I don’t want to be one of those people who seriously uses the phrase ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’
Those people are idiots.
Second only to people who use the phrase ‘I have a lot of time for her’ (because, hello, conceited much? Shouldn’t everyone have time for everyone?) and people who use the phrase ‘reinventing the wheel’. (Why? Just why?)
But as much as I don’t want to be one of those people who use such an unnecessarily pretentious, and falsely profound, saying – even less one of those people who actually writes it down in something that isn’t a physics essay – it’s a saying that perfectly encapsulates the point I’m trying to make here.
That when you do something, something else will happen. A chain reaction, a domino effect, a causal nexus – whatever you want to call it – there will be a result from the things you do.
Sometimes that’s a good thing. Like if you use the curling wand, you will get curly hair. Sometimes it’s a bad thing. Like if you leave said curling wand on the carpet, you will leave a burn mark (a painfully real life example that I’m still repenting for.)
But so far that’s all pretty obvious stuff. By pointing any of that out I’m not exactly reinventing the wheel, (sorry) of course there’s always going to be a result. If there wasn’t, nothing would ever happen to anybody. Hair wouldn’t get curled, carpets wouldn’t get ruined, and I wouldn’t have developed a deeply confusing love/hate relationship with a hair appliance.
Which is why I’m not here to weigh in on those good/bad consequences which are oh so obvious. I’m here to talk about the ones you might not even know about – even though they can be the most important of all.
They’re the consequences that occur in somebody else.
More specifically the ones that result from the little things that you do. Tiny actions, that seem pretty insubordinate to your day, but resonate greatly in someone else’s.
Obviously they can still be both good and bad. Every time you roll your eyes at someone, push past them, tell them their eyebrows are so totally not fleeky, you run the risk of putting the worst spin on their day. But I don’t really want to list examples like that. Instead I’d rather talk about the good examples. The ones that show how tiny acts of kindness can create real feelings of happiness.
Now I’m exceptionally blessed to be surrounded by a whole bunch of people who are experts at creating happiness. My mom sings to dementia sufferers to spark their memories, my dad empties his wallet for homeless people, my nan swears by the saying “if you do right, you go right” – their kindness knows no bounds – so it’s not like the impact of being kind is unfamiliar to me. Still, there was one example – that I heard from a special friend of mine last week – which really stuck with me.
She’s always had this unfaltering natural ability to empathise with anybody. Even perfect strangers. Which is exactly what she did when she witnessed two cruel witches unnecessarily yelling at an inoffensive older lady. (For the purposes of the story, we’ll call her Janine.) The two of them were angrily complaining to Janine – even threatening her with legal proceedings – because *ridiculous rationale alert* they weren’t happy with their swimming lessons. Seriously. They tried to ruin someone’s day over swimming lessons. (Which is basically proof that unnecessary cruelty is becoming a global pass time.)
I’m betting if most people (myself included) saw this happen the best they would do is squirm at the awkwardness, feel glad they aren’t Janine, and briefly hope that she’s okay before moving on to think about what’s for dinner. Fortunately, for Janine, my friend isn’t one of those people.
She’s someone who called the witches out on their cruelty, before following Janine to a quiet spot to make sure she was okay. She wasn’t, obviously. She’d been reduced to tears, but my friend stayed with her until she was smiling again. (Probably winning her over with a compilation of pink fluff jokes.) She passed on her contact details, because Janine was still concerned that they’d act on their threat to take legal action.
She didn’t need to do any of that. Believe me, she really didn’t need to do that. Over the last few weeks she’s had far more distress than she deserves. Everything has piled on top of her to the point where she feels as though she’s been existing in a ghostlike daze. It would have been easy for her to walk away, focusing only on her own troubles. Nobody could have blamed her for it. But she didn’t. She was kind to a perfect stranger, for no other reason than she wanted to see her smile again.
Janine – who it turns out is a Doctor, a swimmer, and an all round exciting lady – was so grateful she sent my friend an elaborate handwritten letter expressing her heartfelt gratitude for the intervention. It had meant everything to her.
It made me think, if doing something as simple as checking if someone is okay can create this kind of feeling, why don’t people do it more often?
I thought and I thought about it, but I couldn’t come up with an answer. Quite simply because there isn’t one. Not really. There’s no reason, no excuses – just one sweet, simple lesson. Be like my friend. Be kind. You never know, it just might mean everything to somebody.