I’ve been doing some research on kindness. I figure it’s one of the best tools each of us has on hand to counter all the hostility in our current world. And I’ve learned some amazing things about it. For one thing, it’s contagious. Not only do both the giver of a kindness and the recipient feel its warmth, but all who witness it are touched and lifted by it, too, and tend to be kinder themselves.
Kindness produces all kinds of wonderful chemical reactions inside us. It give us a boost of happiness by stimulating serotonin. It eases pain. It also increases trust and generosity, strengths our immune systems, reduces stress, and slows down aging. It’s a kind of wonder drug, you might say.
Because a story can illustrate the effects of kindness better than a list of facts, I want to repeat a story I shared with my subcribers a little over a year ago. I call it . . .
The Tale of the Tattooed Biker
I created a mini-nightmare for myself this week. I drove off with my purse sitting atop my car, and by the time I discovered that I didn’t have it, it was long gone. Oh my. I sincerely wish that such a thing never happens to you! It took three days to remember everything that was in my wallet, besides cash—a debit card, credit cards, driver’s license, car registration, proof of insurance, AAA card, health insurance card, advance directives card . . . the list seemed to go on and on. Replacing all that stuff is not fun!
The good news is that most of it could be replaced with a phone call, and the rest with the submission of appropriate (and happily downloadable) forms.
A few irreplaceable personal items are gone, mementos of loved ones. But no one can take the memories.
I shared my tale of woe with one of my friends a couple days later. She told me she’d done the same thing one time. She was a single mom with two toddlers and had set her purse atop her car while she buckled them in their car seats and loaded the groceries she had just purchased in the car. She’d spent her last dollar on the food and was anxious about how she’d find money for gas to get to work the rest of the week.
She was almost home when reached for her purse to grab a tissue when she realized what she had done and broke into tears right then and there in despair. She drove to the local police station to report her lost purse, certain she’d never see it again.
To her astonishment, the police did have her purse! It was beat up, as if it had been run over. They said some gruff, dirty, tattooed biker had just brought it in. He told them to please tell her that he hadn’t taken anything from it and to ask her to call him. He had left his phone number.
Puzzled, she called him while the police listened in, afraid he might have extortion of some kind in mind. He said he was just returning from a charity run and had spotted the purse by the side of the road. He looked through it for ID but only saw the photos of two babies in the empty wallet and thought the woman who owned it must be having an awful day. He said he was sorry she had lost whatever else was in the purse, but he had brought it in just as he found it. Except for one thing.
My friend said, “One thing? What was that?”
“Look in the zippered pocket,” he said. She did as he asked and discovered a crisp $100 bill.
“I hope that helps a little,” he said. “I just wanted you to know that good things happen in life as well as the setbacks.”
The police officers on duty were as shocked as my friend. “Just goes to show you,” one of them said, “You really can’t judge a book by its cover.”
That was years ago, my friend said. And she never forgot the biker’s amazing kindness—or the lesson about judging people on the basis of stereotypes.
When I left the visit with my friend, I found a check from her in my pocket, along with her note saying “good things happen, too.”
You never know how much impact a kindness that you do will have on other lives. Each gesture of kindness ripples on and on.
I know the scruffy biker’s moment of generosity is still flowing outward. I’ll be looking for ways to pay it forward. And I hope by telling you about it, you’ll benefit from his kindness, too.
Pass it on.