"Irwin, I received your email this morning and I'm so sorry to learn that your feeling distressed. I don't watch much world news, but I do know that there is a great deal of division going on within the human population and I, too, feel sad over what I see and hear. I've given this a great deal of thought and this is what I think we'll do for our lesson this week. Let me pose a rhetorical question Irwin...something for you to ponder as we talk further. How can a frog dream when his neighbors have nightmares? I believe that kind and compassionate frogs, and humans, cannot. It's because we have a sense of right an wrong...a moral compassion or GPS if you will."
Dharma explained to me that neighbors can be those that live right next door, those in our community, and even those with whom we share the planet. Neighbors, then, can be anyone...because all frogs (and all humans) are brothers under the skin. No matter what we look like and no matter where we live. We all share common hopes, dreams, and goals. And when the dreams of some turn into nightmares well, it should become harder for the rest of us to dream our own dreams. Dharma reminded me that it all revolves around compassion; being able to put ourselves in the flipper, or shoes, of others. Kindness and compassion aren't new. Heck, they weren't new when the Good Samaritan stopped to help the injured man when others simply walked past. It just that compassion and kindness have become faded ideas, covered in dust, and put up on a shelf, We've forgotten we have them.
My wise friend knows how much I like facts so he told me about a 2015 study conducted by Stamford University in California. The students were tasked to carry out five weekly acts of kindness; everything from buying food for someone less fortunate, to helping a kid with their homework. At the end of the six-week study, the students reported higher levels of happiness than the control group which didn't do anything out of the ordinary. Altruism does make us happier. But more importantly, it makes the world a better place for everyone. There is evidence that humans are hard-wired for kindness. Charles Darwin argued in his Descent of Man, that humans are a caring and social species, instinctively interested in others and with a natural sympathy for one another.
I asked Dharma how I could help make the lives of other frogs better. He gave me a few tips that would seem to work well for humans, too,
1. Hold a door open for a stranger. That may sound simple enough thing, but when you do this for someone who is struggling, either with children, too many packages, a disability/age, it becomes an act of extreme kindness and compassion. Why? Because you saw the needs of another and acted upon it with any expectation of repayment.
2. Smiling. Like opening the door, a smile can seem on the surface as a simple gesture. But when it's the only friendly face someone sees all day, the impact can be huge.
3. Take a few moments and talk to someone older. Loneliness is a terrible thing. A simple "Hello, How's your day going?" can give an older person a sense of belong; that they're no longer invisible. Feeling invisible is one of the worst things about growing older. Taking time to acknowledge an older person's existence is meaningful in a real way, Ask for their advice, ask them about their memories of historical events...make them feel relevant again.
4. Share what you have. No matter how much or how little, we all have things we can share with others. It can be knowledge, a skill, a hobby, or an extra can of beans. Money is good, too. So is volunteering at your local nonprofit. Sharing with others help them and can offer the giver a real feeling of connection and a sense of deep gratitude for what they have.
The best part about giving is that starts a chain reaction. A ripple effect occurs. it can start off small but grow bigger with momentum. Kindness to strangers is almost as old as humanity itself. It costs nothing and we all gain. Everyone feels better for the transaction and a connection is made. We come to know we are all in this together and appreciate sometimes we need a helping hand. Isn't it time that all of us take kindness and compassion off the shelf, dust it off, and put it to good use? The world seems to need it now, more than ever.
"I hope this has been helpful, Tadpole," Dharma said as he prepared to leave me for this week. "Indeed it has! There are lots of small things that I can personally do to help improve the lives of others. And I have no doubt that once I turn my plan of action into actual "doing," I will sleep better knowing that I've made the life of even one frog a little better." And with that, Dharma smiled, gave me a hug and hopped away.
Now it's time for me to go make a difference in someone’s life. How about you?