The world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible, everyday acts of compassion. – Chris Abani
When we hear stories about good people, we generally hear about people whose generosity knows no bounds. We hear about people who have performed grandiose acts that deserve praise and admiration.
Today, I’d like to speak about a different kind of person. Those, who with their small and hardly felt acts, make the world a pleasant place.
A few days ago, I took a stroll in the park with a friend who is an experienced teacher in a high school in Jerusalem. As we chitchatted along our walk, her phone rang.
We usually don’t answer the phone while on our walk, but my friend checked the caller ID. She apologetically explained that she has to pick up because one of her students was calling. As we continued our stroll, I listened to her conversation.
This story is not about what happened, rather how it happened.
The student was telling her about an exam he had the same day. I wasn’t able to hear what he said, but I heard my friend speak to him. She spoke to him very gently; with patience, empathy, and support.
When she finished her call, I told her that I liked the way she spoke to her student. She responded that speaking that way was a given and saw no reason to receive special praise for it, but I did.
A Small Act
I still remember how some of our teachers would speak with us. They would respond to us curtly and impatiently. This kind of attitude by a teacher, even if the language is not harsh, embarrasses the student.
I also remember the “other” kind of teacher; those who I never hesitated to speak with, those who were warm and caring.
When I go to the supermarket, I always smile to the butcher and exchange pleasantries. It’s amazing to see how such a small act can have such a grand affect.
The butcher always smiles back, happy to serve me, and tells me which cut of meat is the best. My intentions when being nice are not to get better service; rather I think it creates a nicer environment with positive energy flowing between us.
Our lives are full of small day to day encounters with others. The question is how will those interactions look? If we smile at the people we are interacting with, and ask them how they are, then those interactions and life in general will be more pleasant.
I think that ultimately when we contribute to a positive atmosphere, we can also achieve what we want. The universe will always reflect our behavior back to us.
Aggression leads to negative and abrasive reactions. The opposite also holds true; an optimistic and friendly attitude will lead to a courteous and pleasant response.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader who is considered the symbol of nonviolent resistance, said: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.”
I suggest that we begin remaking ourselves by changing the way we treat others.