As someone who has read all of the thousands of posts on HelpOthers.org
, I can't tell you the kind of impact the site has on its readers, members, and onlookers.
Almost everyday something from the site will just blow me away. And today was no expection.
I got an email from Tesa, following her post on the site about her French grandmother. She Bcc'd to all of her friends, including me:
Happy Wednesday! I just wanted to share the "Smile Newsletter" below with you. It includes a short story I wrote after returning from France last month called "five love notes to my grand-mother". I hope you enjoy it!
If you can, please take the time to read more about smile cards and the smile newsletter at the bottom of this email if you have never heard about them. They are both connected to www.helpothers.org, a really inspiring website about regular folks doing random acts of kindness all over the country. I recommend checking it out if you want to sprinkle some extra joy and inspiration over your day. The stories on the site are excellent medicine for those moments when you need your faith in humanity restored! Help Others was started as a volunteer-run venture by Nipun Mehta & a few of his friends, and it has grown into a large community of kindred spirits. There are now nearly 20,000 subscribers to the newsletter, and it keeps growing. Nipun is someone whom I consider to be one of the great ambassadors of the true spirit of philanthropy: love (philos) of humanity (anthropos). His point is very simple: anyone can do it! It does not take any money (although giving it away is also a good thing!) However busy you are, and these days we are unfortunately often too busy to have time for the important things, consider doing an act of kindness for a stranger, and contributing that story to the site. Or if you are feeling really bold, commit to doing at least one act of kindness a week that you would feel inspired to write about. It's a great spiritual practice, and really good for the heart! It's been stretching mine big time.
As someone who likes to work on 'root causes' and system-change type of stuff... I have found it very humbling to be reminded that at the end of the day, there is really nothing that is more transformative than being loving and kind to others. It may strike some of us as too simple to be true, but the fact is that if we all did it consistently (which for the most part we don't), we would organically and effortlessly start dismantling a great deal of our dysfunctional systems and ways of operating. Social inequities, all forms of bigotry, wars, corporate greed, the rapid destruction of our natural world through crazy agricultural, energy and consumption practices... the 'root cause' of a lot of those things is a failure to respect, honor, listen to, appreciate, and care for other (people and species). I am embarrassed to say that in my grad student days, I would just have dismissed what Nipun and the Help Others tribe are up to as being a naive approach to social change... today, I am convinced that it is the only thing that will lastingly change the world! I mean: bringing love and caring into all our systems (education, finance, business, energy, government, mainstream philanthropy etc), how would that be for a revolution? What I'm also learning is that loving the folks with whom we don't find ourselves naturally inclined to connect really takes practice and commitment!! The heart is one of those muscles which we don't often take the time to exercise... but truly amazing things can happen when we start working it out! Check out this story (No Glass Ceiling, Just Blue Sky) about the act of kindness that allowed Alexander Fleming, who was the son of a farmer, to make it across England's entrenched class lines to discover penicillin! According to wikipedia, that story is actually a fable and not historically accurate, but you'll still get the point, or rather the possibility!
And for those of you who live in my community (which is one of the oldest fishing towns in the country) or if you are currently caring for an elder in your life, you will love this "Unforgettable Fishing Experience" which someone just posted as I was writing this.
I'm also including a link to another story I wrote a couple of months ago, about my heart-to-heart encounter with my building's garbage man! The Daily Good Newsletter to which the story is referring in the beginning is another one of Nipun Mehta & Friends' inspirational ventures which I recommend you check out: it goes to 45,000+ people every day. And finally, I'm including one of my favorite stories on the Help Others site called "I wish you enough."
That last story ends like this... "I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough "Hellos" to get you through the final "Good-bye." You have to read the story to get the power of the last line.
With love, and an invitation to join the growing tribe of folks who are committed to performing simple acts of kindness not only towards the folks in our lives and networks, but also towards those who are currently outside of them.