There is no exercise better for the heart and soul than reaching out and lifting others up.
When life is pressing on you and stressing you out, pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are not at the center of the universe.
When you’re overwhelmed by life’s daily struggles, it’s so easy to feel like you’re at the center. But you aren’t. None of us are.
Truth be told, we all have the occasional tendency to put ourselves at the center, and see everything in life from the viewpoint of how it affects us. This can have all kinds of unfavorable effects, from feeling sorry for ourselves when things don’t go exactly as planned, to doubting ourselves when we fail to be perfect.
Let me give you a recent example from my life…
This morning I was faced with a painful rejection – an opportunity I applied for was not decided in my favor. At first I felt awful – I felt a familiar feeling of inadequacy. But I caught myself and quickly shifted my focus.
Instead of ruminating over my disappointment, I thought about other people I might help – I thought about writing a new article on marcandangel.com. Finding little ways to help others snaps me out of my self-centered thinking, and then I’m not wallowing in self-pity anymore – I’m starting to think about what others need. I’m not second-guessing myself, because the question of whether I’m inadequate or not is no longer the central question. The central question now is about how I can give back. And writing on marcandangel.com is my go-to way of giving back.
The bottom line is that finding a way to give back – to practice a little kindness and generosity – made a big difference in my life this morning. And it can make a big difference in your life too.
Stories to Shift Your Focus, and Inspire Kindness & Generosity
Over the past decade, via our blog, Getting Back to Happy course, live events, and side projects, Angel and I have been blessed by the beautiful stories that people around the world have shared with us. And right now (with full permission from the authors), I want to share twelve of these (copy-edited) stories with you. They’re super short but incredibly powerful. I hope they inspire you to shift your focus and give back in your own unique way today…
- “It’s been six months since I totaled my car. I’ve been in and out of the hospital a lot ever since with severe back pain. Although the pain has begun to subside, my recovery forced me to use all my sick time and vacation time for the year. But this morning my boss, who is usually ‘all business’ and pretty hard on everyone, called me into her office and told me she talked with HR and donated five days of her own unused vacation time to me so I would still get paid when I go out of town to visit my family for Christmas.”
- “Times haven’t been easy lately, but people have been kind. We live in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. My wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer last week, so my 14-year-old son decided that he wanted to raise money to help pay for some of her medical expenses. His idea was to go door to door around the neighborhood with hair clippers and let people shave a part of his head for a small donation of their choosing. He asked me whether a $100 goal would be too much. I told him not to get his hopes up. He came back home ten minutes ago with a bald head and $1,225. Three people gave him $100 bills.”
- “This afternoon my two daughters, 4 and 6, wanted ice cream from the ice cream parlor that’s next to the grocery store where we had just finished shopping. But ever since my husband and I were forced to foreclose on our house we’ve been budgeting our money down to the penny, and only using cash for our necessary purchases. I explained to my daughters that I had only brought enough money for the groceries. They were upset, but OK with it. Then, as we were packing our groceries in our car, the owner of the ice cream parlor walked up with two double scoop ice cream cones. He said, ‘I was out front a minute ago and overheard your conversation. Today the ice cream is on me.’”
- “On my way home from work today I stopped on the side of the road to help an elderly man who was struggling to change a flat tire on his car. He turned out to be the firefighter who pulled my whole family out of our burning four-story apartment unit when I was a kid. Even though I hadn’t seen him in nearly 30 years, it only took me a few seconds to recognize him. We chatted about it for awhile, and then as soon and I had the spare tire secured on his car, we looked at each other, shook hands for a prolonged moment and said, ‘Thank you,’ simultaneously.”
- “This evening my dad brought me into the city to one of his favorite restaurants. He ordered a substantial amount of food and only ate half of it. On the way home, he drove a route I was unfamiliar with. He pulled over near an alley and said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Then he grabbed the leftovers, ran into the alley, and returned empty-handed. When I asked him what he did, he replied, ‘There’s a homeless veteran back there who I’ve been giving leftovers to for the last year or so.’”
