Simple acts of kindness, whether generously given or thankfully received, impact people in very different ways. Some seem stunned, while others immediately respond with an act of kindness in return. No doubt you have seen, received and offered practiced acts of kindness yourself.
In the late 1990s, I bought a small rehab house in Ohio City. Saturday morning trips to the West Side Market and surrounding shops were always an opportunity to experience diverse sights and sounds, as well as a wide variety of delectable ethnic foods. This was especially true around the busy holidays, as shoppers arrived to purchase specific traditional ethnic holiday favorites. The stand owners were often caught in a flurry of activities. Especially when served on the hectic days, I made it a practice to offer gentle words and a smile. It was interesting to watch how my behavior was received by stressed stand owners and their assistants. Frequently, a furrowed brow was replaced by a gentle smile.
Paying It Forward
Kindness can be described as an act of sharing love and the generosity of presence. It can be as simple as practicing good manners, such as saying please, thank you or excuse me. By taking a moment during a potentially tense situation to breathe in a deep sense of calm, a busy person can demonstrate respectful behavior toward another, altering the outcome of any interaction.
Kindness is a central tenet in the world’s major religions. Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat write, “Kindness is the first of the three great treasures advocated by Lao Tzu. The Buddha taught that generosity is a primary quality of an awakened mind. Muhammad regarded kindness as an essential sign of faith. Jewish and Christian ethics are built upon deeds of kindness, as are the daily interactions of people of primal traditions.”
Kindness: A Spiritual Practice
Kindness, as a spiritual practice, has the capacity to positively impact both the giver and the receiver, creating an atmosphere of positive energy. Practicing kindness demands a person’s willingness to stay focused on the moment, being aware of opportunities to both offer and receive this gift of generosity and respect. A retired teacher, grieving the death of her husband, recently experienced a difficult day. Later that evening and much to her surprise, a former student reached out on Facebook Messenger asking how she was doing and sent warm regards. The next few minutes were spent sharing updates. That simple act of kindness by her former student created an opportunity to reframe her sadness. The next day, the retired teacher posted on Facebook commenting how she deeply appreciated her former student’s simple act of kindness. Reading her post, no doubt the student was touched by his teacher’s thoughtful statement.
As a spiritual practice, consistently sharing acts of kindness can be easily overlooked when people are overwhelmed by the stress-filled nature of their lives. It is only by finding peace within one’s soul that one has the potential to grow spiritually and develop a deeper spirit-filled life. Amazingly, sharing generosity and love through kindness is strengthened by creating time for this simple daily practice. Mother Teresa offered these words of wisdom:
“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
Grace peace and blessings on life’s journey as you practice both generously giving and graciously receiving acts of kindness.
There are a wide variety of spiritual practices one can explore. Please join with us as we celebrate an abundance of spiritual practices on our journey through this season from Epiphany through Lent.