This past Christmas, my mom and I went to Whole Foods; we saw two homeless people sitting on the filthy ground. One had a blank stare looking off into the distance like he had lost all hope. The other looked up at me in a beseeching way and asked like thousands have done before him if we could spare some change. Hundreds of times before, I have walked on, without a second thought, assuming that the money would just be spent on drugs or alcohol. As I approached the doors, I noticed that my mom was no longer beside me. I turned around and saw her talking to these two homeless men. I proceeded back to join my mom in mid conversation with the one who asked for change. She was asking him what his favorite type of sandwich was and what his favorite juice was. Once we were in the store, my mom sent me to find one turkey sandwich, one salami, and two orange juices. When I asked her about it, she did not answer why, but just told me to do get the food and that I would find out why later. We went on shopping and bought our usual batch of a couple hundred dollars worth of groceries, but added on a few extra items to our grocery list. Walking outside, my mom gave me the bagged lunches to hand to the homeless men. As I walked over, the eyes of the man who before seemed to look like they had lost all hope, suddenly seemed spirited and the one who had originally asked for change, changed his somber face into one of the most genuine smiles I have ever seen. I noticed that there were a few teeth missing as I handed him and his friend the bagged lunch. In the car ride back, my mom looked over at me and smiled proudly. Both of us were silent and did not tell anyone about our deed. It was our little secret. The small gesture to hand food instead of money to these poor souls, did not cost much at all. However, the way it made us feel cannot be valued in monetary terms. It genuinely was gratifying, making those two men feel happy.
Doing small acts of kindness in my everyday life makes all parties involved happier. Another example of giving back was when I was a senior in high school, I signed up for a club called INTERACT whose objective was to build houses in impoverished areas. We went to Mexico in an area where acts of kindness seemed to be rare. It seemed as though everyone was fending for themselves and when we got there all the people were surprised, yet appreciative. After the experience, on our way home we all felt wealthier, even though we were the ones giving.
At this point in my life as a college student, I do not have a lot of material items to my name. However, I feel as though I have a wealth of things to offer the world from inside me. The actions I take like making a sandwich, make me feel rich. I feel happiest when I give back to someone else, because it originally means I had a lot in my life to offer, regardless if this gift has a lot of value to it money-wise. I believe doing acts of kindness and giving back are the best ways to make myself feel happy.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.