Acts of Appreciation
Why do we remember certain things about people that we meet in our daily life? Have you ever taken a stroll through your neighbourhood or around town and noticed the excitement in someone’s smile or a simple hello that encouraged you to share that kindness with the next person you may, see? Often, it feels like there is a mental alarm in my brain that can quickly assess each situation that appears on my radar. The best part of showing kindness to others is not having any expectations or wanting something back in return.
As a young boy, my mother taught me to be extra nice to everyone that we would meet on the streets when walking or on public transportation. As a young child, I was never interested in being nice to strangers or allowing other children to touch my toys. The number one word in my vocabulary was always, “Why”. After many years of frightening stares from my mom, usually followed by a hard tap on the head which meant, stop asking questions or you won’t be able to sit down. Amazing how one simple look could speak volumes and my siblings, and I understood the language of the eyes. So, we realised that it was easier to follow the rules of kindness and when my lips moved to ask why, my brother or sister would place a cap or their hand over my mouth. Eventually I learned to reduce the number of questions — about everything.
Over the years, showing kindness and respect to others became a part of my body, soul, and mind. Even when I try to stop the words from coming out of my mouth or the actions that I may show to a complete stranger, I simply can’t stop myself, and it feels great.
So many of my friends and colleagues ask the same question all the time. They continue to ask me, “Why are you always so nice to people you don’t know, or why do you talk to everybody, all the time?” They always make me laugh, mostly because I have behaved this way my entire life and when it happens today, I am totally unaware that it’s happening. The greatest part about saying hello to people when I am walking or running errands is the way their faces light up with big smiles of gratitude. Most of the time I don’t remember the acts of kindness shown to others, but days, weeks, or even months later, someone sees me and starts smiling, wants to buy me a coffee, invite me to lunch, or grab me to take home some lemons or limes from their tree. It’s the best feeling in the world. Today, I raised my hand to say thank you to someone that paused so that I could cross the street. As I looked up, their response was a big smile and a wave. I have noticed that many people today don’t say thank you, or excuse me, and many don’t even smile or know how to have a conversation with others.
This year, my partner’s photography is on exhibition at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne. The show is entitled, 37 Degrees, displaying beautiful shots of San Francisco, 37 degrees south, and Melbourne 37 degrees north. The opening ceremony was so exciting, and a great time was had by all. On the 35th floor of the lovely hotel, I decided to view all the photographs again and chat with many of the guests. At one point I stopped and admired one of the photographs that caught my attention like never before. Looking at it under incredible lighting made me stop and study every single detail. For some reason I wasn’t 100% sure if it was taken on the bay of Melbourne or San Francisco. At that very moment, a man came over to speak to me about the photograph. He shared how much he loved the photograph and told me what it meant to him. I asked if he would be purchasing it. He simply said that he couldn’t afford it, but that he would look at it whenever he is working there. Without thinking or pausing, I turned to the gentleman and said, “Would you like it?” I then offered to give him the photograph and said, “I can make a deal with the photographer.” What happened next frightened me when the man had tears in his eyes that ran down his face. I immediately apologised thinking that I had said something rude or insulted him. After a few moments of controlling his tears, he shared, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” At the time I didn’t think anything of it because I truly meant what I said.
To my surprise, people remember tokens of appreciation that others may have shared. The next day it was all a distant memory for me. Not long ago, I returned to the Sofitel Hotel for a different art opening and a strange smiling man came charging towards me. Within an instant, he was hugging me and saying thank you for the kindness that I showed him months before. Overwhelmed with his kindness and a summary of that night, I struggled to remember who he was or what I had done. Then he reminded me and I couldn’t stop smiling. So often we do things for others, whether they are small or large tokens of kindness that we simply don’t remember because we show kindness to others from the heart. When sharing true kindness, I tend to not look back or even wait for acknowledgment. A simple smile fills me with joy and happiness.
This week I accompanied a loved one to a medical centre to receive an MRI. I love traveling around and being able to learn new parts of the city. With all the excitement, I forgot my mobile phone on my desk charging. Once discovered it was missing, I totally freaked out and started beating myself. Have you ever forgotten your mobile phone at home or in the car? I was completely lost and worried about not being able to accompany my friend into the hospital. It was essential that I enter with him since I was the spokesperson for him. As we entered, I approached the woman on duty and explained my situation. Without being aware of my face, she could see the stress I was putting myself as my eyes filled with water like a three-year old. This incredible woman changed my entire day by showing kindness towards me and got me into the hospital with my loving friend. She helped me to perform a Rapid COVID Test and told me to go across the street to have a coffee and a nibble on something delicious. I returned with a negative result and off I went. Upon leaving, like that 3-year-old cry baby, tears started to form in my eyes, and I thanked her again. It’s nice to be reminded how so many good things happen to us because of something that we may have done yesterday, last week, last month or even a year ago that we may not remember. I once wondered how people can remember me after only a few seconds or a quick hello with a smile. Now I understand. I will never forget the amazing soul of the woman at the hospital that turned my mood into a bright, sunny day.
Heading home, I was able to show kindness to an older woman on public transportation. I looked at her and offered her my seat on the tram. The smile she returned to me made me glow. So much can be shared without words.
When you have the opportunity to show kindness to another person, just do it, you will be surprised how good it feels and how so much goodness will return to you.
What simple act of kindness do you remember giving or receiving over the past few years?