“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The Dalai Lama
We hear people talk about compassion, but what is it really? Merriam-Webster defines it as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” While it is related to empathy, it is not the same thing – compassion goes beyond merely being able to feel the emotions of another to wanting to take some kind of action to help improve the situation of another.
If you want to be truly happy, it seems that the act of giving is what holds the key.
When we feel like we don’t have many resources ourselves, it may seem that there is nothing left to give to another. And sometimes we think that if we give it will cause others to take advantage of us. However, not many people would actually try to take advantage of another’s helping hand. In the words of Gandhi, “We must be the change, we wish to see in the world.”
Acts of Kindness.
These actions aren’t done for recognition or to make someone feel like they owe you something in return. They can be small, but result in a big chain reaction. Often someone that is the recipient of one of these acts feels compelled to “pay it forward,” resulting in more acts of kindness.
I was in a fast food restaurant one day and a teenager was at the cashier station, searching his pockets for the money he thought was there – with no luck. The man behind him in line stepped up and gave the money to pay for the boy’s lunch – it wasn’t a lot, but the look on the young man’s face was priceless. He was so grateful, and the cashier stood there smiling and nodding her head. A small gesture, but I imagine they both told the story for days!
When you scan the news, often you will see reports of these random acts of kindness and compassion.
A few years ago I saw a report of a father and daughter in England that had birthdays in May – so they decided instead of getting all the attention themselves, they would perform random acts of kindness – 39 of them to be exact (It was Dad’s 32nd birthday and Amelie turned 7, hence the 39 acts). Reported on AOL:
Highlights from their 39 acts included leaving money on some vending machines, writing a letter to a restaurant manager to complement their server, leaving a $20 Toys R Us gift card in the mailbox of someone who they thought could use it, donating books to the Oxford Children’s Hospital, and even leaving pennies at their favorite wishing bridge for people to enjoy. Beck also became an organ donor.
Perhaps not all of their “acts” directly relieved the suffering of another, but when you just want to bring more joy to people’s lives – that can make you very happy too!
How much should you give, where should you start? Kind words, complements, a heartfelt thank-you can go a long way to make someone’s day better. Find an organization that does work that speaks to you and do some volunteer work. You can help rebuild trails in National and State Parks, help out the Red Cross, get involved in environmental efforts, help animals – the list goes on and on. If you really would like to volunteer, and you aren’t sure what might be available, you can go to http://www.volunteermatch.org/ to search for opportunities in your area, across quite a number of interests.
You can make a difference. And you may just find that you are happier than you have ever been in your life! Be kind to all that cross your path, it will come back to you tenfold!