The world doesn’t seem so kind these days. There is anger, blame, finger-pointing, and hostility. In our quest to be heard, be an ally, protect our rights or effect change, we are troubled on the inside. We can’t address today’s critical issues from a place of turmoil, either personal, collectively, or as a community. We are hanging in and hanging on, but not shining at our brightest. We must find a way to nourish our souls, renew our faith in people, in humanity, and find common ground. Otherwise, we risk losing sight of ourselves.
Gratitude, when put into action, can help immensely when we feel negative or short-changed by recent events happening around us. This life hack has come to my rescue many times. By taking a moment to acknowledge what is good around us, we get balance. An emotional shift happens as we climb out of the cesspool of self-concern and take a dip into an ocean of appreciation. Pausing to take account of the positives isn’t just the starry-eyed idealism of a dreamer — it’s a very real tool to put our lives into perspective and bring us peace.
Gratitude works for our inner world, but how do we counter the insistent chaos in the real world? We must find a way to come together in some form of harmony that meets today’s reality and promote accord instead of discord. We can experience others as vulnerable human beings and replenish peace and empathy by acting with kindness.
Kindness is something everyone can practice. It sets off a chain reaction of care and compassion. When I think about the in-the-moment, quiet heroes that go above and beyond for another person, especially a stranger, I am deeply moved. I want to have that same type of kindness, one that doesn’t discriminate, like Toni Doherty, the woman who witnessed a disoriented koala running into a bushfire during Australia’s horrendous Black Summer. Doherty chased after the crying koala, risking her own life, and used the shirt off her back to put out the flames on the burning marsupial. Or the Greek long-distance runner Marios Giannakos, who carried a specially-abled 22-year-old biology student for ten hours to the summit of Mt. Olympus — on his back. An athlete who had trekked over 150 miles in the sweltering Al Marmoum Desert and almost 100 miles across a frozen Antarctica, Giannakos had already climbed the mountain fifty times. But it was the fifty-first trip with Eleftheria Tosiou that he knew would be the most meaningful. There’s also 27-year-old traveling nurse Taylor Pikkarainen, who spent months away from home on assignment treating COVID-19 patients before donating a kidney to an 18-month-old boy. The toddler, Bodie Hall, suffered from a life-threatening, rare kidney condition. He had already undergone multiple hospital stays and infusions to help his kidneys and had relied on a feeding tube since the age of seven months. Pikkarainen learned of Bodie’s dire situation and signed up as a potential donor half an hour later.
I am truly humbled when I hear the selfless, incredible acts of kindness at our company, Zensar. The spirit of caring and giving back to the community is so very noble. Bhanushri Sharma from our Facilities team in Pune mobilized many company resources early in the pandemic and coordinated with caterers to get meals packed and delivered to migrant workers who had lost their already-tenuous jobs. What started as an initial plan to feed 500 people per day quickly scaled to meals for 1,400. Bhanushri managed the food distribution and helped personally deliver meals to those in need for three months. Bhanushri was responsible for providing over 100,000 meals. Early on, she even spent additional time as “counselor,” assuring the frightened migrant workers that they would indeed have food to eat. She also coordinated doctor visits for four pregnant migrants and gave them fruit, coconut water, and meals she cooked at home to help keep them nourished when their pregnancy palates had an aversion to regular foods. All this on top of buying and distributing clothes for children and sanitary napkins for the girls and women — paid for with her own funds.
Nishant Pandey from our Financial Services team in Bengaluru was in disbelief when he learned of a senior man abandoned by a relative in an empty lot near his apartment complex. Nishant contacted the local authorities to report this cruelty. He could have easily considered his work done, but he knew the heavy rains and many stray animals on the plot of land would only add to the man’s suffering. Nishant tried to get him admitted to a hospital but was unsuccessful. Restrictions put in place by the pandemic created many obstacles to getting the senior man the help he needed. Working with police and local authorities, Nishant retrieved the man from the empty lot and found overnight shelter for him, including a pillow, blanket, and food. He then contacted various agencies and located a secure, long-term place for the homeless man at an area shelter. Nishant acted with empathy, kindness, and integrity. He went out of his way to help a destitute stranger. More importantly, he treated the stranger with the dignity we each deserve.
What moves me the most is that neither Bhanushri nor Nishant feels they’ve done anything extraordinary. When I talked to both to compliment them on what they have done, they both said they were instinctively answering the call to help others. Kindness, straight from the soul and without discrimination, can heal the tender wounds of others.
At times, kindness may seem to be hidden amongst today’s turmoil, but we can see it everywhere if we look. It is within each of us, waiting to spring into action. Kindness doesn’t have to be spectacular to make a huge impact. It can be as simple as forgiving someone who slights us. We can remember that this person may be stressed by COVID, a wildfire, a hurricane, or a hidden personal struggle. Kindness can mean asking a neighbor if they need anything from the store before running our essential errands. Maybe they can use the help but don’t want to ask. Or it can be as simple as reaching out by phone or video — not just text — to someone who lives alone. When we act with kindness and expect nothing in return, it is truly magical. We may even wonder why it took a pandemic for us to appreciate kindness.
We all have bottled up energy and unsettled feelings now and then, especially during these difficult times. Let’s use this pent-up energy to do some good in the world. Let’s choose kindness to build kinship and spread goodwill and find our way back to each other. Our precious planet and its mere-mortal inhabitants — us — require our very best. Now and always.