What does that mean?
This quote is from the famous story, The Lion and the Mouse, wherein a small Mouse, caught by the Lion, is released rather than eaten, as a kindness.
Later, the Mouse comes across the Lion, trapped in a net. The Mouse remembers the kindness done for him by the Lion, and chews through the ropes, freeing the Lion, and returning the kindness.
The moral of the story is held that there is no one so lowly that they cannot be of some use, and that none should be scorned for their lowly position or life.
That, in my opinion, still is true today. While most societies still have some forms of stratification, most people understand that kindness costs themselves little, and can be of great benefit to them when returned.
Why is kindness important?
In the case of this quote, it is an act of kindness, done to someone who could not possibly ever do a favor for you in return. And the experience, for those who have done it, is rather odd. Often, we do something for someone with the intention of having them do something nice in return.
When you do something nice for someone who you could not ever imagine having the ability to help you, the feeling is quite liberating. You aren’t thinking about how much to help, or what to do, weighing it against what they could do in return. You simply do what you can, and walk away.
Whether it’s putting enough change in the toll booth for the next few cars, or telling your server at the restaurant that you want to pay for someone else’s bill, it’s simply being kind. Those examples centered around money, but there are plenty of other ways to be kind to others.
Almost any volunteer work would fall under this category. You would be helping those least able to help themselves, much less help you. Unless, of course, you consider the warm feeling you get from helping someone else as a form of repayment, or their heartfelt thanks. That’s worth something, but you know what I mean.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As mentioned in the prior section, there are plenty of ways to be kind to others. And that is something at which, I believe, we can all improve. Can you ever be too kind? In my experience, I would say no. I have tried to do all I can, and could always think of things I could have done, if I’d had more time or energy.
But to me, the good feeling you get from doing a selfless act is the best thing about being kind. Even if you don’t see any immediate improvement in your material condition, you feel better inside. And, unless you don’t have your basic needs covered, that’s a great thing to have going for you.
Whether it is as simple as holding open a door for someone, or something more involved, like rebuilding a house, you still feel good inside. And if the person you held the door for doesn’t say thanks, and you get mad, does it say more about them, or about you? Perhaps they just forgot. Feel good anyway, don’t let them spoil it.
One time, on the way home from a shopping trip, there was a car stalled at an intersection, blocking traffic. I went past and pulled into a parking lot, then ran back and pushed them out of the road. Then I left, never looking back. I imagine they wanted to thank me. But I just let them wonder.
The other thing I like about selfless giving is that usually they end up being frustrated. They had something nice done, and they want to do something nice back, but they can’t find you. I always hope that they find someone else to whom they can do a kindness. That way it stretches out far and wide.
Think about that for a moment. You do something nice for someone, and they do something for you. It’s over. Two people were helped. End of story. But if you do something for someone else, they will have to find a third person so that they may perform an act of kindness. Then what will that person do?
And if any of these people get to liking the feeling of being kind to others, they might actually do it again. Now we’re up to at least four people, and as this continues, more people will do kindnesses to others. It really can spread like wildfire, if you choose to participate.
Imagine a world where a chain reaction of kindness was ongoing. Will it be better or worse than where we are today? Can you think of a single good reason not to help someone, some way, today? Even if it’s just a smile or a nod, acknowledging another person is a kindness too often lacking today.
And even if you’re never captured in a net, or save a small mouse, you never know when you might need for someone to help you with an act of kindness. And being kind to others always feels good. Give it a try. I dare you. 8)