- “It’s been ten years since my best friend became ill and needed a kidney transplant. As I was a fitting donor, I chose to donate one of my healthy kidneys to her even after doctors said her chance of survival was only 25%, and that there would be inherent risks to my health as well. But here I am on a Saturday afternoon, getting ready to drive to her wedding venue where, in just a few short hours, I will be her maid of honor as she marries the love of her life – a man whom she happened to meet at the hospital ten years ago.”
- “This morning in my checkout line at the grocery store where I work, a flustered elderly woman realized she was six dollars short on cash for her groceries, and she didn’t have any other form of payment with her. The three people in line immediately behind her each chipped in two dollars so she didn’t have to put anything back. Their spontaneous generosity made me smile.”
- “Today, at the animal shelter where I volunteer, a little boy and his mom, who had adopted a kitten last week, came into our lobby carrying big bags full of food, toys, blankets, and other supplies we desperately need. The boy’s mom said, ‘Today is his birthday. Instead of birthday presents, he asked his dad and me to help donate to the shelter.’”
- “One of my ex-students from nearly a decade ago, who claims that I was his favorite teacher and his inspiration, mailed me $1,000 to help pay my mortgage payment this month after he found out from a mutual acquaintance that the school board had laid me off, and that I was struggling to find work.”
- “This afternoon my 67-year-old dad handed me a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towel as we got into his car. He turned to me and said, ‘I just spoke with your mom while she was on her lunch break. She mentioned her windshield got covered with bugs on the drive to work. Since we’re going to drive right by her work anyway, I figured we’d clean them off for her. It’s the little things, kiddo, that keeps love going.’ By chance, while my dad was cleaning the windshield, my mom came out with her kids for day-care recess. Her smile, and seeing how in love my parents are 40+ years into their marriage, is heartwarming to say the least.”
- “On the way to work today, I watched a teenage boy help an elderly woman with a cane onto the city bus I was riding. He was so careful with her, assisting her every step of the way. The woman had the biggest smile on her face. They both sat directly across from me, and just as I was about to compliment her with having a wonderful grandson, the boy looked at her and said, ‘My name is Chris. What’s your name, ma’am?’”
- “Tonight, at the local convenience store where I work, an elderly man with a guide dog came in, went to the aisle with the greetings cards, picked up a card, held it up really close to his face, and struggled to read it. Just as I was about to walk over to help him, a big truck driver asked him if he needed assistance reading, and then proceeded to read him almost every single greeting card out loud until the elderly man smiled and said, ‘That’s perfect! My wife will love that one!’”
Let Your Appreciation Fuel Your Kindness & Generosity
This morning, after receiving the rejection I mentioned, and after writing my heart out for an hour, I went for a long jog at the beach… sea foam kissing my feet with each step, white sand footprints behind me, and the morning sky bursting with bright colors overhead.
At the end of my jog I turned toward the ocean and took several deep breaths, mostly because the sky, and the Atlantic, had momentarily taken my breath away.
I stood there on the sand and applauded. Yes, I literally clapped my hands in recognition.
Because this is the only response life truly deserves: an appreciative applause.
Today, wherever you are, whatever circumstances you’re dealing with, take a moment to really appreciate this gift we call life, and applaud.
Then do your best to give back to life. Do something – anything – to show your gratitude for this imperfect miracle you’ve been given. Be kind to a stranger, create something others can use, be loving to your family… make a difference in your own unique way.
Let your appreciation fuel your kindness and generosity.
And let doing so change your life.
If you’re feeling up to it, I would love to hear from YOU.
In a few short sentences, please leave a comment below and tell me how kindness and generosity have affected your life.
What is your story?
(Also, check out our book if you’re interested in reading more thought-provoking stories and related life lessons. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter too, to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)