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 www.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 www.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. Angel shared some of these stories with you in her most recent blog post. And right now (with full permission from the original sources), I want to follow Angel’s lead and share twelve more of these stories with you. The stories (or inspiring story snippets) I’ve selected here are super short but incredibly powerful accounts of generosity. 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 books 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.)
Marc and Angel, your course and teachings have made me a kinder and more generous person to the people I love the most, and this has significantly improved my relationships. There was a time in my life not too long ago when I was feeling down and depressed, and I realize now how much I let my negativity spill over on everyone in my life.
But I implemented some of the mindset tools you gave me in your coaching–self inquiry, for example–and doing so allowed me to see the positive in my otherwise stressed-out mind. It was a gradual process, but my mindset shift enabled me to be kinder and more generous toward myself and others. And this really accelerated my healing.
Maria Cross says
Thank you so much. After reading your article I am feeling stronger — although I am very much in tension as I am jobless right now and trying for employment.
I was in the same situation when 2020 began to go haywire. Today after 8 months I finally found a job. All I want to say is job hunting can be a tedious process. However, never lose hope. Keep giving your best because the day you finally get employed you’ll realize how much the wait was worth it and how far you’ve come. You’ll be proud of yourself! Hang in there! Patience and perseverance pay off.
Keith Fellows says
Marc, thanks for sharing these stories and strategies. I couldn’t agree more with your point about giving applause as often as possible, even when times are tough…or should I say especially when times are tough. This is something your blog and book have kept fresh in my mind recently, and I appreciate that.
Now let me share a quick story of kindness from my own life:
About a year ago I received a small white envelope in the mail containing a old dried rose pressed between 2 pieces of paper. On one of the pieces of paper was an anonymous note that said, “You gave this to me nearly 20 years ago. I used it regularly over the years as a reminder that kindness and compassion do exist in this world. So today, the eve of my wedding day, I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’”
M&A, generosity and kindness come to me every time I open one of your meals and read the lessons you share freely with your subscribers.
I’ve actually been reading your work for about three years now, but I’ve never left a comment here on your blog. Today, however, as I am feeling especially thankful for a post-pandemic turnaround, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Thank you for all the teachings and inspiration im recent times.
I think you accidentally wrote “meals” instead of “mail”, well meals for the soul is what I find many of their awesome emails to be.
I agree with you, Bee. When I noticed the “incorrect” word in Toni’s message, I stopped for a nanosecond, and realized it was actually a more appropriate word to describe the emails from Marc and Angel. 😉
Such beautiful stories, Marc. Each of them has touched me somewhere deep. Stories like these tell us that the world is much better than we imagine, and make us want to be better people ourselves.
Truly, life may not turn out the way we want (it might actually go in the opposite direction), but it deserves nothing less than an applause most of the time.
Kirsty G says
I’ve been reading these posts since I decided that I needed a drastic change in my life last year after suffering with depression for two years, although these posts make me see everything more clearly…
I am depressed because that is what I choose to focus on. There is absolutely no benefit of beating myself up for things that I can’t do – but we can all focus on the things that we can do.
Last night after a particularly emotional day my boyfriend and I decided to end things whilst I find my feet and whilst I felt utterly defeated last night I have a new take on things today.
I am going to use this time to work on me – on making my own decisions, focusing on my family and friends and giving back to others with this new sense of independence.
I have spent most days going to work and going home to hide from the world, but today my focus is completing the course that I started up last year with Marc and Angel that went on the back burner! I even canceled our coaching calls! Looking back on it I am nuts! But I am grateful you emailed me and are allowing me to start the calls again next month.
Thank you Marc and Angel, your guidance is truly inspiring and I love that you can see behind events and the message that lies behind them.
Dear Marc and Angel, I find that kindness is sooooooo hard! I try to be respectful, and listen carefully, and practice random acts – but then in a moment of frustration, I will bite someone’s head off, or spit out some scathing response that was hurtful and unhelpful – and whatever rapport I had built up, quickly vanishes. I feel like the super chicken that Margaret Heffernan spoke of in her TED talk. I am working on my goals for the summer right now, and kindness is right up there on the list! Thanks for helping us keep on the path.
Change is not easy, but the very fact that you want to be kinder is a great start. Be patient with yourself. You have already made a very valuable declaration for the summer. You will be amazed at what you will be able to achieve with focus.
No one is perfect Kylie. Give yourself a break. If you explain to people that you’re working on this, they will have nothing but respect for you. Kindness starts with being kind to yourself about what you think are flaws. You are trying to improve yourself and that is something to be proud of.
Thank you for this…it is how the people of the world should always behave, and in doing so also has the potential of helping one see the light out of their own personal struggles; at least it has for me.
I read these posts whenever possible and they have so helped me, more than I can say.
I, too, live on the east coast of Florida and while I am sometimes overwhelmed by the expansive view, particularly when I am feeling helpless, I know enough to use some of the skills I’ve learned from you and Angel over the years to try and enjoy the beauty around me.
I am so sorry I cannot attend the next ‘Save your life’ conference (which is how I view it, but surely thinking better is part of it) because of financial reasons but I do wish all the best for those that can and again. Thank you both for your weekly missives as they have helped me ‘save my life’.
I was in tears, sad with thoughts around lonliness, about my disconnected marriage, about being separated from my family while having chosen to spend some days with my very elderly parents, about living far from my children and grandchildren and so on. Suddenly my phone signaled and I sensed ‘Life’ was responding to my tears. I checked, confident in Life’s compassion and anticipating comfort in some form, maybe a text msg of a kind word from one of my children or a friend. It was this article. Your kindness hit it’s mark, no pun intended, and who knows how many others. Thank you for helping me get my chosen focus back in place. ‘Clap, clap clap, clap, clap,clap………………..’
