperfection. It’s time to give your mirror a makeover by standing in front of one and finding your beauty. Keep looking until you see all that is good and right and loveable about yourself. When you see it, give yourself a big, wide, joyful smile.
Look up. I really do believe Emerson’s quote, which reads, “The sky is the daily bread for the eyes.” What color is the sky today? What are the clouds doing? Is a storm brewing? Are the stars out? Take a few deep breaths and really gaze. Think about how your problems fit into this boundless, infinite scope. Remember that you are the only one like you in all that endless space, and that the stresses and problems you face will come and go, but in the end, they’ll mean little — they are space dust. Looking up will put your life in perspective.
Travel. Travel expands our consciousness, and I travel as often as I can. In his book, The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and women and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Ask others to help me. Do someone the kindness of being able to be there for you, to give you something you need that you can’t give yourself. Whenever I reach out to others for their help it reminds me of my vulnerability and it makes them feel good.
And there are four things I do for others:
Leave or send a note. Slip a sweet note of love, encouragement, or inspiration into your partner’s pocket, your child’s lunch, or send a thank-you note to a friend or colleague. In my role as a fundraiser for Hosparus Health, I have witnessed the joy a personal thank you note brings to a donor or a volunteer.
Invite someone to something. Being invited to things makes people feel special. Whenever you extend an invitation, you show the other person that you value their company and want to spend time with them. Set a date for lunch or dinner or an informal get-together. Foster your connections.
Give someone something. I am notorious about giving people things. For me, it might be as simple as a pen, one of my books or bookmarks, or my business cards. Or it might be giving up your seat on a bus, or a busy waiting room, or your place in line. People are always disarmed by your kindness and thoughtfulness. It creates a dynamic of gratitude.
Help to shape the next generation. Everything you do for children or those younger than you is something you do for the future. Like the famous Fred Rogers, who was so gifted at building self-esteem in children by listening and affirming their uniqueness, you, too, can help children gain confidence and feel more secure in who they are. I have never forgotten the woman who gave me a quarter because I smiled at her while my Mom and I were in the Kroger check-out line. If you want the future world to be kinder, help children become kinder, better people.
In the end it doesn’t matter if your actions are appreciated or even noticed. What matters is that you have overcome your first, critical reaction and replaced it with compassion. You have done the better thing. You have done the right thing.
Bob is the Mission & Stewardship Officer at Hosparus Health.