Everything happens for a reason. I believe that. It’s a belief that forces me to evaluate situations in my life that are out of the ordinary, and sometimes even the ordinary, but most importantly the former.
I’ve learned something in the short month that I’ve been in London. I’ve learned (by no choice of my own) the true value and important of kindness.
I’m a fairly solitary person, by nature. In my most comfortable state, I’m alone or with one or two very close family members/friends. I’ve known this since I was young, and I knew even then that this wasn’t a personality trait conducive to being the life of the party, let alone just the normal friend making process. In my youth and adolescence, I developed a character I put on to try and be not that. As I’ve gotten older, I began to care less about others’ perception of me, from a selfish point of view, so I don’t play the character much, anymore. This month I’ve been put in a position where I’ve been spoken down to, ridiculed, disrespected and just treated less than anyone should be treated, ever, regardless of circumstance. I’ve been working as a food waiter in five star hotels in London, and the treatment of people in this job is, frankly, astonishing to me… but that’s not the point of this story. As a result of being treated poorly, I’ve been very aware of any kindness shown to me. It has shone like sunlight and replenished my shattered supply of strength. Instead of shriveling and becoming more inward, I started paying more attention to the kindness I was giving to others. I wanted to, if I could, make other people in my position feel better, because I don’t know about them, but I was crying in the shower on the daily. I started with simple things; Smiling at strangers I walk past, asking strangers how their day is going, offering things to people for no reason. What I found is that more kindness flowed my way.
This is basic, but it demonstrates a more important rule: Kindness is contagious.
In my cocoon of cortisol and headaches that has been the stress of being removed from my support network at home, I began looking to the online community for feelings of belonging and familiarity. For warmth, and light heartedness because I felt completely alone in one of the biggest cities in the world.
I found Simon Sinek. I love Ted Talks, I love hearing other peoples’ ideas and learning how other people see the world and I initially started listening, just because he was talking about what makes a good leader. This was something I was craving – good leadership – and just understanding what you need can sometimes lead you in the right direction. Five videos deep, (after delving into the pros and cons of being a millennial), he was talking about the reason you do things. I won’t go through it all, because he explains it better than I ever could, but I’ll tell you what I’ve taken from it.
You have to know why you do the things you do, and your why needs to bring you fulfillment, not cash. (Cash is cool too, but don’t make it the first priority.)
I’ve only had one job in my life that I didn’t hate, fervently. That job was being a camp counselor in an all girls camp in the US. In that job, not only did I get to be outside, but I got to help kids have fun. However, the most fulfilling feeling I’ve ever had while working was when I was talking to the young girls, usually when they thought none of their peers were listening, and they would share their fears or concerns and having been a teen with those same fears and concerns not that long ago, I could talk to them about it. Some kids, you can see the lightbulb, others you just keep talking until they hopefully stop crying. Either way, it felt like I was actually helping another human being and I would have done it for free and I didn’t need or want anything in return.
In literally every other job I’ve had, after the first week when I’m no longer learning new skills, I have walked into work thinking to myself “Think of the money. Think of the money. Think of the money.” It’s like my body’s rejecting being there, wasting precious life, trading it for currency. Currency that , for the most part, I will use for selfish reasons. Holidays, clothes, shoes, movies, whatever. I think this cycle is useless. I need to do something else and more specifically I need to do something that serves others.
I’ve also been a fan of Garrett Gee and The Bucket List Family for a few years now, at the start out of interest in the places they visited, but more recently because of his motto: Adventure, culture, service. He says everywhere they go, they make sure they include elements from each of these things.
These people among others have been brought to the forefront of my mind after the lack of kindness in my life becoming suddenly very salient and have inspired me to try to add a little more service into my life. I think it’s been missing this whole time, not because I don’t or haven’t want/ed to give service, but that I didn’t know to be thinking about it, I wasn’t actively looking to do it and I’m so used to looking out for number one, I believed others’ happiness was their business.
- be kind, always;
- do things with purpose;
- let your purpose serve others.