help

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. “Aesop

I was a new mom, trying to manage a crying infant and two grumpy stepsons at the library.

One of my arms held the baby; the other balanced a stack of children’s books and two DVDs. We were all tired and frustrated and ready to get out of there, and the kids were eager to watch their movies.

The librarian scanned my card, and then reminded me of the fine I have failed to pay. No surprise there. As I reached in my purse for my wallet, my heart sank. My wallet was sitting at home on the table. I had no cash, no checkbook, no way to pay the fine.

I asked the librarian to hold the books and movies for us, thinking I would run home and then come back. The baby started wailing, my stepsons began arguing with each other.

Then, the most surprising thing happened. The man next to me leaned over and handed the librarian a $20, and asked her whether it was enough to pay my fine. She looked as bewildered as I was. I didn’t know this man. Why was he paying my fine?

I told him that it’s not that I didn’t have the money; it’s just that I left my wallet at home. He simply asked that I do something kind for another person someday, and walked out.

Acts of kindness have the power to change people’s lives. Aesop wrote that “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” It’s something we all too often forget.

We falsely believe that only the big acts of kindness count. That’s simply not true. Not everyone can hand out hundred dollar bills on the street, but everyone can say a kind word or do a simple and free kind action. 

I know how I felt after a stranger paid my library fine. I was elated that someone I did not know would do something so kind. What cost him $20 was worth far more to me.

It meant my grouchy kids wouldn’t have to drive home and then drive back. It meant my small daughter could take a nap on time. And for a mother who was feeling pretty crappy for forgetting my wallet, it made my day. The fact that I continue to remember it eight years later is a testament to the power of small acts of kindness.

The power of kindness is real. There is scientific research that says that kindness is a predictor of a successful relationship. Even the magazine Scientific American has discussed the role that kindness plays in human evolution.

Kindness changes lives. Humans are social creatures. We bond with one another, we thrive in community, and strong family units are filled with compassion and kindness.

Oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, plays a role in empathy, compassion, and kindness.  It’s a hormone that’s released in childbirth and nursing, and is a major contributor to the bonding that takes place with a mother and her infant. It binds us to each other. When people do good things for others, it’s released. And the more oxytocin a person has in their system, the more likely they are to do kind things.

In December, 2012, an idea flooded the internet for people to do 26 acts of kindness for the 26 lives that were lost when a gunman entered a school and opened fire. People challenged their selves and others to do random acts of kindness and post the pictures to inspire others.

The acts of kindness ranged from paying for the coffee of the stranger behind you at Starbucks to giving dog food to a shelter to paying off thousands of dollars on items at a Walmart layaway right before Christmas.

When I think about how the act of kindness from a stranger at a library made a difference in my life, I wonder about the thousands upon thousands of lives that were changed during the kindness campaign in 2012. The truth is we will never know the effect it had, but I know it was great.

Kindness spreads kindness in a sort of never ending spiral. It’s a spiral I hope never ends.

If you’re interested in finding more ideas for acts of kindness, there’s a website devoted to it called Random Acts of Kindness.

Photo from Shutterstock