-If I were a Superhero, I’d wake up every day with a smile on my face because I’d know I was helping to put smiles on the faces of others.-
Every act of kindness you create has the potential to change the course of a person’s day, and with that, their outlook in life. It has the potential to cause a butterfly effect that creates a chain of events that may very well impact the lives of everyone in which they come into contact, and from that, you, I, we all have the ability to change the world- And as everything has an equal and an opposite, we ourselves are forever changed. It all starts with a single act.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” –Amelia Earhart
Did you know: While the phrase “pay it forward” might seem relatively new, the idea of paying it forward has been around for thousands of years? Menander, an ancient Greek writer during 300 BC, presented his Comedy, Dyskolos (Translation: The Grouch), in Athens at the Lenaian festival where it won first place. In it, its main character Sostratos explains the concept by saying “Make rich as many people as you can by your own efforts. For this act never dies.”
Of course kindness has been around for ages. It is hardwired into our psyche as social creatures. An act of kindness can build trust, faith, and connection. We learn that by doing for others, there is a reciprocal effect that benefits everyone involved, not just the recipient. As my nieces Mina and Bella say, “Hugs are the best present, because when you give one, you get one!” And while we may or may not ever knowingly receive something back in return for our favor, whenever we perform an act of kindness, especially a random act of kindness, our brains create a chemical called oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone. Research shows that those who release the most oxytocin, due to consistent kindness and a feeling of being trusted, live happier lives. It also has been found to reduce blood pressure, which means kindness is literally good for our hearts. And just like a muscle getting stronger, the more oxytocin released, the easier it is for it to be released again, thus making kindness an exercise in developing happiness. People with higher oxytocin levels also tend to have better relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners, and are naturally more kind to strangers; thereby helping to further the cycle by perpetuating this creation of our brains’ bonding chemical and once again, “throwing roots in all directions”. In this way, developing a habit to perform acts of kindness not only helps to change the world, but it simultaneously changes our world by changing our psyche as well.
Some moments in history- Examples in kindness:
Here, Benjamin Franklin teaches a trick of his “for doing a deal of good with little money” in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 25, 1784:
“I send you herewith a Bill for Ten Louis d’ors (French Currency). I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your Country with a good Character, you cannot fail of getting into some Business, that will in time enable you to pay all your Debts. In that Case, when you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with such another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little.”
In 1938, Nicholas Winton was just a 29-year-old London stockbroker, who was about to leave for a skiing holiday in Switzerland when his friend Martin Blake called and asked him to come to Prague instead to see what was happening and to help with some Jewish welfare work. Upon seeing the travesties that were happening and realizing that children were going to die if he did not intervene, he worked over the next several months to organize and rescue children from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis. At the risk of losing his job and being caught during a time of great turmoil just before World War II, he was able to help 669 mostly Jewish children escape from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia and found them safe foster homes. A short time later, many of these children’s parents would perish in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
It wasn’t until many years later when Nicholas’ wife Grete found a scrapbook detailing his humanitarian exploits in 1988. In it, were lists of the children he rescued, their parents’ names, and addresses of the families that took them in. After sending letters to these addresses, 80 of “Winton’s children” have been found in Britain.
Besides saving the lives of 669 children, many of the children he saved are now Grandparents. Because of this act of kindness, there are around 6,000 people around the world today who owe Nicholas Winton their lives. The semiconductor that allows Voyager I and Voyager II to stay powered was invented in part by one of the children Nicholas saved. Some other notable people saved by Nicholas include a pediatric geneticist, a member of British parliament, a bestselling author, a film director, a journalist, and a very prominent mathematician. It is amazing what an act of kindness will do and the roots that it creates. Nicholas Winton is still living and is now 105 years old. Many of the children he saved are now living a life working towards paying forward a debt that can never truly be paid, but one that will reach into eternity.
In the early 1950’s, one man’s effort and a decision to focus on kindness rather than wealth resulted in saving the lives of over 45,000. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, refused to patent his vaccine in an effort to keep the cost low. Instead of 7 Billion in profits, he decided to benefit all of mankind.
Most people don’t think about the far reaching effects of their behaviors, bad, or good. However, in a world where it is easy to see the vast impact of one negative action- a random act of violence covered by the news media, a group of rebels that start a war, or just a poorly planned Facebook post = ), we can easily see that every action has a cause and effect. This then, is the great power we have been given, as human beings, the power to consciously create change, for better or worse. And with this power, yes, there comes a great responsibility. To be a superhero, you don’t have to have superpowers; you just need to be a super human being.
-Now go forth and exercise your kindness muscles. Make acts of kindness a daily habit. Make someone’s day and help to create a better world by being a Superhero for Kindness.-
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
It’s truly amazing what an act of kindness can do.
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