Good Things from Traumatic Experience, Part 2: The Kindness of Others

We live in a fear-filled, finger-pointing, antagonistic, mixed-up world right now.  So says the news.  But another good thing I got out of this traumatic experience (click here for Part 1), is that even though people strongly disagree with each other and it seems there is so much hate in the world, there also is so much love and kindness out there.

 Family and friends’ help was elemental in me not going completely bonkers during this traumatic event.  Of their kindness I was already aware; I’m extremely blessed, especially with family (including in-laws!).  But what warms my heart to no end and what I didn’t expect are the many people -barely even acquaintances- that showed up, gave gifts, offered to do whatever we needed, or sent their good blessings.  In addition, (most of) the nurses and hospital staff blew me away with their generosity of spirit.  I found that I cried more tears from touching acts of kindness than from the trauma itself.

For instance, one nurse gave me a hug at the exact right moment and said precisely the right words that made me know we would get through this.  Don wasn’t even in the room at that moment so that was definitely not part of her job duties.  It was simply her being exceptionally kind.

Another instance was when I went back to work.  I had found that a project that I had left in mid-session was picked up without me uttering any request for help.  No, it was not in a steal-my-job kind of way or with a looming deadline.  It was simply him being exceptionally thoughtful by helping me out.

Other kind acts: My neighbors walking our dog and letting her hang out at their house because she seemed “lonely”; Acquaintances somehow getting my email or phone number to say they are thinking of us; Hospital waiting room staff suggesting to me to keep my (many and heavy) personal items behind their desk so I don’t have to lug them around the hospital all day.

These things all seem very small and, possibly, inconsequential.  Especially in light of the major corrupt and immoral things we hear about and sometimes experience firsthand.  But, don’t let the ego trick you!  These seemingly small things can have great effects.

I know for me the small acts of kindness made me feel loved.  They also gave me motivation to be more kind and helpful myself.  And the effects need not be for one person; the ripple effects cannot be measured.  Heard of “Paying it forward?”  Urban Dictionary defines it as, “When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else.”  You experience a kind act, and therefore, are inspired to do a kind act for someone else and then they do a kind act and so on and so on.  A few small kind acts can easily be turned into –well, not to sound too corny but- changing the world.

Of course, there are cruel and ruthless actions all around the world.  But no matter what I read or see in the news and on social media, I know, without a doubt, that there are more kind and loving people in this world than not.  Don’t wait for a traumatic event to notice them and be one of them!

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Joy in Serving Others

Not only is having a connection to people a key to joy but helping others is another key.  Whether it is formal volunteering or simply doing something for those in your regular, daily life – strangers, acquaintances, friends or family – does not matter.  Even merely thinking kind, loving thoughts towards others counts.

Research shows that those who volunteer or simply help others report higher levels of happiness, better physical health and more self-confidence.  Neuroscientists, James Rilling and Gregory Berns of Emory University found that the part of the brain that activates in response to rewards and pleasure also lit up when participants helped others.  Research has also found that oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphin – which are brain chemicals responsible for a lot of good stuff – levels rise when people help others.  Many more studies are showing the benefits – mental, emotional and physical – of helping others.

Deepak Chopra says, “Helping other people is an expression of the fullness we feel inside.” “Giving is really just a flow of your loving self to others.”  So, after we have a foundation of self-worth and love for ourselves, serving or helping others just naturally flows.

What I discovered about serving others was that it took my focus off of my problems.  In serving others, it turns our focus off our ego worries and fears.  When we help or think of others, ego is instantly turned off.  And we know what happens when our egos are not in charge…relief, joy, all good things!  Then, our true selves can effortlessly shine through.

In an indirect way, working on our own growth is another way of serving others.  When we don’t give up when challenges arise or we find the good in a bad situation.  This provides an example which may inspire others when they feel down or like giving up.  When we live our truth and not hide it, it is a way to teach and serve others. I know I have had countless examples of being inspired by others’ personal work which helped me, beyond measure, to keep going forward.

I also experienced that what you sow you reap.  In making others happy, I became happy.  I like how Dr. Wayne Dyer expressed this concept: “When you serve others, the Universe says, How can I serve you?”

Just as I made a Joy To-Do list, I made a Serve Others list.  This is a deliberate way to remind ourselves to do this.  It’s a good reminder to quit thinking so much of ourselves and our problems.  Who is on your Serve Others list today?