“I chose to come to China not because it was the easier thing to do. I’m going to have days where I’m more elated, more heartbroken, more happy, more sad, more depressed, experience more suffering, have more stress, don’t know where I am, know exactly where I am, missing home, never want to go back home, and the rest that comes along with it….” said my co-worker Adam yesterday.
I sat turned around in my chair conversing with him throughout the two hour minibus ride headed outside of Beijing for a 5 hour hike near The Great Wall. We were starting off the spring season with our company’s new Outdoor Hiking Club.
“You’re exactly right. I’ve grown more and learned more about myself in the past 5 months than I ever learned in my four years of college. Some days I hate it here. Some days I absolutely love it. But either way its been worth it so far,” I agreed while pondering the thought of my words simultaneously.
As Adam, myself, and fifteen others from around the world shot the breeze about life, travel, and how insanely stressful it can be to share Beijing with its 15 million other inhabitants, I could tell it wouldn’t be one of those days where you forget what you did on Saturday by the time Monday rolls around. And it is always when you start off a day knowing without any doubts it will be great day that you are more open to taking in new ideas, appreciating what would usually seem like an insignificant moment, and end the day with an overall feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction.
What made today so special, though, was a little something I learned about kindness and taking advantage of our opportunities to be kind to others.
Author and renowned lecturer Leo Buscaglia one told us, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
The People Who Teach Us About Kindness
There are few people out there whom the first word that comes to mind when you think of them is kindness. Of course to varying degrees we are all kind, thoughtful, and would be there for our friends. However, I believe there’s a difference between being just a great guy or a great girl and being a “kind soul”. And when you meet one of these “kind souls” you know it immediately (I know that sounds corny but just go with it).
Have you ever met someone whom within the first few hours of knowing them you can say without pause that they are one of the rare kind souls in this world that has a truly good heart, you could trust with your biggest secret, your own life and the life of your best friend, and will without a doubt go on to do incredible things with their life. Two days ago when I met my new co-worker Adam I was given the liberty of being able to say this. As Ghandi would say, he’s the kind of person that will change the world by being the change he wishes to see in it.
Both through his words and his actions this became apparent.
When you’re talking with someone like this guy there’s no exaggerations, no lies, no badmouthing, no bullshit. Its sincere, honest, and genuine.
Of course, many often say actions speak louder than words, and he didn’t fail at this either. To prepare for the hike he brought a bag of ten sandwiches and a few juices for anyone who forgot there’s or was hungry. He brought extra sweatshirts and hats for anyone that didn’t realize the wind would be so intense on the mountain it felt like you’d be blown off of it. He carried my jacket for me during the hotter, steeper part of the hike.
I know these are all little things. But how many of us pass of the little things as being meaningless and unimportant more-so out of laziness or ignorance?
His so called resume of accomplishments and experiences is the kind that makes you want to ask this person questions all day about their lives. He spent a year in Chili working for Habitat for Humanity. He’s lived around the world and is fluent in English, Spanish, and German. (There’s nothing I find cooler than someone who is Bilingual. A Trilingual…well that’s just badass.) He spent a lot of time telling me about the importance of service and helping in your community. He does this not because we are taught that we should, but rather because it simply comes naturally to him.
It is when you meet people like this that it inspires you to evaluate if you truly being the kindest person you can be.
Could We Be Kinder?
I mean, honestly, what sacrifices would you truly make for your friends? How much time are you really willing to give to someone when its an inconvenience to you? How often do you actually practice random acts of kindness? Would you even think about bringing ten other lunches for everyone else after your own? Would you offer to carry someones jacket for them even if your backpack was full and you already had enough weight on your shoulders like Adam did for me?
I think if we were truly honest about the answers to these questions some of us might realize we aren’t the kind person we tell ourselves we are. To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind to make 10 sandwiches for everyone. Sure it may seem small, but it’s the combination little things and the big things that show kindness and sincerity, not just the obvious ones that are easy to act on, recognize, or that people expect us to do because its common sense.
We all have the opportunity to make a decision to be a better, kinder person.
Maybe its time some of us pulled the stick out of our asses and stopped getting caught up in our own life dramas and started thinking more about others. Whether you think you’re already kind enough, or you’re already a great person, or you really just don’t give a crap, we can always be better, we should care more, and we should act on it more.
I can sit here all I want typing content into this blog about about kindness and sincerity, but it means nothing if I don’t do something about it.
And so, I hope this post inspires you as much as it has inspired me to be more open minded to opportunities where you can be a kinder person. I hope we are able to recognize when we have an opportunity to be kind even when it might go unnoticed. And I hope that once we do recognize these moments that we instead choose to act on them rather than letting them pass us by as we say “Next time I’ll get the tab. Next time I’ll give the tip the server deserved. Next time I’ll cancel my plans to be there for someone. Next time I’ll give the subway singer a buck or two. Next time I’ll buy that person that gift just because. Next time I’ll tell them how much I appreciate them.”
And so, next time you are given the opportunity to be the great person you want to be, be one. Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”