I have had two experiences recently that have reminded me how much of an impact seemingly small and simple acts of kindness can have a huge impact on other people. The first one came about because I was really trying hard to see other people. Do you ever go through life with blinders on? I tend to do that all the time. After I leave a situation, I see so many different courses that I could have, and usually should have taken, to help someone, or make someone else’s life a little bit brighter or better. And, as this first experience illustrates, sometimes when you think you’re helping someone else, often you are the one that has been given the help you may not have even known you needed.
I was in the Michael’s store in Wasilla one afternoon. I was in a bit of a hurry trying to get kids picked up from school. As I was walking through the store toward the checkout counter a man stopped me and asked if I worked there. I told him I was sorry, that I didn’t. He said OK and continued on. I almost left it at that but felt like I should see what he needed. I stopped him and asked what he was looking for. He told me and I directed him to the part of the store that I felt like was the best place to start looking. He thanked me for the help, and we parted ways. As I was approaching the next open register in the front of the store, I heard someone waiting in line loudly say, “Thank you ma’am, I found it!” I turned around and it was the man I had helped.
Now, at first, this might look like I really did something great for him. But in the end, I walked out of the store a little lighter, not because I had stopped to help him, but because of the gratitude that he showed me so vibrantly, never even worried about the onlookers, simply grateful. What I did to help him took less than thirty seconds to do, and his sincere expression of gratitude took less than 10 seconds, but that moment has affected my life in a positive way ever since. It has been three weeks, and every time I think of this experience I smile. I am grateful that I had the impression to stop and help, but more grateful for the man who turned it around and made the rest of my day a much brighter one.
The second experience happened at a Stake youth activity for my Church. Just a brief rundown of the organization of my Church – we have the worldwide Church, with the prophet as the head. This is separated into areas, then into Stakes, and then into Wards. My Ward is the Willow Ward, we are part of the Wasilla Alaska Stake, which consists of 9 Wards. The youth in the Wards occasionally meet together to participate in Stake activities, which are fun because there are a lot more youth to get to know and hang out with. This particular Saturday evening was a Stake Dance. I had driven my youngest son in because my older son was not able to attend that particular dance. The dances are three hours, and I had planned on getting some business stuff done on my computer, as well as digitizing some art. I was excited for the uninterrupted time and was prepared to utilize it in what I thought was the best way possible.
As I was sitting in the car, I watched youth come in and out of the Stake Center. The dance is usually hot, so they step outside to cool off and then head back in. Many of the youth from my Ward had wandered out and back in, and several had seen me and waved. About an hour before the dance was to end, several of the Young Women came out, not unusual, but then they headed straight for my car. I rolled down the window, and they asked me if I was ever going to come into the dance. They said the party couldn’t start until I got in there. I initially laughed because I thought they were just joking around, but they were serious. I got out of the car and went in. It was a great time watching the youth, I even participated in a line dance or two. I thought I was utilizing my time the best way possible, but these youth helped me to relax and see beyond myself, and to have fun with the amazing youth of my Stake.
I often go through life not seeing people, and quite often hoping nobody notices me. Not because I don’t want to be seen, but because I am a bit awkward. But that night, those young women had not only seen me, but they invited me to come in and have fun with them. I was so impressed by their courage to come find me, and so grateful for their willingness to invite me. This experience also makes me smile every time I think about it. It has also reminded me of the importance of inviting courageously, regardless of the outcome. You never know who needs to be seen or thanked, heard or loved in any given day, but courage to act, and kindness to everyone we come in contact with can change lives. I know, because my life has been changed through these two experiences, as well as the many other acts of kindness I have been the recipient of through the years.