Karma … attracting to ourselves that same energy which we project into the world, is more than just a concept, and I’ve been around long enough to see its laws manifest over and over again. Bad energy attracts similarly bad vibes, but fortunately, the opposite is also true. Of course that doesn’t seem to explain why some people who do terrible things seem to prosper, or why sometimes the nice guys ‘finish last’ … but the timing of things doesn’t always work on our personal time clocks. Every action we make has a reaction, and good deeds or bad ones eventually become our own rewards or punishments.
As I’ve mentioned before, in my profession as an innkeeper, I see thousands of people walk through my front door every year, most of them very much in need of the vacation they have booked at our Lodge. But between the stress of getting away and all its related pressures (such as prepping, packing, driving through traffic, etc.), they are tired and hungry, and tension levels are often fairly high by the time many of them check in at my front desk. My mission as an innkeeper is not only to see that all their needs are met and to help them relax and enjoy the natural beauty of our mountains, rivers and waterfalls, but to show them some sincere hospitality and kindness with no strings attached. Sometimes all this takes is a smile or a listening ear. Other times it requires going the extra mile by anticipating a need and taking care of it long before the guest is even aware of wanting to ask for it. Rarely – and this is the hard part -- it requires a ‘grin and bear it’ sort of attitude and a professional demeanor, that feels a bit like being a human punching bag! But even when we have to take a few knocks, I love to be of service in this way – it truly is a mission for me – and I am rewarded over and over again as I see formerly stressed people leaving happy and refreshed. We have made hundreds of friends over the last decade who initially came through our door as strangers and left with a hug and a promise of a return visit. We have a huge repeat business, and I believe a lot of it has to do with an intentional desire to spread kindness and change the world from right where we stand. It is a rare phenomenon in a dog-eat-dog world to intentionally Be Kind … but you don’t have to own a business to do this; everyone has an equal opportunity to make the world a better place by being kind, wherever they may be.
I’ll bet you can remember some specific acts of kindness you received when you were very young, and never forgot because somehow it touched the foundations of your soul. I know I can. I can’t have been more than 3 or 4 when Mrs. Watt, an older neighbor lady, took the time to have me into her home and inspire me with her violin, her artwork … and her kindness. There was a simple comment by my Home Ec. teacher who made me feel ‘worthy’; and a high school history teacher whose kindness made all the difference at a difficult point in my life. It’s so often the little things, things that are almost un-noticeable, that have the biggest impact, and can even change the course of a person’s life.
No one knows this better than Michael Chase, affectionately known as “The Kindness Guy, author of “Am I being Kind?” and “The Radical Practice of Loving Everyone”. A TV, radio and magazine personality, Michael is one of today’s most powerful voices for creating a kinder world. Considered an expert on the subjects of kindness and positive behavior, Michael, along with his teachings are recognized across the globe, revealing how each of us plays a critical role in healing our planet. In addition to teaching the importance of humankind-ness, he offers proof that within our challenges lie great opportunities for growth and service toward others. Despite a family history of substance abuse, violence, depression, and suicide, Michael chose a different path, spreading positive energy throughout the world. Today, whether presenting in a classroom, boardroom, or on stage in front of thousands, his message of hope impacts countless lives each year.
In 2007, Michael went with his gut and left a good job to start ‘The Kindness Center’ with the vision of creating a more peaceful and kindhearted world. Rather than build a physical “center,” his goal was to take his message across the globe by creating “random acts of kindness” events. By sharing them through his website and social media, these projects have touched thousands of lives and inspired countless good deeds.
I first met Michael at the Be Kind Fest in May of 2011, when the Mount Washington Valley (where I live) became known as the Kindness Capital of New England. After a presentation and lecture by Michael, locals and visitors participated in random acts kindness throughout the community, and then regrouped afterwards to share their experiences of doing nice things for others. Although this has become an annual event with Michael visiting our area, kind acts are not meant to be a once a year sort of thing. He has inspired many people, myself among them, to make kindness a mission that can literally change the world.
Here’s a beautiful story I pulled from the Kindness Center. The story starts with a hand-written note that someone found under the windshield of their truck in a parking lot, and this says it all about the real meaning of kindness. The note said something to the effect that the writer noticed that the truck was very much in need of 4 new tires, and that if the owner of the truck went to such-and-such tire place, and asked for ‘so and so’, he could get 4 new tires put on his truck, completely paid for by the writer of the note! This person only asked that at some future point in time the recipient do a similar act of kindness for someone else, because one had once been done for this person, and it had changed her life.
