Here’s something that I have been reminded of recently. We just don’t know, truly don’t know, how our acts of kindness, no matter how small, land with others.
Last week there was a thread on Facebook in which I was mentioned in the comments. (I honestly cannot remember the original intent of the thread and that’s not really important). Of course, I went to look. Right? Who doesn’t?
“we can never comprehend the significance to someone else of a small gesture of tenderness”
And, there it was: the evidence that we can never comprehend the significance of a small gesture of tenderness to someone else. The woman who mentioned me, let’s give her a name – Hanna, was re-telling a memory from an event where she and I met.
Last October I was a speaker at FierceCon LA. This is a women’s conference focused on empowerment and connection. If you want to know more about it read my Jack’s Smack from last November and you’ll get the picture. It’s quite the experience. And, a life-altering weekend; for many.
At some point during the weekend, I was on a panel and shared my struggles about my mother; who had lived with Alzheimer’s disease for ten years. I was in the process of working through some regret, guilt, and shame related to how I had reacted to/showed up for her during her illness. Even now, I get waves of ‘should ofs’ as it relates to that time in my life.
Back To The Innocuous Acts Of Kindness.
During one of our conference breaks, I wandered into the lobby of the hotel. I saw Hanna sitting on a sofa. She appeared sad. I asked to join her. We chatted a bit about Alzheimers and she shared her experience about her Dad. At a complete loss for words, I offered her my hand and we sat quietly for a bit.
So, here’s the deal… I may not be re-telling this exactly right. As a matter of fact, I had sort of ‘forgotten’ about this moment until I read it on the feed. How I remember that incident was that I gave her my hand because I quickly became nervous and overcome by a sense of inadequacy. What could I possibly say to ‘make things better’ for her? I had nothing to offer; so, I held her hand.
Why Is This Worth Mentioning?
“Doing good deeds fills the joy tank. It’s science, I promise,”
What seemed like a potentially awkward action on my part, during this brief encounter, touched someone else powerfully. Hanna shared in her comment that this moment had been her favorite part of the weekend and a treasured memory.
I made a positive impact on someone. Doing good deeds fills the joy tank. It’s science, I promise, One of the recommended ways to work oneself out of depression and anxiety is to pursue compassionate goals. Psychology Today defines those as “striving to help others and avoiding selfish behavior”—for example, “making a positive difference in someone else’s life.”
If it hadn’t been for the Facebook thread I may never have known. And, that’s two-fold in my head. First, who cares if I know or not? Right? The fact that someone’s life was lightened for a brief moment is good enough. While I agree with that wholeheartedly; the other side is that finding out that tiny, unheroic, acts of kindness can impact others makes me more aware of my behaviors. And, encourages me to up the quota. It’s a positive, self-feeding, loop of good. Everyone wins.
I am grateful for that reminder. It literally made my week (I bet Hanna didn’t know that). I don’t always give of myself to others. Sometimes, I am caught up in my own self-centered ‘drama’ and don’t even notice what is going on around me. Learning that my feelings of ‘inadequacy’ and ‘awkward’ gesture lifted someone’s spirit encourages me to actively pursue more Compassionate Goals.
After all, who amongst us doesn’t want more good feels?