(Photo is for attention only and is not of the man featured in this blog)
KINDNESS; The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.
I’m a kindness addict. Yep, to me kindness is addictive. It’s my drug of choice. I think about it all the time. I’m constantly looking for my next ‘hit’. Over the years it’s meant working in soup kitchens, volunteering in Africa, rescuing animals, donating to charities, working in aged care and donating blood, among other things. Heaps of things big and small. Each now part of my life journey and definitely my heart. I guess it’s a conscious bias but also just part of who I am and what I do. I’m an empath, through and through. Sometimes TOO empathetic, actually to my own detriment! Haha. But give me that over coldness and selfishness any day for empathy can always be refined but a cold heart is a cold heart.
I choose kindness for kindness brings warmth and warmth brings love and connection. A few things the world so desperately needs more of in this the age of entitlement. And war. And poverty. And other shitty man-made humanitarian struggles.
It’s a lesson I have drummed into my kids from day dot. A healthy kind of brainwashing almost. I want them to live and breathe it. To make it their life mission to practice kindness. Even when humanity rears it’s ugly head. Kindness towards others AND kindness towards self. Both are equally as fundamental to achieving authentic and long lasting happiness in life.
Kindness comes in all shapes and forms. To me it’s more than just being “friendly, generous and considerate”. To me it means;
- Having respect for oneself and others
- Being warm and showing goodwill
- Being affectionate and doing good deeds
- Showing sympathy and empathy
- Being of service to your fellow humans
And ultimately it means treating others the way YOU wish to be treated.
A few months back I sat and watched “Filthy Rich and Homeless” on SBS. Did you see it? Did you hear about it? It was a doco about a few famous and well off Aussies who were stripped of all their luxuries - money, phones, jewellery, makeup etc and were then placed with homeless people to show Australia what being homeless really meant ... financially, practically, logistically and EMOTIONALLY.
Without retelling the whole story, the celebs were placed with homeless people on the street, in shelters and in temporary accommodation etc. They lived with them for days at a time. They experienced all the shame, fear, abandonment, isolation and other social limitations experienced by the homeless person they were placed with. It was a real eye opener and definitely a tear-jerker. How anyone could watch that expose’ and not be moved is beyond me. It was horrifically sad.
Cameron Daddo was one of the celebrities. He was placed at Bondi Beach where he slept on cardboard in a picnic shelter. Then he was moved into disgusting emergency accommodation followed by spending time with a guy who lived out of his van. Cameron became upset many times as he shared in the journey of these men.
After the experience all the celebrities gathered for a one hour catch up on SBS. What stuck with me most was Cameron talking about what homeless people really want from us. Yes money helps. Yes food helps. But most of all they just want someone to ask how they are. To sit with them and talk so they feel they aren’t all alone in the world. They want someone to show them that they matter! I know I’ve been guilty in the past of turning a blind eye. Not out of coldheartedness but more not knowing what to say or do. Not wanting to upset them or make them feel uncomfortable.
One night recently my kids and I were on holidays in Canberra. We’d been out for dinner and were walking home afterwards. It was freezing... maybe 6c or so. We came across a homeless man. He was sitting on a park bench looking rugged. Scruffy. But most importantly, he looked alone. But for his trolley of possessions, his whole world I imagine, he WAS alone. Yet he was surrounded by literally hundreds of people. People having dinner in warm restaurants. People having Friday drinks in warm bars. People walking around in warm jackets. But still, he was alone. Head lowered.
Suddenly Filthy Rich came to me. There was this perfect opportunity to be kind, it was as if someone placed us there in that very moment for a reason.
My kids are 8 and 4. Sheltered so much from the reality of this world. They have enough food. Enough clothing. MORE than enough toys and books. And a lovely safe warm home. I was curious as to what their reaction would be to this man. To the situation. I explained to them who he was and what he was doing. They were intrigued. We walked over together to this man and basically just said “Excuse me mate, how are you? Is there anything we can get for you?” Well this man, whose name I never got I’m afraid, looked up and smiled, almost baffled. He said “I’d love a coffee”. Long story short he ordered a Chai Latte with soy milk. 4 sugars. 6 mini marshmallows. Clearly this man had had MANY a coffee from the coffee shop just alongside where we were. That in itself was amazing, I remember thinking wow, so many people care?
We ordered the coffee and the kids and I started walking out to give it to him with the intention of stopping for a chat. On the way over I noticed two other ladies talking with him. We dropped the coffee off and the ladies said “You beat us to it!” People were literally lining up to offer kindness. Wow! So we decided to leave and let the ladies chat with him instead. We didn’t want to overwhelm him or make the situation feel unnatural.
I could see the kid’s little brain’s ticking over. They were busily processing the situation. Afterwards as we walked back to our hotel I was bombarded with “Where does he sleep?”… “I wish we could let him stay in our house”… “Maybe we should buy him 5 jackets”. As so the conversation went on. It really had amazed them that someone could have no home. Lesson in gratitude right there!
Ever heard of the Law of Attraction? How sometimes you receive what you send out to the universe? For example when you’re angry, tired and frustrated you seem to attract negativity and anger. Or when you’re uber happy and flying high things and people around you just seem to be great…? Well kindness is a part of it. Generally when you’re kind people are kind in return and so the positive energy carries forward in the universe.
So here’s the thing…
A few months after the night in Canberra and just a week or so ago, I was at a committee member’s meeting for a local charity event I am volunteering at. I had my usual Chai Latte with soy milk. REMEMBER the homeless man’s order? Yup, we love the same coffee! (Well technically it’s a tea but calling it a coffee is easier!) And… at the end of the meeting I walked up to the cashier to pay for my coffee. I had my EFTPOS card in hand and the cashier told me they had been having trouble with their EFTPOS machine all day but that she would try my card anyway. Sure enough it declined due to their technical fault.
As I stood there telling her I had no cash on me and she stood desperately trying to sort out her machine, and the queue built up… a lady, out of nowhere, came and dropped some cash on the bench in front of us. She said;
“This is for my table and this lady’s Chai Latte. I hope it was a good coffee… was it?”
As you can imagine I was blown away by her random act of kindness. She, a total stranger, wanted to pay for MY coffee purely because she had cash in her wallet and I wanted to use my card and didn’t have cash on me. And with that I thanked her several times and told her how thoughtful and kind she was before she walked off into the distance.
In that very moment I was taken back to the homeless man in Canberra. On some level I could relate to how my act of kindness must have made him feel, even though the circumstances were obviously very different. That lady made me feel so damn good, as we did that man, if only for a few minutes…
KINDNESS BREEDS KINDNESS!
Here’s why you need to practice more of it;
- It reduces your stress levels
- It eases anxiety
- It wards off depression
- It encourages feelings of positivity
- It’s good for your heart and your mind
These benefits are experienced in more than just the giver and the receiver… kindness acts as an influencer! This means those who witness an act of kindness itself or hear a story about an act of kindness also feel inspired to practice more kindness and so, well look at that! People slowly become a better, less selfish, version of themself and the community starts to change for the better! See what I mean about it being a drug?
What will you do to practice more kindness in your life this week? This year? I'd love to hear what you think, let me know in the comments below!
(This isn’t a brag-fest. Or an attempt to be holier than thou. It’s just my perspective on the choices we make each day of our lives.)
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!