I was with my Dad recently and he was feeling a bit down which is pretty rare for him. He explained “I’ve had bit of a rubbish day, this went wrong, that went wrong…..*he stopped and looked a little distressed*…and there’s this guy sleeping rough in the town centre and I donno, maybe I should do more.” I asked him what he meant and he continued “well, I heard his sleeping bag and things were thrown in the bin whilst he wasn’t there but he got them back out. Maybe I could have bought him a new sleeping bag but I don’t know his situation”. I asked my Dad “what about just having a chat with him and he might want to talk, he might not but there’s no harm in having a conversation?” He paused…..and looked relieved “yeah, I could just talk to him”. And the power of a simple conversation suddenly dawned on him.
Don’t underestimate the power of conversation
Right now, I have to point out that my Dad is a kind and clever guy but he just hadn’t thought about the power of a simple conversation. I donno, that conversation may have gone well or maybe not but it opens the door to find out. A simple ‘hello’ or ‘are you ok?’ and perhaps that’s all a person needs to brighten up that moment.
In general, it doesn’t even have to be words, it can be a smile or eye contact. I’ve always loved that quote “a smile means the same in every language” – it makes me feel quite warm and happy when someone randomly smiles at me. Do you agree or would you rather cross the street and get the hell away? What about in the office when you arrive and people look up and say ‘Hey! How was your weekend?’ or maybe they don’t even acknowledge you – how does that make you feel? I know how both of these situations makes me feel and one is uplifting and the other, to be quite frank is shit.
It’s good to acknowledge people
Why is this – why is acknowledgement so damn powerful? It’s nice when people recognise you exist right? Well research suggests that feelings of rejection through being ignored or overlooked create more damage to our mental health than being harassed. As shocking as that sounds, it kinda makes sense as this sends our minds into overdrive – thinking, questioning, searching every corner of our mind to make sense of why we are being treated like this. And doesn’t it nearly always come back to – ‘it’s me, there’s something wrong with me and they don’t like me’. But this could be avoided with a simple ‘hello’ – hopefully in some sort of kind tone as a growled ‘hello’ isn’t quite the same.
So how do we open those doors to a kind gesture?
Acts of kindness
Can you think of a time you acted kindly? Even the tiniest of action? Maybe you did something without even realising – like having a chat to that person in the queue; maybe that was conversation they don’t normally have. There are some lovely stories jumping to mind as I write about this topic; did you hear about the woman beautifully wrapping books and leaving them around her community for people to find. Or the little girl who struck up a conversation with an elderly man whilst in the supermarket. The story goes on to explain that the elderly man had lost his wife and was lonely but the little girl brightened up his day; the little girls mother realised how she could help the man and they continued a friendship.
“The world is filled with nice people, if you can’t find one, be one!”