While taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, I saw random acts of kindness each day. At an Albergue in Granon, I was sitting at a table memorized by an elderly volunteer that was playing a card game with a seven year old pilgrim. It was as if the older man was a blood relative and his only purpose in life was to provide comfort to that young boy. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The woman who had checked me into the hostel pointed to my feet and gave me the universal finger movement suggesting massage. She led me to a chair by the fire. With a constant smile, this kind lady rubbed my feet for at least an hour and would not accept any type of compensation for the good deed. Instead, she said, “Help the next person in need.” I was witness to the Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
On another day, I walked through one of the four major cities on the Camino. Logrono has a population exceeding 200,000 and was extremely busy with the hustle and bustle of daily life. A far cry from the normal days of peace and tranquility found in the tiny villages. I could not see a smile on any of the faces of the local people in this city. I understood that they were not on a pilgrimage vacation, but not a single smile? Toward the end of the city, one stranger made my day with two words: “Buen Camino.” Her smile was infectious and left and imprint on my mind. Never underestimate the value of a random act of kindness.
Helping other people unlocks a treasure chest of happiness. For the longest time, I never understood this concept until I began to volunteer with a local charity group. I spent a few years driving a local woman to chemotherapy treatments. The friendship blossomed to a point that we spent time together at Christmas and Easter. Her courage to face such an ugly disease was astounding and inspiring. She would often lecture me about keeping a positive attitude on the drive to the hospital. She has since passed, but one comment will be with me until the end. She said, “Never judge anyone’s troubles. A seemingly trivial problem to another person may be as significant to them as cancer is to me.” What a gift.
There is a ripple effect that smolders out of kindness. Last weekend, I found myself in California to speak at a mind body expo. I stayed an extra day to spend time with my step-mom. While walking along the beach , she constantly picked up random trash. On the shuttle bus to the airport, a lady was struggling with her luggage. She almost cried when I can to her rescue. I always leave several signed books at every airport. I write a personal note that usually includes something like…..this book found you for a reason, enjoy the journey. Several people have sent me email messages with incredible personal stories after receiving these anonymous gifts.
There are a million ways to spread the good seeds of kindness. Rake a strangers yard. Leave a 100% tip at your next lunch. Go to a senior center and read to lonely soul. Make this a daily habit and you may just find yourself smiling more often!