Picture this scene. You have three tradesmen working flat-out in your new home, drilling and hammering. In the middle of all the noise and flying dust, there’s a knock at the front door. When you open it, you find a young man standing there. He explains that he’s been employed by the government to offer householders free power-saving devices, and wants to come in and install them. What would you do? Would you tell him you’re too busy and send him away? Or would you invite him to come in?
That’s the decision I was faced with just recently. My first reaction was to brush him off with a “no thanks”. After all, it really was a most inconvenient moment for him to call. But when I looked at him carefully, I could see that he was a sincere young guy just trying to make a living, so I accepted his offer after checking his credentials.
As he was unpacking the products, he began sniffing a lot. I offered him a tissue, which he accepted gratefully. He apologized, saying he was hot from pushing his cart around the streets. In response, I gave him a glass of ice-cold water. He thanked me, and said that I’d been very nice to him. After completing the installation and paperwork, he collected his things and left.
A few minutes later there was another knock on the door. When I opened it, there was the young man again. He looked unwell and asked if he could use the toilet. When he re-joined me in the lounge he looked much better. He said he was most grateful for my kindness and apologized for having to return. I replied that it was my pleasure to assist him – and I truly meant it. Right from the start, I’d sensed that something wasn’t right and that he needed help.
After he left, one of the tradesmen thanked me for assisting the young man. I replied that there’d been occasions in my life when I’d been grateful for someone’s caring actions. Difficult circumstances had been eased by them being kind-hearted. It had seemed only natural for me to pass on the same thoughtfulness and consideration to him. After all, I was just practicing the Golden Rule of living – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Following the Golden Rule, treating others in the way we’d like to be treated without any thought of reward, can make life more agreeable for ourselves and others. Kindness, unselfish acts, and common decency are essential humanitarian characteristics that can be practised at home, at school, in the workplace and elsewhere. Such character traits can not only grease the wheels of society, but researchers are finding that they can also produce health benefits for those who practice kindness.
Dr David Hamilton, author of ”How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body” and “Why Kindness Is Good for You”, believes kind-heartedness “makes us happier, …gives us healthier hearts, …slows aging, …makes for better relationships”. Professor Stephen Post, author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” considers that ”A strong correlation exists between the wellbeing, happiness and health of people who are kind.” Such findings suggest that the Golden Rule of kindness is not just a powerful blueprint for civilized action, it can also lead to a long and healthy life.
To follow the pathway to achieving better health outcomes, here are a few tips.
● Practice being kind-hearted. It’s good for your mental and physical wellbeing. According to the Dalai Lama,“The various features and aspects of human life, such as longevity, good health, success, happiness, and so forth, which we consider desirable, are all dependent on kindness and a good heart.”
● Don’t be stingy. Be generous. Take every opportunity to follow Henry Burton’s axiom: If you’ve had a kindness shown you, pass it on. Treat all people with consideration, not just those who are close to you.
● Think of “random acts of kindness” as the norm. As human beings we have an “in-built capacity” to be unselfish, thoughtful and big-hearted towards each other – to care for and support one another. It’s not accidental that the genuine humanity and thoughtfulness embedded in the Golden Rule, can increase good health, happiness and longevity. It’s actually a natural outcome.