This might seem weird as a confession, but I don’t consider myself to be a very kind person. I mean I don’t go out of my way to make anyone’s life hard or anything, but I don’t look out for ways to help either. Perhaps partly because I don’t get out much and work from home, so my real life interactions with others are limited. I also get hit by existential angst periodically and during one of these miserable moments, I read that being kind to others is a great way to feel better about yourself. Since it’s something I haven’t really tried to do actively, I resolved to test it out and see if it works.
So naturally I turned to the Internet for help. I went to Google and typed in “Kind things to do”. I got some suggestions like mow the neighbor’s lawn and help an elderly person across the road etc. But since my neighbors have no lawns (and I don’t have a lawnmower anyway), and there was no elderly person crossing the road when I peeped out, I was stumped. Besides, I’m also an extremely lazy person and if I’m going to be kind I want to do it in the easiest way possible so I could get some of the “feel good” benefits touted by those who recommend kindness.
So I modified my search term to “Kind things to do online”. This way maybe I could be kind without actually having to leave my chair. I wouldn’t mind donating some money etc. I got some interesting suggestions like message someone when you’re thinking of them and donate to some cause. So I messaged two people I was thinking of and checked out the website of a charity I could donate to. But they were flops. Neither person responded to my messages and Anupa convinced me that merely throwing money at a charity wasn’t going to make me feel good in any way. It had to be a more direct sort of kindness that would make me feel good. Something where you can actually see the impact you’ve made in a tangible manner. Merely sending out money isn’t going to cut it.
Basically since I’m chasing after the good feeling that being kind brings, I’m not going to donate money when I don’t get that feeling even if it does help the organization or the person in question. So I was kind of stuck. I want to be kind, but can’t find an easy or convenient way to do it!
In the last 10 days however, I found two opportunities to be kind and it feels pretty good! You get a nice warm fuzzy feeling afterwards in the knowledge that your existence made a difference to another entity. An actual tangible difference even though in absolute terms it may not be much. But that’s cool. Apparently even a little brings you some benefit. So here are the two kind things I did in the last 10 days.
In the first incident, I was taking out the trash as part of clearing out my house for the move back to India. As I was approaching, I saw a little kid struggling with a garbage bag half his size. And it was in pretty bad shape – torn at the bottom, with stuff spilling out and he was struggling to keep up, putting things back in only to have it fall out again. My own hands were full so I couldn’t help immediately, but I hurried up and by then he was in the middle of the road with half the contents of his bag strewn around. He was so tiny, he couldn’t even have reached the opening of the trash container! So I helped him pick the stuff up, then inverted the bag so the hole was on top and it was held at the bottom by the closed opening. Took some doing, but I managed. And the kid was grateful, said “Thank you”, and I went back on my way. And it sure felt good to help. Yep. Very little effort on my part and someone’s day was just a little bit easier because of me. I wasn’t a complete dead weight on the earth :)
My second act of kindness took place yesterday back in India as I was getting some chicken rolls for dinner at a nearby shop. As I was inside, I saw a hungry mongrel snooping around for scraps outside. You know the type – India’s filled with them. Skinny, miserable, and probably starving. I’ve already talked about the horrible price increases in India in a previous post, but a crazy voice in my head told me to just buy a full piece of chicken and serve it up hot to the mutt. I peeked outside, but he had vanished and I couldn’t locate him. So I went back to waiting wishing I had been a bit faster. Around 10 minutes later however, he was back again and this time I told the guy behind the counter to just take out a piece of chicken and give it to me without fanfare. I was worried the mongrel would disappear again, so I forked over the cash and rushed out with the chicken piece. He had gone out of sight, but I located him nearby.
Now I know that there are a lot of poor people in India and some may ask why I chose to shower largess on a dog instead of a human. Well, for one I don’t value human life more than the life of a dog and well…hungry is hungry right? It’s a common denominator. Still, I didn’t want to lay down the juicy piece of chicken too visibly in front of others so I caught the dog’s eye and headed behind a car innocuously. He followed me warily. I laid it down and casually walked off so no one would see what I did. A quick look back confirmed that he had picked it up and was walking away with it to a safe place.
And once again, I felt great! A creature’s life was better because of my presence. No matter if I don’t “accomplish” anything in life or die unknown. I still made a difference. Someone’s life was better because of me, and that’s a knowledge I’d like to keep experiencing over and over.
I learned two things from these incidents. One, they happened out of doors. They were both real life interactions that I would never have had sitting in front of a computer or reading in my room. They weren’t virtual, but real. Second, they were serendipitous. I wasn’t looking out for them, and wasn’t planning it. I wasn’t volunteering at a charity or doing it in the regular way of life. They happened unexpectedly out of the blue.
I don’t know if either of these conditions is necessary to get the “good feeling” from kindness. Certainly I think real world interactions are more satisfying when it comes to things like this. As for being serendipitous, I wish there was a systematic way to do kind stuff without it becoming burdensome and without taking up any responsibility. I don’t want to “take up work” or something like that. It seems the best moments are those which catch you off guard when life just hands something to you. But I’m open to suggestions from anyone who has a good way to do a lot of kind stuff “ad hoc”. Some way to regularly get that “warm fuzzy feeling” when you help a living creature and make their life better.
Does anyone have some tips?