Recently I spent a week with my “sister from another mother” and her husband in Florida. My friends live in a very privileged community and have been there for 25 years. I have long known my friend’s generosity and service orientation —she is after all a retired therapist/social worker! But I was unaware of the same focus that her friends and neighbors embody until this trip.
One morning as we were just back from a walk with a good friend (who had chatted casually about her various activities with fund raising and charity work in the community) there was a knock on the door from another neighbor with a gift for my friend happily wrapped in Halloween paper. It seems that she and her husband had been looking for an elderly couple that they could anonymously give to at Christmas and they had contacted my friend as she visits the home bound and they thought she may be able to connect them with a family in need. She of course did. In addition to supplying the name, she was to be the go between to deliver $350.00 in gifts and gift cards for food and other necessities so the couple could remain anonymous. NOW they were gifting my friend as a thank you for helping them with this act of generosity. This same couple has been very active in supporting those in their own immediate environment who are ill, dying or otherwise in need. My friend spoke of many instances where children or other relatives of these elderly couples were absent or not willing to help and her neighbors often stepped up and were there to help with arranging for medical care, guardianship , companionship, rides etc.
The community that I am talking about is quite affluent, but of course people are not immune to health issues and crises as they age. It is remarkable to see the support, caring and giving that goes on both within and outside this community. Beyond remarkable, it is heartening to see both givers and receivers benefit from acts of kindness and compassion. All is not perfect as in any planned community/group there are differences around a wide range of topics concerning how things are done. However, when it comes to human needs, the intrinsic goodness in people seems to be rising to the surface. In fact it was one of the things that my friend and I spoke at length about–that what is happening in the world does seem to be providing ample opportunity for creativity, unique new approaches and an opening of the compassionate heart in many who may not have under other circumstances thought to express themselves in that way. In good times perhaps it is too easy to forget that we are all part of the human family and need each other on many levels and in many ways.
The ‘feel good’ that comes from compassion and kindness it turns out has effects beyond a momentary ‘hit’. Research has been showing that it has a positive effect even if we are not actively participating but only observing. It turns out that it is good for our immunity, our hearts and our relationships AND it is contagious!
“Elevation seems to have a ripple effect, triggering cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes,” Haidt says. “It makes people more open, more loving, grateful, compassionate, and forgiving.” Jonathan Haidt, PhD as quoted by Joan Duncan Oliver in”Kindness, the Ripple Effect.
As the media feeds us with all that is wrong, contentious and in crisis on an hourly basis, it would serve us all to be more aware of all the good that is happening around the world as “ordinary” people quietly rise to challenges, and tap into creative new ways to see and be in the world. The evolution that is underway is a marathon and not a sprint. It will take each one of us to be more conscious, intentional and active to adapt and create a world that is more sustainable individually and globally.
- Can Compassion Help Lower Crime? (livingenergyworks.com)
- How Language Can Cultivate An Open Heart (livingenergyworks.com)