Wow. This kind of thing restores faith in human nature, doesn’t it? You bet it does! But a kindness doesn’t have to be expensive like the above example, to be powerful. Try paying for the toll of the person behind you at the tollbooth or for a cup of coffee for someone you don’t know in line at the coffee shop (anonymously, of course). Or just doing an anonymous act of kindness that costs nothing, but is from the heart. These sorts of things really make a person’s day and change the world.
But there’s something else that changes the world, too, and that is negativity; it breeds unhappiness everywhere it goes. I’m thinking of one classic example from about a year ago at our inn. I could sense the negativity of this guest even before she entered. It was written all over her face. She was miserable at check in; she hadn’t been here an hour before she brought at least a dozen ‘wrong’ things she had encountered to my attention (well … ‘wrong’ according to her!). During the course of her visit, the iron and ironing board ‘broke’ in her room; so did the coffee maker. Her key didn’t work for her; neither did the cable TV. The AC stopped working in the middle of the night, she said. The toaster burned her toast and the microwave blew a circuit when she used it. Of course, when we tried these things, they all seemed to be in working order, but she attracted negativity to herself like a magnet. And she spread it around thickly wherever she went, like Eyeore with a rain cloud over his head.
As positive, kindness-giving people, you and I can handle this sort of thing occasionally, because we can put it all in perspective. But sometimes we get wacked in the gut by multiple sources of negativity all at the same time, and it can get us down. After all, kindness isn’t a one-way street, and WE are all in need of it too from time to time!!
I emailed Michael Chase last week about this very thing. “What happens when kindness spreaders are the victims of multiple unkindnesses?” There was a reason I asked him this. After a very busy summer season, I am naturally feeling a bit tired. I think it has been the ‘happiest’ summer I have ever had; our guests were AWESOME!! But recently, out of the blue, four totally unrelated people and situations all confronted me in a matter of a few days … a perfect storm of unkindness! The fiery darts that came at me made me feel very low, even though I knew these people obviously had personal issues to grapple with, and their anger towards me was undeserved. However, the timing of them coming all at once disheartened and saddened me. ‘Why is it,’ I asked Michael, ‘that just a few negatives can almost cancel out all the great successes and tip the scales so far to the negative? What tools can “kind people” fall back on who are sometimes victims of the actions and words of the people who are not in that same place yet? After all, we are in need of kindness too!’ I asked him if he – the ultimate kindness guy -- ever feel tired and disheartened? His answer had some real wisdom that helped soothe my battered soul! He wrote:
“I totally understand Cathi! I've been where you are many times (even recently) and know how difficult it can be. But I always try to remember that their actions are their own karma...and how I respond is mine. If I act unkind back to them I am only planting seeds of negativity within myself. I also know that hurt people, hurt people. Simply stated, unkind people are suffering. It's the reason they act in vicious ways. Knowing this I am able to have a little more compassion for them. Just keep breathing my friend! The breath is a powerful way to control our emotional state, bringing us back to a place of peace. And remember these words by Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Namaste, Michael”
Ahhh, compassion … sometimes hard to muster, but it works! Shortly after this I had a very sour young woman check in. All of us thought she was very unpleasant indeed. Then I discovered that she was a single mother with three children, one aged 4, two 2-year old twins, and a little baby!! Oh my goodness … this woman wasn’t unpleasant … she was just exhausted and somewhat depressed. Knowing this allowed me to be kind even when it wasn’t returned and was hard to do, and I do believe it may have helped her during her stay. Certainly, kindness wouldn’t be the normal response her outward behavior would evoke from most people, but it was very much what she needed.
And so to wrap up, I’d like to ask a couple of very important questions to ponder:
1. What was the nicest act of kindness anyone ever did for you?
2. What little act of kindness can YOU show to someone before this day ends?
Remember, I can’t take comments on this site because of Mega-Spam, but please email me personally at LodgeLady@ilovethelodge.com. I would so appreciate the kindness of hearing from you! In the words of Naturalist John Muir (and myself), "The Mountains are calling, and I must go".
Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi
The Mountain Farmgirl