I recently had the privilege of participating in a great initiative called #feedthedeed, which, as you might have heard, is a real life version of my favourite movie “Pay it Forward” (check out my “staff bio” for proof). Thanks to social media, this initiative is able to grow exponentially and that is exactly what it is doing! As I reflect on the movement, I think there is opportunity to further enhance and deepen the impact in several ways. This is not at all a criticism, the opposite – it is in admiration that I attempt to further the cause.
1. Focus on those close to you:
As I wrote on my FB post when completing my feedthedeed, I chose to do something for my family. Now at first, that might seem like cheating, but in truth, these are the people we see all the time, and we should probably all pay a little more attention to how we treat these people in our lives. To the extent that we see them every day, we tend to treat them with the least amount of kindness, as we “expect” things from them, rather than work hard to make them happier. I especially like that focusing on our nearest and dearest is something each of us can work on everyday. Many “random acts of kindness” are one offs, and while nice, they are not repeated or reinforced. When you focus on the deeds you do for those close to you, they have the ability to transform your entire relationship over time.
Question to think about: Who are some of the people closest to you that you could feedthedeed to? Try to keep it going in different ways every day (or at least once a week).
2. Kindness is limitless!
I noticed that many of the deeds being done revolved around spending money. While charity is obviously great, and we are supposed to strive to give 10% of our earnings to charity, the Talmud states how kindness is actually “better” than charity in 3 ways. Talmud Bavli Tractate Succah 49b: “Gemilut Chesed (acts of kindness) are greater than charity in three ways. Charity is done with one’s money, while loving-kindness may be done with one’s money or with one’s person. Charity is given only to the poor, while loving-kindness may be given both to the poor and to the rich. Charity is given only to the living, while loving-kindness may be shown to both the living and the dead.”
These 3 differences are empowering, because they teach us that all of us have the ability to be kind to just about anyone we encounter. We might eventually feel like, “how many times can I buy something and give it away, or pay for someone’s dinner without them knowing, without feeling the pinch?”, but there is no limit to the amount of kind things, nice words, little notes, or extra help I can offer someone!
Question to think about: What are some of the ways that I could help people that can really be done without limits? E.g. something as simple as letting someone go before you in line, or sharing this post with someone 🙂
3. Kindness is not something we do, it is our raison d’etre!
This point is a little more complex, but I think too important to omit. There is a beautiful passage in our tradition that reads “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” – “The world is created through kindness.” This passage has multiple ways of being explained, but I’d like to suggest the following. The passage is often understood to say that we view the creation of the world by G-d as a kindness. I would never experience life, love, the joy of family, the pleasure in a smile if G-d had never created the world, never created me. So God “chose” to create the world out of kindness and for the purpose of bestowing kindness. Kindness is something you don’t HAVE to do, but CHOOSE to do because you want to benefit others.
As well, we are familiar with the sentence in the Torah that posits we are created in the “image of god”, which, according to many, is a challenge for us to choose to live a life aligned with the value system that G-d puts forward. So with the above train of thought, perhaps kindness isn’t something I should just do from time to time, but rather my raison d’etre, the reason why I exist in this world. My goal should be to follow God’s lead and build a world, my world, by pursuing opportunities to perform kindness. This idea is potentially transformational. No longer will my goal be to earn a living, go to work, make money, but rather, to use all of those pursuits to infuse more and more kindness.
Question to think about: Is it possible to end my day, each day, with a little reflection on whether I made the world better through kindness today? In business people reflect on if they made a profit or built a better product. The business we are all in, is to make the world a better place!
4. Opportunities exist all around us
Once you start thinking about kindness, you begin to see opportunities to do it, where you never thought it was possible before. That has possibly been one of the nicest results of my #feedthedeed participation. After completing my kind deed, I was inspired this morning, to go out and not just clear my the snow from my car, but also from two other cars next to mine. And when I went out of a building this morning with an hour of my parking permit still active, I turned to a person getting out of a car and gave it to them. And possibly 10 other small things…but they all enhanced people’s lives just a little. And to be honest, they enhanced my life A LOT!
Question to think about: look around right now. Chances are, there are 5 things you could do relatively easily right now. What are they? Are you going to do them?
Finally, there is a beautiful passage in the Talmud that asks, Is it more important to learn or to do? In the end they conclude, it is more important to learn…but why? Because the more we learn, the more we know what and how to do things in the most impactful way possible!
I hope that this post helps inspire you to reach out in an even bigger and bolder way to any and everyone that you can! And I would be remiss if i did not once again thank Kindness Counts & #feedthedeed for setting such a wonderful movement in motion!
Feel free to share this as well, or make any comments!