“Even If It’s Only a ‘Thank You'”

A dear friend of mine once said, “if the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ it’s enough.” Just that simple phrase holds a volume of meaning; thanks, of course; respect, acknowledgement, value, appreciation, and consciousness. If someone simply opens a door for you when your hands are full, the ‘thank you’ is an acknowledgement of that person’s worth and presence. It’s an “I see you” message to that person kind enough to hold that door open for you. Those words have the power to change a person’s mood, attitude, and possibly, their life.

It is hurtful when someone offers a kindness to someone else who does not acknowledge it, or worse–dismisses it. These days kindness can be pretty thin on the ground, and a little of it travels far. It is also as catching as a summer cold. Once when I lived in Texas I was at one of those super-duper ‘galleria’ malls with a friend, and we stopped by a Cinnabon to share a cinnamon roll.

It was crowded that day, so we had to wait for a table to clear. As we stood there, a couple sitting at one of the tables called to us and invited us to sit with them.

“We’re almost done, so please sit here and enjoy the Cinnabon!”

We told them how nice it was of them to offer us the seat, and thanked them.

In a few minutes they left. We looked around and saw two women standing, waiting for a table. We looked at each other and said as one: “Please come sit with us! You can have our table.” They smiled and came over. We chatted for a while, then we got up to leave. As we walked away, my friend tugged at my arm and said, “Look.”

The two women who sat at our table were in the process of beckoning a woman and her little boy over to sit with them. We looked at each other, laughed and said together, “Pay it forward!” Good follows good, and it’s surprisingly easy to do. I’m sure everyone has heard about the people who pay for other peoples’ coffees at Starbucks and other places. It’s just a nice little surprise that can make a big difference in someone’s life. Funny how the smallest things can be the largest things, isn’t it?

The times I’ve been able to give back have been great, and I have learned long ago to accept the gift of a stranger cheerfully and gratefully. I used to feel that I didn’t need anything from anybody, so the gift was wasted on me. But now that I understand how good it feels to give back, I’ve learned to accept graciously and from the heart. I now see these little kindnesses as the gifts they are–a break in the day, an unexpected bit of good fortune, a laugh, a smile, a thank you.

And boy, these days a ‘thank you’ means so much.


From the Kindness Blog: 40 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness

Again, from the Kindness Blog (which is rapidly becoming my go-to site when I need some uplifting!), here is “40 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness,” by Mike O’Connor. This is a great “menu” for good karma and for just helping to life others up, including ourselves. Read on.

  1. “Smiles are irresistible. Don’t hesitate to smile warmly at friends, family, colleagues and even…strangers.
  2. Write hand-written thank-you notes. The notes don’t need to be an essay and people love to receive them. It’s the personal touch.
  3. If you use public transport, it’s busy and there are no free seats, be the first to stand-up and let a weary traveller, pregnant woman or elderly person take rest.
  4. Pay it forward – When you are in a coffee shop or café , maybe you could buy a coffee or cake in advance for the next customer that comes in. How tasty! Imagine what a sweet surprise that person will get when they discover that a kind stranger has paid it forward for them.
  5. When you see a homeless person, think about how you might be able to help them in some way. Buy a nutritious lunch. Ask them if there is anything that they need. Give them a warm coat. Share a conversation. Spend some time. Listen. Engage.
  6. That thing you’re going to sell. Why not give it away for free?
  7. Send flowers unexpectedly. No reason needed. Just because.
  8. Hold doors open. Even for people who are a little further away from the door than usual.
  9. Make your colleagues/classmates a hot-drink. Expect nothing in return. Well…maybe some doughnuts.
  10. Speaking of doughnuts…why not buy a bag  full and share them out in all directions.
  11. Pay compliments.
  12. Does someone owe you money? Forgive the debt.
  13. When a person is talking to you _really_ listen to them.
  14. Pass books on, especially the good ones or leave them in public places for others to find.
  15. Ask elderly neighbours if they need anything doing.
  16. Tell your loved ones that you love them. Regularly.
  17. When you are served in a shop, bar, restaurant etc, make eye contact and sincerely thank the employee for their help.
  18. Put coins in a meter, any meter, that’s about to expire.
  19. If you know that someone is particularly busy, offer to take their dog for a walk.
  20. When a thought of generosity arises within you, act on it. Don’t hold back. This is important.
  21. If someone is struggling with money problems, find a way to secretly help them if you can. If not secretly, out in front.
  22. Take a friend to dinner.
  23. Stand up for others.
  24. Stop complaining.
  25. Standing in a queue? Let someone go before you.
  26. Tell someone that they look nice.
  27. Volunteer some time to help a charity or perhaps a homeless shelter.
  28. Stop speaking ill of others. Let your words be kind.
  29. Forgive a driver for their error on the road or their road rage directed at you.
  30. Recycle.
  31. Think of the people in your life…what help do they need with chores or tasks? Don’t wait to be asked.
  32. Be the calm voice in a stressful situation.
  33. Donate to your favourite charity.
  34. Spend some time with a senior citizen living on their own.
  35. Teach a child something you wish you knew at that age.
  36. If a friend or family member is having a hard time, make sure they know that you are there for them and are available to talk and help.
  37. Give Blood.
  38. Donate to or volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
  39. Encourage someone to pursue their dream.
  40. “Please” and “Thank You”.”

