By: Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
"I felt that I was wasting my life. Although my family was financially secure--we had a nice home and were considered prosperous by our community--I didn't feel that I was living a meaningful life. A deep feeling of emptiness gnawed at me. I analyzed my life situation and compared it with the lives of others whom I respected. What was the difference? Those I admired all made a significant contribution to the welfare of others. Each did this in a unique way. But the common denominator was that they all did things that made a difference in people's lives. I made a sincere commitment to do the same. That was over ten years ago and words are inadequate to describe the difference this has made in my life."
The man above transformed his life by placing a greater emphasis on what he could do for others. People assume that a truly selfish person is one who only thinks of himself. That's an illusion. When one thinks about the welfare of others in a balanced manner, one will live a much more joyous life.
A master artist sees deeper and more comprehensively than those who lack his vision. His world is brighter, more profound, more insightful, and more creative because of his talents. Similarly, the world of a truly kind person
is deeper, more profound, more insightful and more creative.
Kindness is the way one emulates the Creator. A kind person realizes that each person he encounters is a child of the Almighty and therefore, he appreciates each opportunity for kindness.
When confronted with someone who is frustrated and angry, the kinder one is, the more he sees the underlying pain. When dealing with a person who is not using his potential, the kinder one is, the more one understands what needs
to be done to help this person utilize untapped strengths. When encountering a person who is experiencing a difficulty in any area of life (whether financial, emotional, or physical), the kinder one is, the more opportunities to be of service one will find.
The challenges of others are a kind person's signals that he words and deeds are needed.
Some people are afraid that if they are kind, they will be missing out on their own happiness and pleasure. Nothing could be further from the truth. A sincerely kind person is a joyous person. He is someone whose greatest pleasure is bringing a smile to others. Those who enjoy sports enjoy victories that come once in a while. Those who enjoy kindness will find sources of meaning, fulfillment and joy all the time.
There are acts of kindness that are straight and simple. Someone needs a small loan for a short amount of time, it's easy to lend him the money. Someone wants to borrow a tool of yours; he happens to be reliable and when he tells you he'll return it by a certain time, he will. It's easy to do him the favor. An old friend needs to eat a meal at your home, you enjoy his company and it's a pleasure to have him over.
But there are acts of kindness that are difficult. They are time consuming. You might need to make a telephone call for someone and it's difficult for you to make that call. Someone is in the hospital and would appreciate your visit. It's inconvenient and you don't know exactly what to say. Someone asks you for a favor. You would readily do the favor for people who do favors for you. But your history with this person is that he doesn't do favors for you. It take much moral strength to help this person even though he has never done anything for you and isn't likely to help you in the future.
Do you truly have a love for kindness or do you just use kindness as a form of bartering? A lover of kindness will do acts of kindness even for those who fail to do acts of kindness for him.
The more difficult an act of kindness, the greater the character growth when you actually do it. Every difficult act of kindness is a victory. And victories bring joy.
Be kind unconditionally. When you are kind to someone because you expect that person to do favors for you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
"Whenever I did something for someone, I was always thinking, 'I hope this person will do something for me in return. If he won't, I should be doing this for someone who will.' This attitude caused me much resentment. A
friend of mine consistently did acts of kindness for people who weren't likely to reciprocate. He told me, 'When someone does something for another person with the hope that they will do something in return, he is never
certain if he will get what he wants. When I joyfully do a kind act unconditionally, I am one hundred percent guaranteed to benefit from what I do. It makes sense to get a guarantee on one's investment in time and energy.'"
After speaking with his friend, this man experienced a turning point in his life. He built up his ability to do acts of kindness unconditionally and it changed his life.
Identify yourself as a person who loves to do acts of kindness. When you view yourself in this light, you will find yourself acting kinder. Some people wait until they do enough acts of kindness and then they feel they have a right to view themselves as kind. But the opposite is a more effective way of working. View yourself as a kind person this very second, even if this means taking a head start on reality. But as you follow through on this view of yourself, you will find yourself becoming kinder and kinder.
One person who did this reported:
"I am the last person who would have thought that I would ever consider myself a kind person. I am grateful to the one who said to me, 'Act and the feelings will come.' For me they did and I encourage others to do the same."
Learn from every kind person you meet. Ask kind people how they became that way. A common pattern is that many of them have learned kindness from others.
"What has made you such a kind and giving person?" I asked a major philanthropist. "I learned giving from my father," he replied. "He wasn't wealthy, yet helping other people financially gave him more enjoyment than
spending money on himself."
"How did you develop such a kind personality?" I asked a devotee of service to others. His reply was, "I read the biographies of kind people and said to myself, 'This is the way that I want to be.'"
"Why do you always invite guests to your home for meals?" I asked an extremely hospitable person. "I was once a stranger in a large city. Being invited to the homes of a few families taught me the value of this hospitality," was his explanation.
There is a very valuable consciousness-raising practice of doing daily acts of kindness without letting anyone know you did them. At times we might do kind acts because we appreciate gratitude or because it is difficult for us
to refuse. We feel emotionally coerced into doing them. But an anonymouskind act is motivated by a true desire to do acts of kindness.
Enjoying the process of doing kind acts anonymously increases your love for acts of kindness. It enhances your motivation for situations when your kindness is known and appreciated. Just thinking about this everyday will
have a strong effect on your character.
Some kind acts that people have done anonymously:
* When you are happy with the services provided by an employee, call up his employer to tell him about it.
* When someone starts a new business, tell people you know to give that person patronage.
* If you know that someone needs a job, tell a potential employer in his field to contact him.
* Put money in a parking meter by a stranger's car, when you see that the time is running out.
* If your friend is hurt about not receiving an invitation to a wedding or another occasion, call up the host to correct this oversight.
* Send an unsigned card saying, "We think that you are great and we wish you well."
* If drinks or food are being served in a big crowd, remind a waiter to serve those sitting to the side.
* Send a helpful book as a gift.
* Send flowers with a note: As a token of appreciation from someone who respects you.
* Send someone for ticket to a lecture or course that he will gain from.
* Send someone a tape or CD of relaxing music.
* Pay someone's bill (such as a grocery bill) without letting them know who paid it.
* Send gift subscription for a magazine with a note: This has been paid for by a friend.
* Suggest to others that they praise or compliment someone who could use it.
* Pay a highway toll for the person behind you.
* Send money to someone who is experiencing financial difficulties with a note: "Some time in the future you will be able to repay this by doing this for someone else."
* Tell people to do acts of kindness anonymously. The kindness they will do in the future is part of your anonymous kindness.
Based on the book "Kindness: Changing people's lives for the better" newly published by Artscroll/Shaar Press.