Monday, April 26, 2010

Intending to Help

I came across this in an email this morning and wanted to pass it along to all of you. Hope it inspires you!

Last week, I met a friend who suggested that I do an act of kindness every week and then share the story with him through email. Of course, like the most of us, I have my own share of helping people and hence I thought this "simple" suggestion would be an easy weekly task. But I was in for a surprise.

I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn't involve giving a materialistic gift. My friend had said: "It should touch you deeply, it should have a story; otherwise, it's just a material experience". That struck a chord with me, so I decided to step-it up :) and looked forward to "doing" the act of kindness.

I realized in the next 48 hours that "doing" an act of kindness, an intentional act of kindness, might be simple but letting it happen naturally wasn't as simple.

I found myself giving away my precious afternoon tea-bags to a colleague as since I knew he wouldn't go and buy them himself from the speciality store. I gifted a pen set to a friend of mine who got a job in my company after a year long battle. I saw the recipients were touched but I had this inner voice saying, "Haha ... that wasn't all that fulfilling ... it was still a materialistic gift."

At about 6 pm on Saturday evening, I was sitting outside a Starbucks waiting for my wife and other friends to join. The weather was beautiful, slightly cloudy with a gentle breeze; it was kind of refreshing after an unending long hot days in San Diego. Suddenly, the Starbucks door opened and out came a young woman carrying a big trash bin and letting out a big sigh while wiping the sweat on her forehead: "Ohhh my Goddd! Its crazy in there! We are so busy." I just sat there and gave the usual generic smile that we're taught to give. Then I thought this could be my chance to help -- help with the trash, buy her a coffee or a muffin of a frap, or just say, "We appreciate all the hard work you do." But I didn't do anything - I just sat there.

After a few seconds she left, as I lamented my missed opportunity. I then got up and searched for her following the path where she might have gone but couldn't find her.

By that evening, I had decided that perhaps like everyone else, I was yet another cog in the corporate wheel with no natural instinct to help. I knew I had the capacity to help but felt sad that it wasn't a natural instinct.

On Sunday night, I got a call from my friend who needed some sleeping bags etc. from my car. I took the elevator to the parking garage when the door opened a young pregnant woman and her mother were standing there with loads of luggage and bags outside the elevator. Immediately, I asked the lady to hold the elevator door open as I started helping them load their luggage into the elevator. She insisted that it wouldn't be necessary as her husband and father were coming with more stuff and they could do it but I just smiled and asked them to take it easy and within minutes it was all in the elevator. The young woman said she was just back from her baby-shower, so I told her that I wished their family a beautiful baby with a safe delivery. And I casually walked away.
As I was taking the sleeping bags out of the trunk of my car, I realized what had happened. I had been kind and helped someone without actually deciding to do so. It happened at the spur of the moment -- naturally and beautifully. It wasn't dramatic, but it was simple and ordinary and that brought a smile to my face.

When I look back on the Starbucks episode and the elevator incident, I realize that intending to help and helping naturally do go hand in hand. It is because of my intention to help or be kind or just spread goodness over the past few days was becoming stronger, that this act just happened. Had I not held the intention to be of service, I probably would have just smiled at the ladies and walked away.

Holding the intention to help is the first step to become a natural giver. Initially, I was frowning over the first step but now I see the power of a strong thought.


  1. Being a natural giver is so much more than rewarding.

  2. A very lovely story and lesson here.


Looking forward to seeing how you made a difference today!