I was at an airport this past weekend waiting in the security line — as I fumbled looking for my boarding pass, I apparently dropped a dollar. A lady says, “Sir you dropped a dollar,” then her son goes to pick it up, and I tell the young kid that he can have the dollar. A guy comes up to me after and said, “That was really nice of you — that kid will remember that the rest of his life.”
I didn’t think about that when I gave the kid the dollar, but that instantly made me remember a time when I was that kid’s age and a priest gave me a shirt pin. I said to the priest during a baptism I was attending, “Where did you get that pin?” He said, “I don’t know, but you can have it.” That experience made me happy at the time, and it’s something I will never forget.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We have the ability to radically change someone’s life for good by making them feel good, either by a kind act or word.
In this day and age it seems we are addicted to “stuff,” meaning smartphones, money, high heels, cars, Facebook likes, etc. All of this “stuff” disconnects us from the people around us.
This “stuff” is nullifying the feelings inside of us — we think that everything in life is about us, and it’s just not. Laughing with your friend is more important than buying a better car than your friend so you can impress them. Saying something pleasant to a stranger is more beneficial than buying a new pair of shoes for yourself.
I think we should be focused on the simple acts of making a person smile everywhere we go. Simple acts like letting a person merge when you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you don’t let someone in when you’re driving, they’ll get upset, and when they’re upset they may transfer that emotion on to their friends, coworkers, or spouse. So just let the person in — the world would be a better place.
How about truly listening to someone when they are speaking with you instead of sending a text message to another person?
As human beings, we interpret life through a series of filters in our mind. For example, this person is successful, that person is unsuccessful. I’m this religion; I believe in this and don’t believe in this. If a person doesn’t believe in this, there is something wrong with them. People start wars over their beliefs. Sometimes belief filters cause people not to do compassionate acts.
To give you one example, climbing Mount Everest is seen as one of the greatest acts of man over nature. To some people, conquering Mount Everest is the ultimate accomplishment. Not too long ago in 2006, a man named David Sharp was stuck on top of Mount Everest dying. While he was dying an estimated 40 people walked by him without helping him get down the mountain. You might ask: What would stop them from helping this man?
Well there are a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is that people pay tens of thousands of dollars to climb Mount Everest, and if they had to stop to help the person, they might have not made it to the top of the mountain. Another reason some say is that he may have been too close to death to help. Even if he was close to dying, why didn’t anyone stay with him to make sure? I know it was extraordinarily dangerous at the time, but someone could have at least attempted to take him down. Maybe he could have recovered; we will never know.
I think one thing we can all agree on, no matter if a person is an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or has any type of spiritual belief, is that no one wants to suffer. “Stuff” and non-compassionate beliefs interferes with our ability to recognize and empathize with others suffering. This world does not need more “stuff.” We need people to be more awake to not only themselves but to the people around them. We need to recognize that everyone suffers, and that some people made need help. As the poet Rumi said, “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.” Reach out to someone, make them smile or laugh, or help them out with something.
It doesn’t take much to help change the world for better. One compassionate experience that you can deliver today can create emotional buffers for a person that can last a lifetime. One thing you say today to a person could help them get through suffering years from now! You can make a stranger feel good today; you can say something today to a person that can last a lifetime. A small act of kindness can change the world.
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