‘Those best parts of life: little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love’ - William Wordsworth
One of my favourite films is Pay It Forward (2000), in which the teacher sets eleven year old Trevor the task of devising a way to make the world a better place. He comes up with the idea of helping others and encouraging them to do likewise in turn, thereby paying kindness forward. The unexpected bonus was that the giver of kindness gets to feel good as well.
I too have found that by choosing to help others – even in very small ways – a by-product of happiness is generated for me. This was evident when, as was one of many in the Big Sister mentoring programme supporting teenage girls (some of you reading this were involved – and some still are) we were surprised by how much we gained from it too. Each one of the brilliant volunteers got involved for altruistic reasons – the wanting to give back – but it felt like magic was at play.
Bren Bataclan in his TED talk Kindness Can Truly Be Paid Forward speaks about the life changing impact - turning around his life from one of redundancy to one of permanent fulfilment – created by a simple act of generosity: he gave away his paintings, bringing happiness and hope to many, including himself.
An Australian outfit the wakeupproject has created some kindness cards to act as prompts to remind you to help others regularly – buy someone a coffee, leave some flowers on a colleague’s desk – all done anonymously, while leaving a card to ask them to do the same for someone else.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a world of givers where this is the norm?
Are you a giver or a taker is the question Adam Grant explores in a TED talk. He promotes the idea that ‘the most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed’ and includes a test you can take to see whether you are a giver or a taker.
So are you a giver or taker?