Have you every tried to do something nice, just … like that? Without getting anything in return – though it may be argued that even the thought of oxytocin we get after doing something good for another, is a reward we seek and nothing is ever selfless. Oh well!
I took my son to the doctor last week. The program was delayed by over one hour and, as we were waiting, I practised one of my favourite hobbies – watching people. I was watching the Receptionist. Context: we were sitting by the main door, this was the main reception of an 8 floors clinic, it was freezing cold (in May) and people, coming in to see doctors for them or their children, were impatient and rushed, wanting answers right away. I noticed how some were simply asking for what they wanted without as much as an actual acknowledgement of her presence as a human being, the queues were coming from two sides, kids were yelling or playing loudly and the Reception phone was off the hook. The Receptionist remained calmed, knowledgeable and poised. If she was frustrated or tired, you could not tell.
I spotted myself thinking these and the thought started to flourish in my mind that I should say something about it. The inner critic showed up right away, advising me that the lady will think I am a weirdo, that I should keep my mouth shut and go about my day. I chose to listen to the small voice whispering inside, usually the voice of my conscience and the truth. I must have paced the floor for several minutes before I opened up my mouth and told her that I have been watching her and was in awe of how she handles everything and congratulated her for it.
When I started talking to her it was clear that she was expecting me to complain and she was quite bewildered by what I actually had to say. It seemed as if her inner critic did not allow her to enjoy this moment for long as she immediately started second guessing herself, telling me how she does get worked up but does not show it. Before I could go on to telling her that this is the art, something I would love to master some day, another line had formed at her desk.
It amazed me to see how hard it was for me to offer this small piece of kindness and how hard it was for her to take it. It seems we are expecting the worst of each other, most times. It is however an experience of mine, countless of times, that when I open my heart to a fellow human and say you did good, that is a true crack in the darkness and light gets in. It is when we activate that intrinsic connection between all humans as pieces of the same whole, and that this spark of positivity always has a boomerang effect. This is, however, a very vulnerable act for each of us – giving and receiving praise. We are afraid of being labelled crazy or rejected or we fear getting too excited about ourselves, thus inviting disaster in our lives.
Opening our hearts to other humans is an act of courage. Be nervous and scared and still do it. Each and every time, regardless of the outcome. This is as much an act of self compassion as it is an act of kindness towards others.
Oh and for inspiration, try this with your child / children. You will make a difference in their lives that will make the world a better place.