It really doesn’t take much effort to impact someone else’s life in a positive way. Small gestures, simple acts of kindness, a smile, are all things that can literally change another person’s day. I have always lived my life with this philosophy in mind. Why be cruel when you can be kind. Why not let another person in front of you in a queue when they only have a few items, and you have a whole trolley? Why not let someone merge in front of you in traffic? All small things we can do, considerations for other humans in the world, in our community, that have a positive influence on not only their day, but also our own. Being nice, makes you feel nice, it is as simple as that.
There have been many occasions throughout my life where these simple acts of kindness, which have at the time seemed trivial and insignificant, have ended up having a huge impact on another person’s life, and today while I was reflecting on how people treat each other in life, one such occasion from many years ago came to the forefront of my mind and I have decided to share this story with you as it highlights the fact that sometimes many acts of seemingly random kindness can actually create a path to something that is life changing without you even knowing it at the time.
Back in my twenties, I worked many jobs, massage therapist and administration by day, moonlighting at night working in bars and nightclubs on the glitter strip. Friday and Saturday nights were the big nights, super busy, great tips and before you knew it the shift was over, but the trade off for the big nights was that you also needed to do the slow nights. We all hated Monday nights especially as they would drag on, with virtually no clientele and a 7-hour shift would feel like an eternity.
This one particular Monday night, it was my night off but I had said yes to taking another girls shift at the blues club I worked at as she was not feeling well and if she couldn’t get someone to cover her shift she would have still had to go in or lose her job and no one else would do it for her (my first act of kindness) I did not want to do it as I was tired but figured it was the nice and decent thing to do.
Got to work at 8pm and it was quiet. A few barflies hanging around drowning their sorrows over bourbon and cigarettes (yes, this was back in the day when people smoked in bars) a couple of people playing their regular Monday night pool. Not much going on at all. Myself and one other lady were on shift that night and a couple of hours into it, the boss came in and said one of us could go home as he didn’t want to pay wages for two, and I had first chance to leave as it wasn’t even my allocated shift. As much as I wanted to go home, the other girl said she had just had a massive fight with her boyfriend and really wanted to go home and sort it out. She was clearly terribly upset, so I figured it was more important for her to go home than myself, so I stayed on (my second act of kindness)
Not long after that a man in his mid-thirties came in and sat at the bar. He ordered a drink. He looked a bit sad. I asked him how his day was. Normal idle chit chat that you engage in when you work in a bar. He responded with ‘I’ve had better days’ his eyes welled up with tears and looked back down at his drink. Normally I would have said something generic like ‘tomorrow will be better’ and just walked away, but this night, this long, quiet boring night, I thought I would stay and talk to him. See if I could cheer him up a bit. After all, I had nothing else to do, and it wasn’t going to hurt me to have a conversation and possibly make this man feel a little better about his bad day.
The conversation went on for hours, right up until last drinks. We talked about life, philosophy, love, the state of the world, the good things, the not so good things, and the fact that the only constant in life is that there will always be change, and that each day will be different to the next, and there is always something good around the corner, even if we may not see it in our darkest moments. Strangely enough, we did not talk about his bad day, why it was bad or what it was that caused it.
He finished off his last drink, thanked me for taking some time to have a conversation with a stranger having a bad day (my third act of kindness), joked that he hoped I wasn’t too bored listening to his musings and left, without me even knowing his name. I cleaned up, closed up and went home. But that is not the end of my story.
About a month later I came in to work and the girl at the door said someone had left me a parcel. It was a small rectangular box with an envelope attached. Inside the box was a string of black pearls and the note went on to describe how that one night, the night we were quiet at work and I decided to take the time to talk to a stranger instead of stand at the end of the bar on my own and bored, show him some compassion and try to make him feel better about his day had changed his life.
He had come into the bar that night to have one last drink before he was going to take his own life. He had in that day, lost his job, his mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, his dog had died, and he came home to find his wife in bed with another man. He was feeling lost, alone and could not see a light at the end of his tunnel. He wanted out. He could not see anything worth living for. He had chosen to stop the pain by ending his life. He was completely and utterly broken.
After our five-hour conversation, he went home and thought about what we had spoken about and how things might seem bleak at that moment but that will change, and his life had the potential to be good again. That he would not always feel that broken and that there was in fact light at the end of his tunnel. He chose to take a different path. He chose to live. He thanked me for taking that time, showing him compassion and giving him hope for the future. He thanked me for saving his life.
In that moment, I realised just how powerful kindness, compassion and time can be. How seemingly isolated events (my three acts of kindness that day) can all be a path to something greater and that we all have the power within us to enact change and be a positive influence on each other, even when its only small gestures that seem meaningless.
As I have moved through my life, I have always tried to live in a way that is considerate to others, that is compassionate to others. Now in my practice of Bowen Therapy I find that an exceptionally large part of my job is not just healing the physical with my hands on modality, but also being that person that can be there as a sounding board, as an impartial participant in conversations with others who need to find clarity in their lives and talk about their problems, let go of their emotional burdens so they can heal the physical. Sometimes the two go hand in hand and if you don’t heal one, you can completely heal the other.
So as you finish reading this article, I hope if you are not already doing so, that you are now inspired to endeavour to integrate more random acts of kindness into your life as you can now see firsthand how much of an impact they can have.