Especially in hard times, we need to remember how powerful one kind gesture can be. When people are losing faith in the economy and in trusted institutions, small acts of unanticipated kindness can help restore faith in the fundamental goodness of mankind.
I like to think of myself as someone who looks for the good in others. I must admit, however, that in the past few years, in a culture where individuals seem to be have become increasingly self-focused, I have gradually become more cynical about peoples’ willingness to reach out and help others. But just last week, I re-learned a valuable lesson. Here’s what happened.
I got home from work to discover that our mailbox and the post supporting it had been destroyed. My first thought was that it had been done by kids pulling a prank, or by vandals. But that evening my husband answered a knock at our front door. Two women who barely spoke English had come to tell us that they had accidentally backed into our mailbox. They expressed remorse, and said that they intended to replace the mailbox the next day. My husband and I were genuinely surprised that these strangers had gone out of their way to do the right thing, but frankly we didn’t really expect that they would fix it. Surprised yet again, the next evening we returned home from work to find that the post and mailbox had, indeed, been replaced.
But the story continues. That day, my husband, who was under a strict deadline for work, found himself offering to drive a co-worker to pick up his car at a repair shop. My husband attributed his own willingness to help his co-worker, despite his own stressful circumstances, to the kindness demonstrated by the women who had hit our mailbox. He remarked that he wanted to “pay it forward.” I thought back over my own day, and realized that I had also been especially understanding with a client in difficult financial circumstances, for exactly the same reason.
Now imagine if the people my husband and I each helped, in turn, decided to help someone else, and so on. It’s amazing how one simple act of random kindness can create an ongoing ripple effect.
We understand how these small acts can help those around us, but here are the reasons why reaching out to someone in need may also benefit you, personally:
Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, is a skilled and seasoned psychotherapist, as well as a trained Coach and Corporate Consultant. She is the owner of Maud Purcell & Associates Inc., and she writes a regular column for The Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, The Danbury Times and CT Post Newspapers.
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