Transform Your Life: Be a Little Kinder

In my very last article, I shared a little bit about our most recent training/consulting project, in which we worked with a great bunch of analytical-minded engineers and architects. What surprised me greatly was their repeated response to, “What characteristics of a team contribute to quality service in an organization?” Interestingly enough, more than one participant cited the importance of “kindness” in providing top-tier service to their internal/external customers. We did not expect this from such a stereotypically “un-touchy-feely” group. But research indicates that they were right on track.

The significance of kindness transcends the workplace. In her book, A Standard of Kindness: Producing Goodness”, Dr. Linda Andrade Wheeler points out:

“The kind of person you are, and how you behave and treat others will determine what kind of world we will live in. We have seen the destructive outcomes when people have forgotten what it means to be kind to others. Your kindness toward others can be the starting point in bringing about goodness and peace wherever you may be–at home at school, at work, or in your community. You are a unique person, with special gifts. You have much to give others.”

This little book can keep this message alive for the rest of your life. It also makes a wonderful gift for any occasion. One of my early business mentors, Mac Anderson, (founder of Successories) stated it well:

“This is the paradox of the power of kindness. It doesn’t feel powerful at all. In fact, it almost feels too simple to be important. Kindness, more than anything, is an attitude that brings us back to the simplicity of being. It is also the one way you can be assured of making a difference with your life.”

Consider the following story that Mac shared with me, which exemplifies the power of kindness. He wrote:

The year was 1863, on a spring day in Northern Pennsylvania. A poor boy was selling goods door to door to pay his way through school. He realized he had only a dime left, and that he was hungry. So he decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.Instead of a meal, he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry and so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.” He said, “Then I thank you from my heart.” As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Years later, that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, he went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown, he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day, he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested from the business office to pass the final billing to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally, she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words:

“PAID IN FULL WITH ONE GLASS OF MILK…”

(Signed)
Dr. Howard Kelly*

*Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Kelly’s biographer, Audrey Davis, the doctor was on a walking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring day when he stopped by a farm house for a drink of water.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia

Finally, I leave you with a thought from the great English writer, Aldous Huxley. Best known for his novels including Brave New World, Mr. Huxley was also a pioneer in the study of techniques to develop human potential.

In a lecture toward the end of his life, he said this: “People often ask me…what is the most effective technique for transforming their lives?” He then said, “It’s a little embarrassing that after years and years of research, my best answer is – just be a little kinder.

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