We’re finally traveling again as the pandemic seems to be winding down, for business or pleasure, and the airports are full to bursting. Since the airlines require us to arrive at the airport at a minimum of two hours pre-flight time, if one is fortunate enough to get through TSA rapidly, you have a lot of time on your hands. Not to mention the many delays and re-scheduling which results in even more time sitting in the airport.
So, there I was, waiting and waiting, reading some and snacking more, which meant I ended up with a number of used food wrappers on my lap. A lady seated close by me who also had used food wrappers on her lap sighed, looked over at me, and asked if I would mind watching her carry-on while she zipped over to the nearest trash receptacle a few rows away. I told her I’d be happy to.
The lady got up, took a couple of steps toward the trash bin, then turned back to me and asked if I’d like her to toss my trash as well. Surprised, but pleased, I said “Yes!” and thanked her.
A little thing, in and of itself of no great consequence. Who cares if someone offered to toss some trash? But there it is: we should care. We should take notice of the innumerable acts of kindness, whether random or planned, that people all over the planet engage in daily, without the least thought of reward or even thanks.
Why? Because kindness, behaving towards others with consideration, generosity and caring, is one of humanity’s best qualities. It is vital to our survival, for we cannot navigate this life successfully without the compassionate support of others, in one way or another.
Kindness doesn’t have to be complicated, effortful or deliberately thought out ahead of time. Kindness can be simply waiting courteously to let a person having difficulty passing through a door go before you, rather than huffing with impatience.
Or simply listening to a friend stuck in a challenging situation, instead of jumping in to fix it for them, which empowers you but disempowers them. Or the easiest of all, that can be repeated many times a day: saying “thank you” as often as you can.
Such kindness costs nothing, yet the rewards not only to the person on the receiving end of your kindness but to yourself are very real. Research shows that even small acts of kindness over a short period lead to increased life satisfaction.
Kindness on a bigger scale, such as volunteering in service to others, be they human or animal, generates even greater benefits. Studies consistently show that seniors who volunteer on a regular basis experience less depression, less cognitive decline, better self-reported health, fewer functional limitations, and are likely to enjoy greater longevity.
Dr. Mildred Dixon was a prime example of one who enjoyed the many personal benefits of volunteering. Dr. Dixon, at 100, is the oldest National Park Service volunteer, having served for 44 years. The National Park Service was dear to Dr. Dixon’s heart, because, as she put it, each park tells a story of “inspiration, creativity and perseverance.”
This was after a lifetime of serving others as the first woman podiatrist to work for a Veteran Administration’s Hospital, retiring finally in 1985. Dr. Dixon was also the only woman to be inducted into the Kent State/Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine Hall of fame – one of her many other professional accomplishments.
You don’t have to put in an entire lifetime of volunteering to improve your life satisfaction or contribute to the well-being of the planet. If you can, great. If not, the smallest acts of kindness are worthwhile, to yourself and those who receive your kindness.
So the next time your neighbor asks you to walk their dog, or water their plants while they are out of town for a day or two, think twice before you automatically say “Sorry, no can do.” Thanks go such a long way in spreading kindness.
What act of kindness made by others toward you made you smile? What recent act of kindness did you do for someone else? How did it make you feel?