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Open Your Heart & Soul With Basic Acts of Kindness
Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Too often, the abilities to freely give and receive are not given equal weight – but they should be. As symbiotic opposites, there is a magical energy that flows between them. Sadly, this concept has been lost to many because the focus is always on the selfless act of giving. Though this is a wondrous virtue, it is necessary to allow this same freedom to others who would like to make offerings to you. I’d go as far as to say that it is an intrinsic component of total self-acceptance.
Sometimes we place the wrong value on gifts given to us by family members, friends, and acquaintances. Some of the greatest gifts are the ones that have no monetary value at all. The ones that originate from the heart. These gifts may be in the form of actions rather than material objects, or from a simple word, smile, or gesture.
Somehow it has become taboo to admit that we desire to feel special, wanted, and appreciated. But is it so wrong to want to be loved, acknowledged and to feel like we have a purpose to not only those who are close to us, but also within humanity as a whole?
Basically, we want to matter!
We give to charities and volunteer our time, all in hopes of feeling satisfied that our efforts made a difference. Though too often, that unexplainable hole remains. But how can this be? We are doing all the right things and helping others in need. The problem lies in the fact that the symbiotic reciprocal balance of giving and receiving has not been met.
For example, the very wealthy are known to give millions of dollars to charities all over the world. Many even offer their time to travel to these places and their visits are often highlighted on TV and in social media. We praise their efforts and their generosity which of course is admirable, though only to hear later how depressed they are as they engage in reckless behavior, move from relationship to relationship, or become addicted to drugs or alcohol, all in an attempt to escape the emptiness in their hearts and souls.
What was missing in their lives?
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that their “admirable” gifts of money and/or time were given with the intention of receiving something in return, whether it be a tax break, media attention or a societal pat on the back. Although their gifts may have done some good, the void cannot be filled when personal gain is at the core.
All people yearn to feel a connection with humanity, but in order to experience this, there must be an openness to receive along with a willingness to give. (Again, we are not talking about the gifts made with the intent of furthering one’s own interests.)
Let’s further explore the synergetic relationship between giving and receiving.
The ability to not only give out of the goodness of one’s heart but also to comfortably receive without feeling a need to reciprocate. This is a learned practice.
It is a powerful skill and one that needs to be cultivated. The more that it is practiced, the larger the area that the positive energy will be felt.
Metaphorically speaking, if you were to throw a stone from one side of the pond to the other, the stone would inconsequentially hit the opposite shoreline where it would remain indefinitely. Whereas if you were to throw the stone into the center of the pond, though seemingly insignificant on its face, the automatic ripple effect quickly grows in intensity and ultimately the impact hits shorelines in every direction!
In this next activity, we are going to really explore the power behind giving and receiving.
Pick one person, a friend, a family member or someone you know that deserves your attention, who is willing to exchange 14 daily gifts with you. An interesting twist may be to choose a person who you have allowed to become distant, but for whom you still have strong feelings. Remember, you must also be open to receiving gifts from them. The gifts don’t have to be, and should not always be, of material nature. They may be a simple word or gesture, an action or a small item that you know will brighten their day.
Of course, there are some basic rules that you must be follow:
- Along with each “gift”, there must be a small explanation. The accompanying note must explain why you thought the gift was unique to this person. Even if your gift is a letter telling them how much they mean to you, end the letter with the reason you felt it was important to write.
- Though handmade gifts are always special, if you purchase a gift for your chosen person, the gift should never be more than $10.
- Each gift must be different. In other words, you can’t give 14 letters.
- Each gift should symbolize something that you noticed about the other person. This requires you to be observant.
- If possible, gifts should be given either in person or online such as via Skype. Visual is better.
To help in this process, don’t forget that both observation and communication are key to getting to know someone. Listen with your ears, observe with your eyes and most of all, feel with your heart.
And finally, each of you must tell the other if they hit the mark spot on, or if the mark was missed. In other words, let them know that they achieved the goal of giving the other person something that was truly unique to them.
During these 14 days, also give 5 anonymous gifts, to 5 different people. This is more or less an exercise of Random Acts of Kindness.
- Give a gift card for a meal or cup of coffee to a homeless person.
- If you walk by a parking meter that has expired, put some change in it.
- Smile at someone on the street who looks like they are having a rough day.
- Wash and fold your roommate’s clothes and say nothing about it.
Here are some questions to consider:
- How did this activity how did it make you feel?
- Did you feel reluctant to ask someone to participate in this activity with you? If so, why?
- How many of the 14 gifts did your buddy, friend or family member tell you were spot on?
- Did you find that you began to feel a sense of excitement about this activity as the days progressed?
- Was any part of this activity difficult for you? If so how?
- How hard or easy was it for you to observe your chosen person as you tried to determine what they would truly appreciate?
- How did you feel receiving gifts?
- Did your chosen buddy choose a gift for you that surprised you? If so, were you surprised that they noticed something about you that you hadn’t noticed or had forgotten about yourself?