Several years ago I endured a series of events that caused me to question my friendships. All of them.
I won’t go into the nitty-gritty now, but the crux of it is this: I am a giving person and found myself giving–often times not willingly, but because I had been cornered into it or because others simply assumed I would meet their needs–far, far more than I ever received. Of course I’m not one to keep tabs in a friendship, but the draining, one-sided nature of these friendships became painfully obvious.
I was hurt and annoyed when I realized I was simply a convenience and not a friend. I became angry, jaded, and skeptical of all my friendships. I pulled back, not wanting to engage with anyone because the question always lingering in my mind was, “what do they want from me?” I threw myself into focusing more on my family and work and found it wonderfully satisfying–I knew what to expect. However, it quickly became isolating, too.
As I ruminated over the state of my friendships, what I truly wanted and expected from friends, and how disappointed I felt as not one of my friends even noticed my absence, I realized I was feeling sorry for myself and was too focused on my problem.
I remembered reading somewhere that the best way to feel good about your own situation is to give to others. I decided that is what I would do. Then I thought about it more–wasn’t giving so much to others what put me in my downward spiral to begin with?
In researching the topics of generosity, paying-it-forward, acts of kindness, and volunteerism, the message was the same: focusing on others and giving with a spirit of generosity is a great way to improve one’s life. Spirit of generosity was the missing piece of the puzzle–I had not been giving with a spirit of generosity, but instead with a feeling of obligation (and dread).
I decided to start small with random acts of kindness. I started with the simple act of holding the door open for a mother trying to push a stroller while keeping up with toddler twins. She was truly grateful and it cost me nothing more than a desire to care. That felt good!
I thought about this simple act and came up with a plan, a mission. I decided this would be a secret mission: For the next 365 days I would practice the art of conscious caring and express that caring through random acts of kindness. This was my mission, something I would do for me and without anyone else’s awareness.
The process was cathartic. The end result was the reopening of my heart. I felt buoyed by helping others again. This little mission of mine changed me in so many positive ways. Even now, when I am feeling a bit put-upon this is my go-to. It is quite strange how giving more, when done with a generous heart–even when feeling over burdened by others–actually energizes me and causes a shift in my perspective.
I never intended to share my mission with others, but sharing it is one more way I can pay it forward! There are so many others who have giving hearts, but often believe making a difference involves more resources than they have available. Trust me, you have everything you need at your disposal right now to make a difference!
I have nearly finished putting my year-long experience into book form. Each time I work on the book, I find my mind turning to what other acts of kindness I could suggest for others. The little voice in my mind then says, “Ask others what they have done!” So that is what I will do.
I do not know if my book will be published or simply become a self-published eBook, but if you have a short story of some random act of kindness you have performed, or that someone has performed for you, and you’d like to share it, please email your story to me using the contact form below and I will include as many of them as possible. (If I opt to include your story, I will request a release at a later date.)
As you go through your day, look for simple ways to bring a little joy, convenience, or thoughtfulness to someone else’s day…it will give you the warm fuzzies through and through!
The Yellow Kite