It was the usual lunchtime rush at the cafeteria at Denver Health Hospital, a place I often ate to escape the stuffiness of the pharmacy break room. I was filling my cup with ice and Diet Coke when a woman next to me set down a stack of items, her purse, food, and began to pour her drink. As I grabbed a straw and snapped on the lid to my cup I grabbed one extra and handed it to the woman beside me. Her face lit up and she said “Oh my goodness, thank you so much, you’ve just made my day!” I smiled and wished her a great day then found a table to enjoy my lunch and try and wrap my head around how shitty this woman’s day must have been to be absolutely elated being handed a cheap piece of plastic. I was surprised as I didn’t feel the action merited that kind of reaction — not a complaint, rather an observation. Ten years later I have not forgotten the exchange, and, to this day, I think about it every time I reach for a plastic lid to snap onto my cup.
Have you dropped something and someone helped you to pick it up? Has someone opened the door for you and you thanked them? Have you waved over a merging driver only to see a wave of gratitude in return? Have you seen someone with a veteran hat, or first responder badge, and stopped to shake their hand and thank them for their contribution? Has someone given you a hug when you needed it most? Have you been that someone for someone else? None of these are earth-shattering gestures and yet they are meaningful in their innocence, because. . .
. . .when you stay in your heart and operate from that space the ordinary has the capacity to become extraordinary.
What makes it so? Love. Non-attachment. Compassion, simply because.
Such action reminded me of the giving theme of Matthew 6:1-4
When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the poor, don’t blow a loud horn. That’s what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward. When you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know about it. Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret, and he will reward you.
I don’t feel this passage is about doing right to get in the good graces of God but it’s about the motivation and intentionality behind our giving. Are we in a place of expansion through which we are opening our heart through love, or are we contracting through the unhealthy ego? I believe God desires for us to demonstrate loving kindness to others and to experience a flow of blessings and being blessed, and I also believe it feels so good because we are returning to who and what we truly are: love. It is familiar, and it is accessible always.
Have you ever been given a gift or complement that just didn’t feel right? Maybe it was obligatory or out of the desire for attention and validation? It feels different, often uncomfortable. I’ve had times where I have spoken or acted with insincerity and boy does it feel awful, like a punch in the gut. Maybe that’s just me and my ridiculous level of self-awareness, but you might understand what I mean by that.
We are constantly engaging in energetic exchanges that can be powerful without having to be amplified.
We live in a time where bad behavior goes viral and so do acts of kindness. There are some acts you know are set up to get likes and shares. Again, you can feel that as you watch. And there are also those demonstrations of kindness that leave you clutching a fist full of Kleenex because you are so moved by the exchange. No matter if it is a grand gesture or something as simple as making eye contact and smiling at a stranger passing by, be mindful of your motivation.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: Make a note of the next time you do something kind for another, or someone surprises you with kindness. What was it about the exchange that was meaningful? It might be something significant or as simple as handing someone a plastic lid to their cup. You might just find your gratitude expanding, your momentum increasing, and your soul feeling as if it were hugged. Commit that to memory, feel it at your core, and remember your ability to choose to be open to the good that is already yours and that wants to be expressed through you.
There is so much beauty and kindness around us. Love because it’s fun. Love because it’s easy. Love because it’s who and what you are.