"Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together." -- Goethe --
Have you ever had someone do something really nice for you, but you didn't know who it was to thank them? When I was in graduate school on a limited budget I was running very short on funds one month. One day when I checked my mail, there was a plain white envelope with no return address. Inside was a twenty dollar bill, with a note that read, "Enjoy!" The note was unsigned. I never found out the identity of my unknown benefactor.
I still remember twenty-five years later the extra boost I got from knowing someone out there sensed my need and demonstrated their love in so tangible a manner.
Years later I heard about "Random Acts of Kindness." The idea is that you do something unexpectedly nice for another human being, without expecting any thanks or pay. Often Random Acts of Kindness are done anonymously, as in my experience. In this way a domino effect is created. One person receives a kindness, then passes it on to others, who pass it on to still others. Tiny points of light are multiplied, until the whole world becomes brighter.
In this spirit, you can play the "Generosity Game." To play, simply do something good for someone anonymously, and give them a card that says: "It's Your Turn! Pass It On." You can download a template to make these cards or order plastic ones at www.generosity.org.
But kindness and generosity need not be either random or anonymous. In the movie "Pay It Forward" (Warner Brothers, 2000), a junior high class is given the assignment to do something that will change the world. Young Trevor McKinney (played by Haley Joel Osmont) decides that if people consciously choose to "pay 'em forward" when someone does something nice for them instead of "paying 'em back" for slights and insults, then the world could indeed change for the better. Trevor started the ball rolling by doing something nice for three people, and asked each to do the same for three others. When they "paid forward" they were to explain why they did what they did, and ask the people they helped to keep the ball rolling. At first the Pay It Forward project seemed to be a failure, since the recipients of the good deeds did not follow through with good deeds of their own. When they finally did, Pay It Forward became a popular movement across the country.
Pay It Forward was only a movie, with an unsatisfactory ending. But author Catherine Ryan Hyde's vision lives on. Every day across the world millions of people find themselves as links in a chain. They receive many acts of kindness, both large and small, both from anonymous benefactors and from people they know and love. Many of them in turn show kindness and love to others in their lives.
So join the ranks of people who perform acts of kindness, without any thought of payment or thanks. Do something nice to brighten the day of people you encounter as you go through your life.
But don't limit your kindness to strangers. Your friends and family need your planned, intentional demonstrations of caring, too. Be a Cage Opener who nurtures the dreams of those around you. Break chains of negative behavior by responding to insults with compliments. Look for opportunities to lift the spirits of someone who appears discouraged. Share the blessings you have received with those in need.
A popular song reminds us that "it only takes a spark to get a fire going" (from Pass It On by Kurt Kaiser). Be that spark today!
Don H. Morris is the founder of Encouragement Plus Coaching. Don loves to help people achieve their dreams and nurture their spirits. Learn more, and subscribe to Don's free newsletter Uncaged Dreams, at www.encouragementplus.com.