Words Have Legs

Do you ever lie in bed at night, remembering past hurts? Many of those hurts are caused by mere words that stay with us and sometimes keep us up at night. For example, say someone in your family constantly joked about how you never could make any type of food without making a huge mess in the kitchen.

Oh, sure, you laughed right along with everyone else, but inside you may be thinking, ‘Did I really do that? Do I still do that?’ And all this time you thought that you were a pretty good cook and that everyone loved your food. Now you feel that your good food is far out-weighed by the mess you supposedly make.

Or say someone in school always teased you about your freckles. It’s not like you could have done anything about them then, but you got teased just the same. For all you know, the person who said that might have been thinking how cute you were, but it was easier (and safer) to make fun of you.

The truth is that words have legs and they can walk right along beside you for years. Did someone ever call you “goofy” or “fatty” or “stupid” or “ugly?” Sadly, there is no time limit on the effect of those words. Sometimes we carry them with us for decades.

I’ve taken a lot of metaphysical classes, I’m a Reiki II practitioner, and I’ve learned a lot about managing emotions and keeping positive. Even so, I still have to work hard not to fall prey to old words and their damaging effects from time to time. We certainly can work on taking the sting out of those words, but it does take work.

Our minds and hearts seem to want to hang on to those old emotions, especially when we are feeling vulnerable. While we work on ourselves, we can use our own experiences to remember not to treat others that way, and not to throw ‘word bombs’ around that can explode later on. Since we already know the pain that ill-advised words can cause, we must remember not to pass them along to others.

My granddaughter, Ava, who is nearly four years old, is going to be a tall girl. Her dad is quite tall, and, for her age, she is pretty tall herself. She is proud of being tall, and is encouraged to feel that way. The last time we were together she told me, “I’m going to be BIG when I grow up!” Ava refers to being tall as being ‘big.’

I replied, “Yes, you are. And you know what’s great about being big?”

Ava said, “What?”

I said, “When you’re big, you can see everything everywhere, and not everyone can do that.” Ava grinned and nodded, and said, “I’M going to be that big!” (Yes, you are, little girl–you certainly are.)

Let’s make our words memorable for good things.


It All Balances Out

For those of you under the age of 60, there used to be milkmen; men whose job it was to deliver bottles of milk and cream to peoples’ homes. There was a story I once read about a milkman who had made a big delivery to a family of six, the youngest of which was a new baby. The husband had lost his job, the wife baked pies and cakes for a local restaurant, and they had a hard time making ends meet.

The family suddenly moved out in the middle of the night; too ashamed to let anyone know where they were going. The rent wasn’t paid, and neither was the milkman. He complained mightily to his wife about this, especially since he had had to make up the cost of that big delivery himself. Every night for a week, he came home in a bad mood, and always griped about the family who he felt had cheated him.

