It’s amazing what a difference being present and kind makes. Time and again my wife will simply take the time to compliment someone and be curious about her/his story. The incredible thing is nearly every time this simple kindness will brighten and enliven the person in the most incredible way. Over the last few weeks a couple of encounters have reminded me kindness is indeed happiness, so I figured I’d share and reflect on them here to hopefully inspire us to spread the love around!
A vision disability prevents me from driving, so every 5 weeks I take three buses to get my haircut (I don’t walk somewhere more local because Cally’s been cutting my hair for years and I’m loyal :). Bus time is reading time for me. A couple months ago I was reading Brené Brown’s latest book, “Braving the Wilderness”. A friendly lady, and seeming regular on this bus, got on at the hospital and sat behind me, as she chatted with a guy it seems she knew. Tapping my shoulder, she asked me what I was reading. A tad annoyed she’d interrupted my reading, with a mostly genuine smile I told her how Brené’s book was about True Belonging, the life-changing practices of vulnerability, being comfortable in your own skin, loving life, realizing you belong wherever you are, and so on. “I’d sure like to read that,” she told me. “After you’re done of course,” she added with a smile. “Sounds good,” I replied. “I’ll do my best to remember to bring it next time I ride the bus,” I finished while doubting I’d see her again.
Off and on throughout the following bus rides, we continued to chat. She told me about the book she was reading, and shared a funny Facebook post she’d just put up about her friend, who was loudly playing music from his phone on the bus for everyone to hear and “enjoy”. I learned she was getting dialysis at the hospital because of a kidney problem. When it came time for me to get off the bus, we parted ways with smiles and brighter hearts. Kindness had increased happiness for us both.
That night I told Lisa, my wife, about this cool encounter, after which I completely forgot about it and the wonderful lady I’d met. YET, something (God?) reminded me the day before I was going to be on that bus again after my haircut, some five weeks later. So, I packed the book for my haircut trip, wondering if I’d see her …
Not only did she get on at the same stop, come right up to me to say hi, and ask if I remembered her and if she could sit by me, IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY! As we chatted for most of the bus ride, I got the impression nobody was really celebrating her that day (she’d gone out with friends the night before). The immense joy she expressed over my remembering to bring, and gift, her the book, bubbled out from her and into me. It became apparent this one small act of kindness had in many ways made her day, and mine in turn.
Inspired by my wife’s example, I chose to be curious and ask about her health and reading interests. Her face aglow from my being present and interested in her, she told me about the mystery novels she likes to read, how excited she was to read Brené’s book, and how the kidney treatment was going mostly well. The biggest struggle, she shared with me, was she has to rely on her uncle and his fiancée to get her to her appointments, as they are her only family in the local area. It seems she hasn’t yet clicked with the fiancée, so it’s a hassle and hard to get the wife-to-be to help when her uncle is working.
At the end of our bus ride, as we transferred to different buses we hugged and I wished her a happy birthday. Delighted, she bounced to her next bus with a big smile on her face. In my mind, this was an epic example of how Kindness = Happiness, as my yoga teacher and Blissology founder Eoin Finn says.
My wife is basically the most incredible person ever. She’s SO kind and caring, my life goal is to be more like Lisa! Curiosity is a real game-changer when it comes to relationships, because choosing to be curious about someone else’s life, job, story, etc. is an incredible act of kindness. Lisa is AMAZING at being curious. She’s constantly asking people to “tell me more about that,” which both names her/him valuable and invites her/him to reveal more of herself/himself. I learn from her how to be curious on a regular basis.
A couple weeks ago we went wine tasting. Ten minutes, or so, after we arrived at a tasting room, the other couple who’d been there left, meaning it was just us and the pourer. I can’t remember exactly what Lisa and I said, but knowing Lisa’s three-step process for winning friends and influencing people, I’d say it went something like this. (Note: she doesn’t actually have a process I know of. As I was writing this section it occurred to me Lisa’s kindness regularly shows up in the following three, not necessarily sequential ways.)
(1) Compliment. Lisa noticed a tattoo, haircut, piece of jewelry, or article of clothing that looked good and complimented the lady on it. People love compliments, because who doesn’t like to be noticed for something good? Know what I mean? Compliments both enliven people and warm them up to share more of themselves.
(2) Curiosity. We were going to the Michael Franti & Spearhead concert that night, so had told the lady our plans. After she expressed interest in going, we encouraged her to do it, which led to a conversation on how she was getting ready to go to Hawaii for a vacation with her kiddo(s). Continuing to be curious and ask questions about her story then led to her sharing the tale of her divorce. Being present and kind to this beautiful being opened her up to relate to us how she’d lost her sense of self in her marriage, and reveal to us how she was mindfully re-owning her life and re-finding herself. It was a beautiful conversation.
(3) Vulnerability. The third part of Lisa’s “three-step process” is being vulnerable. Courageously share something tender from your own story, as this both shows the person you trust him/her, and that you are safe for him/her to confide in. Our pretty lengthy conversation with the wine pourer was a give and take, wherein Lisa or I would share the hurts and losses from our own divorces, how we’d also lost ourselves, which opened the door for the lady to share more of her story. We collectively reflected on how “losing” when it came to love, had actually made us more alive and loving than ever. It was lovely dance.
The crazy thing about the kindness-happiness loop, wherein one flows naturally into the other, is that even in the sharing of stories of hurt and loss, like between Lisa, the wine lady, and I, everyone’ happiness is amplified. Kindness inspires happiness, happiness increases kindness, and on and on it goes. By the time we left the wine tasting room all our hearts were full and all three of us had big smiles on our faces.
Let’s start a kindness revolution. Compliment people, get curious about their lives, and vulnerably share your story because Kindness = Happiness. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories about this, and above all hope this helps us to spread the love.
Grace and peace,