This I Believe

Elizabeth - Loveland, Ohio
Entered on July 5, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in the power of kindness.

After a particularly trying day last week I stood in the produce section of my neighborhood megamart with my arms full of apples waiting impatiently to gain access to the plastic produce bags and unload my apples. For several minutes I stood watching the woman ahead of me juggle her cell phone and fumble with the roll of plastic bags—alternating her attention between the two. I had decided this was a perfect example of more rude behavior caused by cell phones when the woman said “Excuse me” to her phone, finally got her bag open and stepped toward me so I could deposit my apples in her bag. She smiled, returned to her call and started fumbling with a new bag as I moved on to the bananas absolutely aglow.

What happened? Why did I feel so much better? In seconds my worldview snapped back in place. I was refreshed. I was once again kin to all humankind. I had high hopes for the survival of our planet. That’s the power of kindness. This I believe.

It’s as if some tiny electric charge is swapped during a charitable act. Or maybe it’s not electricity at all but some kind of energy we don’t understand yet and can’t measure. It can happen with just a smile or a few sincere words. And the more unexpected the kindness, the bigger the charge; that’s why the kindness of strangers packs such a wallop.

Although I didn’t realize what I was doing, I’ve generated this force for years in Chinese restaurants with one brief phrase: “Nee ha ma.” It means “How are you?” and it produces broad smiles and great surprise in every server approaching my table. And with each smile the same funny thing happens: the energy immediately returns to me. That’s the way it is with kindness. Everyone involved gets a little surge of good feelings and optimism.

Goethe said “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.” I think it’s more of an amazing golden current hotwiring us to one another.

This I believe.