Can you remember a time when the kind words, good deeds, or actions of a friend or even a stranger, dramatically, impacted your life?
We really never know how our actions or what we have done for someone, is going to affect that individual and even more, how the ripple effect caused by that act will impact others.
To give you a great example of how powerful good deeds, or a simple act kindness can be, I want to share with you how the kindness of a stranger saved my life, and I believe also, because of what has happened since, their action also led to saving the lives of many others.
I was about 20 years old and I had gotten into trouble with the law because I was drinking, using drugs and being totally irresponsible. As a result of a drunk driving arrest, I was sentenced by the courts to attend AA meetings in lieu of going to jail. I complied, but had no intention of attending these meetings to get sober or change my life. I was only going to avoid being put in jail.
There was one specific meeting I went to which was in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and I came to the meeting having already been drinking and with beer in my car with the intention that after the meeting I was going to go out and continue to party.
At the end of the meeting a stranger walked up to me and gave me a card with his first name and phone number on it. He said, ”If you ever decide that you TRULY want help, call me.”
Well, I didn’t want help, and I quickly forgot that he gave me his number. Fast forward to four years later; I had reached a serious low in my life, as some call it, I had “hit the bottom” and I was looking for some answer… for some kind of help, some way to stop the insanity I was living at that point. I was going through a box of that contained all of my court documents and I found the card he had given me.
Now, the story would be great, if I said I called that guy and he helped me change my life, but that’s not how the story unfolds.
This is why I’m saying we never know how our good deeds may impact somebody. This guy never heard back from me, I never saw him again, and our interaction lasted 1 minute at the very most. But the card that he gave me, when I was at my lowest point, gave me hope. His offer gave me a belief that there were people out there who genuinely cared, that there were people who were willing to help. And because of that glimmer of hope, that new belief that somewhere, there was one person who cared… and if there was one, maybe there were more. I began reaching out and found other people who were willing to offer their help in changing my life. And because of them supporting me, because of his initiating it, I rebuilt a devastated life, and have gone on and made it my mission to help other people change theirs.
We may never know the impact we have on others. It’s the ripple effect. When you drop the pebble in the pond and the ripples go out. Every action has a reaction-whether you are there to see it or not.
Because of that one person reaching out to me my mantra for life has become, (and I modified this slightly from something that was written on the card that the man I am speaking of handed me), “I am responsible, whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out, I want them to have the same support that I had, and for that I am responsible.”
We’re talking about self awareness in this course, and one of the things that I think that you will begin to realize is that every interaction you have, happens for a reason. Every person that you meet and every communication you have is an opportunity. And it’s your choice as to how you’re going to leave that interaction. Are you going to plant a seed that’s going to help somebody? You know it can be so simple if we are conscious of our actions. Are you going to smile at somebody who is having a bad day? Are you going to help somebody with their groceries? You don’t know what long term effect that’s going to have. AND, that simple gesture could end up saving a life. I’m not trying to make it sound overly dramatic, but I really want you to think about it. I know for a fact that the simple gesture that man made to me in 1985 saved my life and as a result, other’s lives.
Think back in your own life. Can you think of three or four “small” good deeds that somebody has done for you? They could be things as simple as someone letting you go first in line at the grocery store. Maybe someone stopped to help you when your car was broken down. They could be small incidents, or major ones. Have you ever experienced a good deed when it has been done anonymously?
There’s a little gift that I would like to offer to you. I want to share a thing I like to do from time to time as a possibility of something you can do also and experience the joy I get when I do it.
Every once in a while, when I’m in a restaurant, I’ll connect with the waiter or the waitress that’s serving me. I’ll ask them to keep what I am about to do very quiet, and then ask them if any of their customers seem like someone who’s having a really, really bad day. Then I ask them to bring me that customer’s bill and I will pay for that person’s meal. Then I leave before they ever find out that It was me who did it. The deal I make with the server is that they are not allowed to tell customer who it was. All the server is supposed to tell them is that somebody wanted them to have a better day. The most it has ever cost me was $100 for a table of four, and often it costs less than $20. A small investment that is my little way of “paying it forward”.
I truly don’t know how this is going to affect the person receiving the gift. But my intention is that these “good deeds” give them hope when they’re having a bad day.
Again, what I’d like you to do is to take a moment and think of three to four times in your life where someone has done small deeds or shared some kind words that improved your day. Now, as you think of that experience notice if that had an impact on how you went about your day. When you become aware of how those little actions and a good deed have changed your life, you begin to become more aware of how you treat others.
The next thing I invite you to do is commit to doing two things in this next week out of a genuine desire to contribute to someone else. I also ask that you make one of these good deeds anonymous. Maybe you’re going to make a contribution to a stranger like giving a homeless person money. Or maybe you know somebody who is having a hard time financially, and you buy some food and leave it on their doorstep. There are so many things you can do. I suggest for this exercise that you do at least two things. One where you actually interact with the person. And the other where you do it anonymously.
I really look forward to hearing your feedback on how this exercise affects you or maybe how you notice your good deeds affect the other person.
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