The Ripple Effect of Kindness

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Shernaz talks about the act of kindness, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

After a small exchange on WhatsApp, a friend asked me “Are you short-tempered?” I denied it. Then more than once my sisters pointed out that I often snap impatiently at them. It set me thinking about the dichotomy of my behaviour with acquaintances and those close to me. I am polite and patient with strangers and acquaintances. Why do I not practice the same with those closest to me? Yes, we siblings are well aware of one another’s inadequacies; anticipation of repetitive, irritating behaviour brings out the snappishness. Now, I must make an effort to be constantly aware of this deficit in me and converse kindly with my loved ones also. Kindness is not something to be reserved for outsiders as we do our best crockery for dinner guests. Like charity, it must begin at home. We need the courage to accept our shortfalls and act on them.

According to Pablo Casals, we need courage also to act on our own goodness.  “Each person has a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.

How many of us have that courage to listen to the intrinsic decency and act on the promptings of inherent goodness? We hear that voice but we most often drown it out in the deafening silence of indifference. I cannot get involved. I do not have the time. Why should I when nobody else is lifting a finger? People will think I am crazy. There are many others to do it if I don’t. These are some of the lame arguments we put forward to justify our inaction.

In times of great catastrophe, natural or manmade, the hero in each of us rises to the challenge. At such moments nobility and strength of character propel us way beyond our means to be kind and helpful. The tragedy subsides and so does our huge wave of collective compassion. With the gratification of knowing we did our duty, we call it a day till some other calamity tugs at our heartstrings.

We are fortunate to have amongst us everyday heroes who do simple acts of kindness and goodness, which often go unnoticed except by the one whose life they touch; their thoughtful deeds are little bits of love that glue people together; they are the lubricant that keeps the cogs of society moving easily. They are not bright occasional flashes that flare once and disappear, but constant little flames that glow in the duskiness of someone’s life, even a stranger’s, to enrich it with loving-kindness. With largesse of heart, they often put the need of another before personal appeasement. Can we also not be a little like them?

‘Kindness Unlimited’ is a movement started by the late Mr. Vasant Kalbag of Vile Parle, Mumbai. An article in the April 2004 issue of the Reader’s Digest (Indian edition), He’s One of a Kind, in the Everyday Heroes section, brought this benevolent soul’s work into the limelight. It got a tremendously enthusiastic feedback proving that kindness can catch on like a viral infection! It spread steadily, particularly amongst college youngsters and school children who carry on his work with zeal even after his demise on March 11, 2016. Its aim is to spread the concept of random kindness wherein self-interest is balanced by an interest of society at large — ‘transforming the global mindset from me to we,’ as  says on its web page.

Childhood is the right time to inculcate the trait of kindness and how better can one do it than by example? It is a habit that will fortify the child’s character and help him grow into a well-balanced, beautiful person. Let us then empower our children with the immense values of sharing and caring. Let us unite in kindness and form lasting unbiased partnerships between children, parents, teachers and communities. Let us start an epidemic of kindness. As someone has said most fittingly — “What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.”

Small, unplanned acts we can turn into the purpose and habit of life, not a hobby to be pursued in spare time. What are these little acts that cost nothing? A warm smile to cheer a sad person, a word of comfort, encouragement or genuine praise; an expression of gratitude for a service rendered. Even those whose services we pay for need to be recognized and valued. A little more patience and understanding(the random act of kindness I am trying  to practice daily), a little less anger with spouses, children, family members, friends, colleagues, co-travellers and strangers; a little more appreciative understanding for housemaids, delivery boys, the bus conductor or the watchman in your society; just that iota of consideration for the elderly and the differently challenged stretches more than a mile in making life beautiful for all concerned.

Kindness means being patient and gentle; it means being considerate; not trying to push ahead in queues; not fuming and cursing when the wait in the bank is a long one; giving your seat on the bus to an elderly person; giving someone the invaluable gift of your presence at a difficult time… there is no limit to the ways we can be kind. But kindness cannot and should not be a platform for indulgence or permissiveness. True kindness firmly refuses to indulge someone in what is not good for that person or for the community. And kindness also does not mean bending over backwards to please a bully or someone who does not appreciate it. Such behaviour is tentative to being unkind to one’s self.

Oh, yes! It is priceless to remember that kindness excludes giving unsolicited advice regardless of our concern for someone else. However well meant, if it is not asked for, it does the opposite of what is intended. We are not here to save people but to be there for them to comfort and encourage by silent companionship; by recognizing their fragility and giving it space to find its own strength. Just giving of ourselves, perhaps lending an attentive ear, without jumping in with counsel is the kindness that will be valued.

The various faces of kindness come adorned in rainbow packets of love, thoughtfulness, empathy, patience, forgiveness etc. They cost very little but bring tremendous joy to the beneficiary and benefactor. There is little more gratifying and rewarding than this. Kindness is an antidote to one’s own sadness and sorrow. It has tangible positive effects on the physical and emotional health of the doer. It raises our standard of awareness. It juxtaposes self-interest and the interest of the other consequently fostering mutual respect and harmony. It forges better relationships.

“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up,” said Bernard Meltzer.

In the Olympics of Life, the medals of accomplishment, health, success, joy, inspiration and spiritual enrichment can be ours for the picking, directly proportional to the investment we make in kindness. We simply need to participate in the relay and keep passing the baton of kindness. Like love, kindness can never be given away. It comes back a thousand fold one way or another, from virtually unexpected quarters when we need it most. And who doesn’t need a bit of kindness sometime or the other? So let us be active participants in spreading the sunshine and thus endow our own spirituality. We have nothing to lose by being kind. Someone made happy by our little act will unknowingly pass it on, perhaps to a neighbour; the neighbour will send it forward to a friend and the friend again to someone else. The impact of each small act is unimaginable! The world will literally change around us and for us by the unforeseen waves created by one small act. The chain of events set rolling by a small kind deed can be surprising! It will miraculously reach out to uplift scores of lives! By being kind WE can make miracles happen, so why wait?

Let us follow in the footsteps of the reverend Dalai Lama. He says, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

To wind up, here is a brilliant poem on kindness

The Ripple Effect


Drop a pebble in the water,
just a splash and it is gone,
but there are half-a-hundred ripples,
circling on and on and on.
Spreading to the center,
flowing onward to the sea,
and there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness,
just a splash and it is gone,
but there are half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave–
’til you wouldn’t believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness,
in a minute you forget.
But there is gladness still a-swelling,
and there’s joy a-circling yet.
For you’ve rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard,
over miles and miles of water all around the world,
by just dropping–
One Kind Word.

©Shernaz Wadia

Photos from the internet.

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To Shernaz Wadia, reading and writing poems has been one of the means to embark on an inward journey. She hopes her words will bring peace, hope and light into dark corners. Her poems have been published in many e-journals and anthologies. She has published her own book of poems “Whispers of the Soul” and another titled “Tapestry Poetry – A Fusion of Two Minds” with her poetry partner Avril Meallem.