During our recent India vacation, we stayed at the Marriott for a week. While there, I often spent time in the Executive Lounge reading, writing, or watching informational videos. A young woman managed the Lounge and made sure things were working okay and guests were comfortable.
Every morning when I stepped into the Lounge I’d smile and say hello to her. On the day of a local festival called Pongal (which is as big as Christmas in the Western world), I showed up at the Lounge and found her seated at her desk.
“Good morning. How come you’re working today?” I asked.
“I’m not in the mood to celebrate,” she said, looking a bit downcast.
“Yes, ma’am. It’s my grandmother. She’s in hospital. We don’t know how long she’ll live.”
I commiserated with her and promised I’d pray for her grandmother. In the next few days, I enquired about her grandmother and she repeatedly told me that her condition continued to be unstable.
On the day that my husband and I were flying back to Chicago, I took the elevator to the 10th floor and poked my head into the Lounge. My friend was there, efficiently parked behind her desk.
“I’m leaving later today. I came to say goodbye,” I told her.
“Oh, no!” she said. Her eyes filled with tears. “I’ll miss you, ma’am.” She grabbed my hands and held them in hers. She looked away for a moment and then turned toward me. “When will you come back again?”
“I don’t know. Chicago is far, far away. It’ll be a couple of years, I guess. And who knows if you’ll still be here,” I added.
“I’ll always remember you. Thank you for everything.” She stopped and whispered a little self-consciously, “I love you.”
I held her for a moment, waved goodbye and left.
Once again, I was blown away by the power of human connection. The two of us had exchanged a daily smile and a few words but she felt seen and heard. That is what kindness can do.
- According to the Journal of Social Psychology, people who perform a single act of kindness for ten days experience a significant increase in overall happiness than those who don’t.
- Abraham Maslow and Jonathan Haidt have studied an effect called Peak Experience which says that witnessing acts of kindness helps us want to be more kind and also helps us feel more connected with others.
- Kindness decreases levels of loneliness and helplessness and increases feelings of exhilaration, satisfaction and well-being.
- Psychologists have confirmed that kindness has positive physical effects which include lower blood pressure, increased energy levels, a sense of calm, higher pain tolerance, and improved immunity.
- Stanford University psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky observed that happiness from kind acts is increased even further if the acts are varied.
“Doing good makes you feel good…This health improvement is a real and reliable phenomenon and works to improve physical and psychological health as well as enhancing feelings of spiritual well-being…It is the process of helping, without regard to its outcome, that is the healing factor.” ~ Allan Luks, Educator and Researcher
Performing a random act of kindness can have the best side-effects when we’re grieving.
- It gets us out of the bubble we find ourselves in.
- It connects us with other humans and we know how powerful connection can be when we feel alone.
- It puts us in the space of abundance when we feel empty. Whether we buy someone a cup of coffee, or volunteer at a soup kitchen we give of ourselves and that feels good.
- Seeing someone become happy creates a feeling of well-being in us. It’s called the mirror neuron effect. The neurons in our brain connect with the happy feelings in the others’ neurons.
Put kindness on your daily calendar. It can change your life in ways you didn’t even think possible.