When was the last time you received something without being asked for anything in return?
When was the last time you did something for someone without expecting anything in return?
The end of the year is the time of Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas, Christmas and this article is a reminder to all of us to be more kind and to give without expecting anything in return.
The last time I was the target of an act of kindness from a stranger was a few weeks ago and by sharing my experience I hope I will inspire you to follow this example.
In November there was a Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest organized by my public speaking community. During the morning there was an inspiring keynote speech by Dirceu da Silva, followed by workshops on Stress Management, NLP: Dealing with fears, Career Navigation and LEGO Serious Gaming. In the afternoon various advanced speakers were competing against each other to give the most original and humorous speech. It was a full day of inspiration under the theme: Your Chance to Take Your Next Step to Great.
The last couple of months have been very hectic for me and although I really wanted to attend the whole day I realized I had to make a choice between the workshops or the contest. Since quite a few of our club members were participating in the competition I didn’t hesitate to be there and support them during the contest. I thought that postponing the learning part would be ok as there will be plenty of other opportunities in the future.
However, destiny knows its ways. Two days before the contest the event’s organizer Helmi Tatanaki came to our club meeting. It appeared that two people weren’t able to join the workshops and the organizing committee decided to give away the two tickets through a raffle for free. Guess what? I was one of the winners.
Not that I was not prepared to pay the 17,50 euros for the workshops but apparently in this busy period I needed an extra stimulus to forget about everything else that was on my plate and just do it!
On the day itself during one of the inspiring speeches, I suddenly got the idea about the theme of this article. I felt so grateful for being given the chance to be there that I suddenly realized that someone somewhere had made it possible for me. At that moment I knew I had to find out who it was and what had triggered this person to give away his/her ticket to a complete stranger.
At the end of the event, I asked Helmi for the contact details of both the one I received the ticket from as well as the other winner. It turned out that one simple act of kindness has triggered an impressive ripple effect.
The person who happened to give away her ticket asked me not to mention her name in this article. She said she didn’t expect anything in return, even less any recognition for her action. She comes from Colombia and she said that doing this kind of acts part of their culture.
Because of two coinciding events, she was not able to attend herself and instead of getting her money back she insisted on passing the pleasure of the experience to another person. One of her guiding principles in life is:
“It’s better to give than to receive.”
There was also a member of the organizing committee who was not able to attend and because of her generous act, it was a no-brainer for the organizing committee to come up with the idea of the raffle.
Brit Hopmann (the other winner) and I felt both special and grateful. It turned out that thanks to the kindness of our anonymous benefactors, we would both receive a treasure of insights and new experiences.
In the Stress Management workshop, Brit learned that it is possible to let go of stress just by changing your thinking about the situation that is causing you stress. It’s not about the situation you are in – it’s about YOURSELF. By taking a different perspective, we can create a different experience. Being conscious of our perception, our habits, our outlook on life, enables us to take different decisions, with all related consequences.
During the LEGO serious gaming workshop, I was confronted with a practical example of how unique each and every one of us is – even with the same set of pieces and colors there were no two constructions that were nearly the same! I also benefited from a free session with life coach Antony Roget who has helped me look at my role as a project manager from a different angle.
This generous act of kindness made us “think about how naturally we accept the precious experiences life offers to us as well as how gratitude is just one of the keys to happiness*”.
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich*.”
At this moment you might be wondering:
why is this whole story important to you?
If one simple act of kindness has such a ripple effect, imagine the impact we can have if we do this together.
Not one day in the uncertain future, not sometime next year but in the upcoming month!
To build on the act of kindness I received, I would like to make a gift to one of YOU (yes, that’s right, YOU, my dear reader) in terms of an opportunity for you to learn some new skills, so stay tuned in January!
Please join me in spreading the positive influence of generosity throughout your own circle of influence.
Take the next month, to do at least one simple act of kindness without expecting anything in return.
Whether that will be giving away something that can be of use or value to another or simply being there for someone who needs your love and attention, please remember that:
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions,and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
* Thank you Brit, for your valuable input as well as for pointing out the quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to me.
** During the TEDx Amsterdam event in November 2016 I was inspired by the talk of Irene Rompa. If we all open up our hearts to others, others will open up their hearts to us, too.