Same here – helped so much!
Mindy Means says
Last week pumped $42 worth of gas and discovered I had left my wallet at home when I went in the gas station store to pay. I was sure they would let me come in the next day since I live out of town. A young man behind me said “How much is it?” Startled, I turned around and said “It’s $42!” He said “I’ve got it – you know – pay it forward. I was bowled over. The day will come when I can pay it forward.
Thank you for your constant fresh encouragements. Bless you!
This past year has been the most difficult of my life where at times I’d wished I was dead too. My son and I lost our apartment last Jan due to a child downstairs playing with a lighter. It took 4 months before we’d get our new home only to have my mom pass two weeks later. The night of her passing Iwas hit head on unfortunately totaling my sisters SUV but walking away unscathed. My sister said my mom saved me saying I just got away from you hahaha! I had felt two emotions at this time despair and panic. I’d never walked this Earth without my mom who was also my father as he had died in 1962 of a car accident. If it weren’t for my sons wedding and my out of state grandchildren coming to visit Idk what would’ve kept me going. On Oct 18th I suffered a stroke. Gratefully I was with my sister who recognized the signs immediately it was also what had happened to my mom and got me to the hospital. It may sound weird but it was my stroke that catapulted me back to me and the spiritual path I am now living. I had been lost and running on a hamster wheel for years. I was tired. I’ve completely changed my lifestyle having to give up people, places, and things that would not enhance my new life. I’m in grief counseling, finally made my transition to Vegan, and come from a place of gratefulness. I have lost some lefthand sensation but if that’s all I have to deal with in trade for all Ive gained I feel blessed. Wishing you and yours a healthy and joyous summer ahead!
Ann C says
Lynne, all I can think after reading your post is “WOW.”
I’m so glad you weren’t hurt in your accident, so sorry to hear about all the problems/learning opportunities you dealt with. I loved what your sister said about the accident it made me laugh. It sounds like you are growing daily. May God continue to bless you.
Dear Marc and Angel
Sometimes , your emails tell me just what I need to hear in my life situation to help me, or to get me over a hump in this life journey of ours . Serendipity?? I don’t think so. I always read what you send me and am always so grateful. So please do not be downhearted, what you write is truly very helpful in our difficult life situations. You are helping us all to become more conscious, happy and positive. Sending you grateful thanks and love from South Africa .
Helen Luthwood says
I am a huge fan of your website and blogs and read everything you write and you have been kind enough to write back to me whenever I have thanked you and that is so kind and generous.
I also lost my wallet, passport and a heap of cash in a purse I dropped in Wellington New Zealand on a main street while on business travel. A lady picked it up and walked 6 blocks to my hotel that was very hard to find to return it to reception. She left no name, only said where she had found it. Everything was still inside and I have no way to ever thank her. It makes me cry every time I think of it. All I can do is pay it forward.
My good friend Gabriella was a mess today until she read your post! All her rejections and disappointments melted away as she nodded and recounted heartwarming gestures she experienced and engaged in over the past tumultuous year. We appreciate you so much and how you change lives and outlooks!! Thank you.
Perfect timing. My words to a friend this morning I am feeling stressed. I feel rejected and not good enough
And here we go 😉
Just perfect <3
Deborah Loza says
It was 39 years ago that my husband and I bought an old log cabin from an older couple in the woods of northern Wisconsin. They offered to sell it on a contract for deed so each month I’d write a short one page letter about the skunks, deer, raccoons, bird sightings, thundering weather, etc to include with my check. Over the next 7 years they got to know our daughter and how much we all loved the cabin. From there on it was annual Christmas cards, until one day an envelope came with his obituary and a check for $1000 dollars, thanking us for “all the tender loving care we gave to his favorite place on earth”. My husband died two years ago but I still remember the tears in his eyes when he read the note in that envelope
Ann C says
When I lost my husband several years ago, the church we attended lost seven members the same month. The pastor called me one evening to tell me that one of the other widows was having a very difficult time. She mentioned that this woman refused to cry in front of anyone. And wouldn’t talk with anyone. I didn’t know the woman being fairly new to the community but the pastor thought it would help if I made a call to her. Long story short, we sat and shared stories and tears & laughter for a couple hours and became good friends. It became a purpose in life for me to call on new widows, I’m so grateful to that pastor.
Arlou Chester D. Tan says
Your blogs taught me how to focus more on the positive side of everything and every situation that can happen in my life. I realized so many things about life and how to handle negative happenings for example turning a negative situation into a good opportunity.
Ann Shannon says
A year ago I moved out of my home, separating from my husband of 25 years, our children are grown so my only companion in my new home, the inlaw apartment of our house because it was all I could afford, was my chihuahua-terrier mix dog named Blu. A month later he was in the emergency room getting a transfusion, something I hadn’t even known they did for dogs. The next 8 months were tough, lots of medication, vet visits I could barely afford, and sleepless nights as the medication made him need to use the bathroom more often.
Today, I’m sitting on my couch, researching and writing an article I hope to sell and Blu, the other half of my heart, is sleeping peacefully next to me.
I’m not where I thought I’d be this summer of 2021, but I’m very lucky to be where I am and I know the road is stretched out in front of me with many, many possibilities.
Thank you for these stories.