As the holiday season approaches, glad tidings and good will toward men kicks into high gear. This the time of year that calls forth the generosity and kindness that sometimes we keep hidden until the waning weeks of the year, perhaps, in the hopes of making Santa’s “nice” list, to atone for our sins of the past year, to capture the “Christmas spirit” amidst the chaos, or a host of other reasons. Whatever the reason, when it comes to helping others, it always is the right time of the year to do so. The other day, when I was at the dentist’s office with my daughters, their dentist made a comment that speaks to this notion.
She asked me about my work at a local day shelter for homeless men, and she said that she would like to donate some items to the shelter. I thanked her for thinking of the men there, and she went on to explain that she recently decided that one of her new year’s resolutions was going to be to do “just one thing each day to help someone else out”. She further explained that she wanted to do something more meaningful than just making a monetary donation or serving on a board; she wanted to make a difference in both small and grand ways in the lives of others each and every day of the year. I was struck by this simple idea, as I see on a daily basis at work how even the smallest of gestures, such as a kind word, a gentle touch, a warm smile, and a shared laugh, can mean everything to someone who feels very much alone and adrift in the world. Can you imagine what your family, community, and the world at large would be like if we all did just one thing each day, not just during the holiday season, to make someone’s life better in some way, shape, or form? I have to believe that the results would be nothing short of miraculous and that the world would be transformed into a much kinder, gentler, and loving place for all.
If you think that this all sounds far too naive or simplistic, consider some of the times that an act of kindness, random or otherwise, made your day all the better and brighter. I have been fortunate enough to have had complete strangers pay for my hot tea on a cold morning, allow me to go ahead of them in line at the grocery store, compliment me on my smile or my haircut, hold a door open for me, and other seemingly insignificant gestures that I still remember, even if I did not even know the name of the person who showed me such kindness. Friends have delivered piping hot homemade chicken noodle soup to my door when I had the flu, sent me a card to let me know that they are thinking of me, listened to me when I needed someone to talk to, and too many other kind acts to list here. My family has picked up my girls from school so that I could fulfill work obligations, invited me over for a home cooked meal, called me to catch up, share some cheer, listen, and laugh, and a slew of other acts that have helped me along the way. No matter if I knew the person or not, their words and actions left a smile on my face and an imprint on my heart. It is those small acts of kindness that bring me glad tidings and good will and that restore my faith in a world that seems to have gone completely and utterly mad at times.
This seems easy enough, right? So, what happens that we do not do this on a daily basis? Are we really so very busy that we do not have time to be deliberately kind and generous to the people who cross our path each day? I obviously cannot and will not speak for you, but I will speak for myself and my own failings to talk the talk and then walk the walk. I can become self-absorbed in my own little dog and pony show that I fail to remember that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has their own struggles and challenges that they deal with, and I selfishly will turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to those who need my presence more than my presents. It is easier to throw money at a problem than it is to give your time, energy, and heart to resolving it, but it is our open and loving hearts and minds that the world needs more of right now.
As the year comes to a close, I am adopting my daughters’ dentist’s resolution to do just one thing each day to help someone as one of my own resolutions. It is a resolution that I am determined not to abandon by February, and my ultimate goal is turn that resolution into a lifelong habit. If anyone else is looking for a resolution to add to your list, I would highly recommend this one. I cannot wait to see we all can do in 2013 to help our friends and families and total strangers, and I truly believe the world will be a better place for our efforts. All it takes to change a life is one word or one act, so, make them kind, generous, and positive ones, and make someone’s life better this holiday season and every season.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story