Can a simple act of kindness help us create the change we wish to see in the world, no matter whether a person is generous of heart or harsh in their manners?
Maybe it is easier to be open and accepting to all people and situations whether they are kind or not in the sacred land of India—where the atmosphere of spirituality is a way of living.
Or is it even more important to anchor in the West where the sacredness of true being is more and more forgotten in the lands of a hectic lifestyle and materialistic plenty.
Paradoxically East or West, everyone benefits from practicing an act of kindness. Perhaps in the West we need emotional nurturing, whereas in the East, people are in need of material donations. Although in the end, we all need the right balance of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, wherever we are.
No matter what, genuine giving is an act of kindness that creates a gentler, more loving world.
Exactly one year later, I had once again made it through customs and was standing outside the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. I dropped my suitcase and took a deep breath. The warm, unfamiliar, yet familiar sweet fragrance of the air hit me like a sense of goodness. Strangely, I felt at home, in the land with so many contrasts to where I come from.
Despite the busyness of the place, the calmness was contagious.
I was catching a domestic flight at 7:00 a.m., and the bus to the domestic terminal at 1:30 a.m. was almost empty.
The first thing that caught my eyes as I sat down to wait for the check-in to open was the headline of The Times of India:
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
It was the second time this message or quote from Mahatma Gandhi came to me this week. First from a friend in Brussels, then this article promoting an act of kindness, celebrating “the joy of giving week.” It was an initiative, conceptualized by GiveIndia.
Somewhat amused over the coincidence, I finally checked in my luggage and got through security. It was crowded, noisy, and not easy to know which gate was which. However, I found a place to sit.
Barely keeping my eyes open, I was just about to nod off when a man started talking to me. His name was Madan. He was also going to Dharamshala.
By the time we boarded the flight, he had told me he was going home to do a special ritual he had done since his father died 15 years ago. In the spirit of going with the flow, I accepted the invitation to participate in the celebration at his home village Kuthman, in the small town Gaggal, 15 kilometers from Dharamshala.
As we arrived, I was greeted warmly by beautiful smiles and gentle friendliness. Taken by my hand, I was ushered into a backroom where many joyous women in colorful saris were waiting for Madan to start the ritual. Not completely new to this kind of ritual, I sat down on the floor. It was quiet with a harmonious atmosphere, making offerings to the Gods, Goddesses, ancestors, family, and parents with blessings and gratitude for a good life.
With prayers and mantra, the ritual was carried out with natural material, food, and fire. Afterward, children, women, and men sat outside on the ground in long lines as plates made of large leaves, stitched together, were placed in front of us. The food was as colorful and natural as everything else, with no shortage of rice and many types of dazzling colors of dal.
During this special day, they offered about 200 village people a meal.
Although I was the only foreigner among all the locals, I didn’t feel like a stranger. We were mingling and laughing, whilst I took photos.
Toward the end, just before I was leaving, Madan looked at me, and said:
“We are dependent on nature; everything is of nature and therefore people are also very gentle, calm, and peaceful. I have been working for an airline for years flying all over the world staying at five star hotels, but this is the only place I feel totally at peace– here with my roots, in contact with nature, sitting on earth sharing and giving.”
Amused, I silently thought to myself that I am in the right place. Somehow by going with the flow, I had participated in this special ritual by connecting with a random stranger. Yet we shared the same intention, rippling through the air with waves of good will.
Without any words, our mutual appreciation was felt deeply as I waved goodbye to everyone.
As I climbed the hills to McLeod Ganj in a taxi, an electrical current of joy surged through me. It was as though I had been welcomed home again, without having to force anything to happen a particular way. It just happened, as I surrendered to what was—without thinking too much.
It seemed so far away from preconceived ideas of how things should be done. Back in Norway, I would probably never have been granted this opportunity, let alone be open to receive it. It was as if my rational ego mind had been left at home and I was free to be present in a different way, going with the natural flow.
I felt a swelling of deep gratitude and thought of the GiveIndia initiative. An NGO, reflecting this sentiment, that also Madan had given me the privilege to witness and experience. With the flow of serendipity, I felt surrounded by the consciousness of joy that giving creates. At the same time, I thought of how easily we underestimate and overlook opportunities or don’t take the time to be helpful, considerate, inviting, and thoughtful, even to strangers.
Madan showed me how the unconditional and selfless nature of kindness can touch so many people, so deeply. His gesture of courtesy and graciousness, not only for me, but for his whole village, was a gift, just like a gentle touch or a helping hand in everyday life or a crisis.
This kind of benevolence kindled my heart, and I realized how important a simple gesture can change someone’s world in an instant.
From the NGO to the presence and practice of everyday awareness, celebrating the best within each of us, I wondered:
How can we be the change we wish to see in the world?
By being aware that looking at another and smiling creates immense joy in those who live with the awareness to recognize us.
How often do we look deeply into someone’s eyes and smile? Or take the time to be present in the moment of giving a helpful hand or a compliment?
Even in the most challenging times, when we meet a stranger or someone we know, the impact of being fully present so we can act with kindness (a smile, a compliment, gesture, greeting, politeness, appreciation, gratitude, respect) helps us be the change we wish to see in the world. This unconditional gesture of tender giving creates a bundle of joy and makes a great difference in someone’s life.
What is a simple act of kindness for you? And how does it make you feel when someone treats you with unconditional kindness?
We all know how good it feels when we are treated with kindness and respect.
Most of us thrive on kindness and it affects us in a positive way. No matter if it is a loved one or a stranger, it is something we can always give—when we connect with the present moment.