Friday, November 15, 2013

A Zeal for Giving


Jenny Matlock's Alphabet Thursday
Z = A Zeal for Giving


I'm sure most of you have read about, received, and participated in random acts of kindness. Recently, I ran across a video of someone happily picking up the tab for the person behind him at a drive-through restaurant. Especially heartwarming was the fact that his generosity sparked a chain of giving he hadn't anticipated. Those who were given a free lunch decided, quite spontaneously, to pass that blessing along. For a few minutes, all the receivers became givers, with every driver paying for the occupants of the car behind him. We often call this type of activity "paying it forward," but this was definitely "paying it backward!" ;) Either way, what made the situation stand out in my mind was this: the positive action of an individual motivated positive action by an entire group––namely, the long line of people who ended up taking part (aka the "snowball effect.")

This snowball effect really got me thinking. We've all heard stories about undesirable mob behavior, where one person begins to act out in violent or destructive fashion and pretty soon others jump on the bandwagon. Vandalism after a World Series victory might be one example of this, as would the Rodney King attack in Los Angeles a few years ago. There is plenty of evidence to show that bad behavior in one person sort of creates a "safe place" for bad behavior in another, and I have often seen that subject discussed on television and in the press.

Far less frequent is any discussion about the upside of group dynamics: "desirable" mob behavior. (Don't you love the concept of a benevolent mob?) It is heartening to note that our good actions can steer others in a positive direction too, even when it is not something they, as individuals, would normally do. For example, if I let an elderly or pregnant woman with a full shopping cart go ahead of me in line, is it not more likely that the person in front of me will do the same?...and maybe even the person in front of her? I like the idea that one person's kindness creates a breeding ground for group kindness. 

Going to the head of the line when you are tired and uncomfortable may seem like a small thing, but there are wider applications. What about the people on Flight 93 that rushed the cockpit and tried to overcome the terrorists? We don't know for sure who took the first step, perhaps Mark Bingham, but others in the group rose to the occasion. During the Holocaust, when the Krepec family in Poland risked their lives to hide 30 Jewish citizens in their home, the people of their town could have protected themselves and their loved ones by reporting them. Instead, they got on board, putting their own futures on the line by supporting the Krepecs with meals, relief, and most of all, silence. 

You've heard the saying, paraphrased from Mahatma Gandhi, to "Be the change you want to see in the world." More specifically, maybe we need to "Be the goodness we want to see in the world." One thing's for certain, our kind acts are more powerful than we know. Are we ready to lead the way?

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20 comments:

Leovi said...

Very interesting that effect "snowball" of generosity!

Carol L McKenna said...

Wonderful post ~ I love hearing 'positive' and I think the world is starting to get the idea with 'pockets' of people living differently ~ The media just doesn't promote that ~ Wishing you week end filled with kindness for yourself and others ~ carol, xxx

http://www.acreativeharbor.com

Lola said...

Totally endorse Carol's comment above- bad news too often makes the headlines!

Cathy Kennedy said...

Sparks of kindness, such as these "pay-it forward" act are beautiful. Many of us are will simply be warmed by the gratitude of another, but somewhere along the way someone in great need will receive the ultimate blessing. This is a lovely post and so appropriate with the holidays upon us. The one time of the year when there are more generous hearts than all the rest of year. Thanks for stopping by today!

Lmkazmierczak said...

Small acts of kindness go a lot farther than we know...positive attitudes and good thoughts are what we were designed for♫♪ Happy Thoughts♥

jen said...

I love this post.

I have actually offered to let people go ahead of me in the grocery line, and they always look at me like I'm kinda crazy and ask if I really mean it. I figure that if I'm not there with 100 screaming kids, then taking a few extra minutes to read People magazine for free is a win/win situation!

Cheryl Kanenwisher said...

Yes! I believe this can catch on...kindness!
Thanks for sharing this idea of breeding kindness. :)

Brian Miller said...

i love that quote on being the change...it has to start somewhere so it might as well start with me...or you...or whoever...i def like to hear the stories as well of how it plays out....was just reading on someone buying the debt of another from the bank...and then absolving them of it...

karen said...

This made me feel so happy. I've done things like this occasionally and you've inspired me to do them more often. It makes others feel good, but it's nothing compared to how it makes the giver feel! And to be the cause of a chain of kindness - what could be more awesome?
PS - I accidentally deleted your comment on my blog. I really shouldn't read comments when I'm tired...but thanks for it!

Barbara Rosenzweig said...

Wonderful post!

Thanks for visiting! It was supposed to be "Zee" Autumn Leaves, like someone with a French Accent. Glad that you forgave me!

Gattina said...

Very nice post ! Kindness is so easy, but some people are just unable to be kind.

yaya said...

Do a good deed daily should be the motto for every human on earth...Peace on Earth would definitely be the result..and not just once a year.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I love the idea of a snowball effect. What a great way to show others the gifts you have had shared with you.

EG CameraGirl said...

You have such a refreshing positive attitude, Sue. ;)

Judie said...

Sue, I believe this! If we all passed on the kindnesses that we have been shown, this world would be a much better place!!

Grandma Honey said...

'Be the goodness we want to see in the world'…YES, I love that! I watched the video too…kindness is so catchy!

Splendid Little Stars said...

so profoundly true!
fabulous post!
I like the idea of a benevolent mob. Or even singly.

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

I loved reading this and I need to paint the words Be the goodness we want to see in the world over my bed.
Love ya
Maggie

Amy said...

You always put it so eloquently. I agree whole heartedly! It always warms the heart when people act in a way that helps others. The world certainly needs more of that, and I can start it! Thanks for the lovely food for thought, Sue. You always deliver.

Jenny said...

Zooming around town sharing your zest for life would be an unforgettable experience...

Thanks for linking to the letter "Z"!

A+

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