30 Day Transformation When I was 3 years old, 6 months after my younger sister was born, our father told my mom and us, his five young children, that he was going fishing…. and he never came back.
And they wonder why women don’t trust men!
That we survived, even flourished, is neither the story nor the topic of this article. The kindnesses that were shown us, often by strangers or mere acquaintances is what I will address… Acts that allowed our little family to survive and flourish. Not only the kindnesses shown to our family but also about seemingly random acts of kindness, heroism and selflessness perpetrated by many humans, from all cultures, ethnicities and religions and how cultivating this natural tendency can lead us all to happier and more productive lives.
Kindness differentiates mammals from all other animals. Scientists have found that homo sapiens has actually evolved to be a compassionate, sympathetic and KIND species, the implications of this are staggering. Consider Les Brown, motivational speaker, radio personality and congressman. He and his twin brother, Wesley, were born in an abandoned building in Miami, FL in 1945. They were given up for adoption and unbelievably adopted by Mamie Brown, a 38-year-old single woman who was employed as a cafeteria attendant! Mamie cared for Wesley and Les and even though Les was branded, horribly, as “retarded” both boys went on to become educated and highly contributing members of society.
Statistically, Les and Wesley Brown AND my siblings should have committed suicide, become drug addicts or criminals yet all of us graduated from college and went on to live productive lives. Mamie Brown was probably an AMAZING mentor to Les and Wesley, my mom was a fantastic mother, we had good genes and lots of circumstances went our way but I consider where we might have lived had my Uncle Chuck (no blood relation) not purchased a 4 bedroom home we could rent from him for $50/month or what we might have eaten if local grocer, Leonard Schrandt hadn’t let us “charge” our groceries…sometimes indefinitely or if my little sister would have lived if he hadn’t “sold” my mother a $500 car (with payments over 5 years with no interest) when Janis needed to get to a hospital for an emergency appendectomy.
Perhaps our story is NOT a modern day “Les Miserables” but much of literature is devoted to the telling of “selflessness” and random acts of kindness: Charles” Dickens “A Christmas Carol” (and actually many of his stories) much of Shakespeare’s work and many popular books today are based on themes of random acts of kindness and selflessness.
Why are we drawn to these stories? What resonates for us in their telling?
Darcher Keltner talks about this in his book: “Born to Be Good: The Science of a Life of Meaning“. He discusses Charlles Darwin’s groundbreaking work: Descent of Man”. In this book, Darwin does not talk about a “violent” “survival of the fittest”, instead, he reveals his findings that man is a profoundly social and caring species and that our drive toward sympathy is even stronger than our drive for self-preservation! When we ponder this construct, the fact that our offspring are so helpless and in need of care that it makes sense that those carrying genes that lent themselves to caring instincts, would result in a better survival rate. It has even been discovered that the Vagus Nerve, located at the top of the spinal cord, is hugely connected to feelings of altruism. The Vagus nerve is connected to many organs throughout the body and when activated can cause sensations like a warm expansion in the chest caused by witnessing a selfless act of a thing of beauty. When stimulated, the Vagus nerve can cause a decrease in heart rate and an increase in oxytocin: the hormone that makes us feel love and connection. This is the hormone released when women breast feed…why else would we keep doing this after they start biting?
The idea that compassion and empathy are automatic human traits helps us to understand stories like that of Cayden: a 3rd grader who, upon seeing one of his class mates set down his lunch tray because his lunch account was overdue, began a campaign through fundraising and bottle collecting to stamp out lunch account debt in his school and today it no longer exists. No child goes without lunch at Cayden’s school.
Does that story give you that warm glow?
Or Dylan, the 7 year old whose friend Jonah suffered from a rare liver disease. Dylan wrote a book about his friendship with Dylan called “Chocolate Bar” and so far, has raised over a ½ million $$ for research into this disease.
I WANT to be a kinder person. I WANT to be calmer and more compassionate. I now see that it’s actually in my best interest to work on this desire. Is it your desire, too? Sure, paying for the toll for the driver in front of me is kind, leaving $20 in a book at my local bookstore is kind…what about not snapping at my husband or rolling my eyes when a co-worker asks me a dumb question for the 10th time? What about just taking the flipping grocery cart back to the store even though they SHOULD have a spot for them? What about letting the guy in front of me on the freeway change lanes? Can we become a kinder, gentler people? Can being kind help to save families, communities, even lives?
I think so; the possibilities are endless. This is my challenge to you:
kindly, sometimes randomly, act