copyright © 2020 Oliver Bardwell
This is my simple religion: No need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart, is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.
The simplest acts of kindness are, by far, more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
Today I made it to half a century. It's a day like any other, except for all of the wonderful birthday wishes coming in via text and social media and the phone calls from my sisters, friends and family.
With my mother having passed away in April, I won't get the phone call that she usually makes and won't get to hear the birthday song that she always plays for us over the phone. But that's ok. Maybe she will find another way to reach out to me today.
I do appreciate the birthday wishes though. Simple acts of kindness.
The following is a story from Chapter 6 of THE WAY: A Small Book of Wisdom about a young man who's kindness had a powerful affect on his friends, family and community.
Being kind, when practiced often, becomes a beautiful habit, a way of being. Acts of kindness take such little effort, but we can get so lost and caught up in the turmoil of our day that we forget how powerful they can be, and how wonderful an effect one small and kind act can have on the lives of those around us.
My son and I recently attended a funeral for a young high school senior who had passed away suddenly. It was a sad and solemn affair. It’s always heartbreaking when someone young leaves this life so unexpectedly. Though our families were close when this young man was in elementary school and junior high, I didn’t know him well as a teenager. During the funeral service, one of his teachers went up to the podium to read something that the young man’s mother had written. She listed words that described his many great qualities and told stories about each one. One of the many qualities that she talked about was kindness.
To illustrate this, the woman spoke about how the he had a real zest for life and was very active in sports. One of his favorite sports was basketball. During a game, his mother noticed another player wearing her son’s orange basketball shoes. They were his favorite pair from the year before. After the game, she asked him about it, and he simply said, “He needed a pair and couldn’t afford to buy them, so I gave him mine.” He didn’t have to mull it over or consult with anyone; he just did what he thought was right.
The young man also struggled with an autoimmune disorder called alopecia, which can cause hair loss. Once, while playing in a baseball game, he noticed a child who had also lost his hair, watching the game from the sidelines. After the game, he went over to the child, squatted down, and removed his baseball cap. He just wanted the young boy to know that he had lost his hair, too, and that the boy wasn’t alone.
He was always going out of his way to help someone or to perform a random act of kindness. You could tell from the hundreds of people at his service how much of an effect this had had on the people around him and on our community. From the children in his mother’s classroom where he often volunteered, to friends and family, to teachers and faculty, to classmates and teammates, and even to players on opposing teams, the effect of his kindness was palpable.
In our daily lives, we are often presented with opportunities to express the kindness that is inherent in our nature. An act of kindness can be as simple as smiling at someone, giving them a sincere compliment or offering to return their shopping cart after they’ve unloaded their groceries. It’s always a nice feeling and pleasant surprise when you pull up to the coffee shop window, and the cashier says, “The person ahead of you paid for your order.”
One Christmas, while I was picking up some last-minute gifts, the woman checking out in front of me was struggling to get her government assistance card to work. She didn’t seem to speak English very well and was having difficulty understanding the cashier. He was trying to tell her that there was no credit left on the card. It was easy to see they were both becoming frustrated by the situation. I glanced at the woman’s cart and saw that it was full of meat and fresh vegetables. It looked as if she had a large family to feed.
When I took out my credit card and told the cashier that I would pay for her groceries, she was beside herself with gratitude.
Every one of us can be a small beacon of hope in someone else’s life. The more we do to bring joy to the lives of those around us, the more connected we feel to ourselves and to the one being that resides in us all
Practice: Begin with your spouse, or a family member, or friend. An act of kindness can be as simple as a smile or a positive comment. It can be a small act of service or a thoughtful gift. My wife has this way of smiling at me when I walk into the room that makes me feel like something special is taking place. It never fails to amaze me. Simply recognizing your child’s accomplishments and talents in a positive way, if done consistently, can affect the course of their life.
As you practice kindness, don’t expect anything in return. Giving with the expectation of receiving something in return is not giving; it’s trading. What you gain from being kind is the knowledge that you helped make someone’s day a little brighter. You may have even helped ease someone’s suffering.
Don’t stop with your family and friends. Extend that same kindness to everyone you meet in life: A kind smile, a word of encouragement, an act of service. Before you know it, you will become a positive ripple in the fabric of society.
It takes little effort
Don’t be afraid your kindness might be rejected
And you’ll appear the fool
It’s better to have peace in your heart
And kindness rejected
Than to be caught up in drama and delusion.
A master sits on a riverbank
A scorpion falls in the water
As the master rescues the scorpion
The scorpion stings him
The scorpion falls in again
The master plucks him out
And is stung once more
A little while later
Another scorpion falls in
The master reaches out to rescue it
A passing villager says
You will get stung again!”
The master replies
“It is a scorpion’s dharma to sting
And it is a human being’s dharma to be kind.”