His wife finally sat him down and said, “you know, you’re making yourself and me miserable complaining about those poor people. How do you know that they meant to cheat you? How desperate do you think they were to leave town like that, owing money they knew they couldn’t pay?”

The milkman argued with her, saying that it wasn’t right for him to have to pay for their delivery out of his own pocket. His wife put her arms around his neck and kissed him. She said, “That family was in trouble not of their own making; and imagine–six children to feed! Why don’t you think of that milk as your gift to them? Because of you, those children had milk. Because of you, they had one less thing to worry about.”

He looked at her and smiled, saying, “You know, you’re right. What better gift to a big family than milk?” He found it was a lot easier to think of it that way, and from then on the thought of it made him smile.

I loved that story. I think of it often, especially when I have the chance to do something nice for someone just ‘because.’ It can be as little as paying the toll for the car behind me. A small act of kindness, even a buck paid, makes a difference. We don’t know what others’ lives are like, and what they may be suffering.

I’ve also learned to let others be kind to me; if someone holds the door for me, I appreciate it. If someone lets me go ahead of them in the grocery line, I thank them for it. I used to feel uncomfortable about things like this, and would automatically turn them down, thinking I didn’t deserve it. But I finally realized that accepting a kindness from someone is a gift to them.

Kindness given is kindness received–that’s just how the universe works. It’s the same old karmic law–put good out, and good comes in. Put bad out, and bad comes in.

And the money or time or anything else we’ve given without being paid back? It all balances out in the end.


Giving Back

I’m a fan of the show “Undercover Boss,” where CEOs of companies visit some of their store locations in disguise. They get to know their employees at a level that would not be possible in a “boss to employee” face-to-face meeting. They also get the straight story from these folks on exactly how well (or not) the company is doing.

I watched an episode featuring the Phenix Hair Salon company, where company president Gina Rivera went under cover. One of the hairdressers she met was Richie, a gifted stylist who visits a homeless shelter once each week to give ‘mini makeovers.’ He feels that, if people look good, they’ll feel good. As the cameras rolled, he kindly and compassionately cut and styled hair, trimmed beards and mustaches, and chatted with every person. The transformative effect on those people was heartwarming.

Later on in the week, there was a short feature on the news about a talented California hairdresser who also took to the streets with his scissors. Every Sunday, he offers free haircuts to the homeless, and he grooms those folks with the same care and skill he would have given his celebrity clients, who pay up to $150 per haircut.

What a simple and sweet gesture, and how much it meant to those people. As he explained to the camera crew, “When all of your time and energy each day goes simply to surviving; getting that next meal, and finding shelter each night, you don’t have time to worry about your appearance.” As the camera panned over the faces of those men and women who had enjoyed his services, the smiles spoke volumes.

In this still-new and still-hopeful year, what an inspiration for us all. So–this is my challenge for myself and perhaps you: can we make a bit of extra time in our busy lives to donate our talents in some way? However, we must first ask ourselves if we have the time and energy to do this and not sacrifice time that our loved ones need. A gift given grudgingly is no gift at all. Perhaps sharing our talents right now isn’t feasible; we may caring for an elderly or disabled relative in our home, we may have small children to raise, we may have a job that demands our full time and attention, or we may ourselves be suffering from pain or loss–in which case, we can at least wish others well.

But those of us who can spare some time, remember what a gift that bit of time is to someone else. If all we do is spend an hour at the local animal shelter, cleaning litter boxes and walking dogs, that is a gift. If all we do is to call someone who is lonely and chat for a few minutes, that is a gift. If all we do is to smile at a stranger, that is a gift.
For myself, I am declaring the year 2015 as the year I reach out and give what I can where I can. It’s a challenge for me, because I usually make grand plans for things like this, and build it up so much that I can’t possibly achieve it. So this year the plan is simple: do what I can as I can, and do it with a full and happy heart. Wish me luck!