Not for the Money
What I'm about to share with you is not in any way insinuating that one's motive for showing kindness should be for getting something in return. At the risk of sounding altruistic, your motive should be altruistic.
I would venture to say that 75% or more of what I have in life, and that which is still coming to me, is a direct result of either showing kindness or a kindness shown to me.
This world sucks for a lot of people a lot of the time; perhaps even for you at times. Everyone needs a break sometimes, and sure, it's nice when that break comes to you - but what if you did that for others?
When I was 15, my dad left the family. My mom, younger brother and I moved to the Vancouver area to a tiny 2-bedroom apartment. My mom slept in the nook by the kitchen while my brother and I shared the bigger of the 2 rooms, The second 'room' was basically a closet. Our mom worked 3 part-time jobs simultaneously while me and my brother went to school. We eventually got little part-time jobs after school too. Things were tight.
Then, during grade 11, my mom had taken in a Korean student who was spending the last months of his freedom in Canada before he had to return home to go to prison for conscientious objection. What an amazing lesson I learned.
When I graduated high-school, some of my friends were going on an educational tour in Toronto and New York City. There was no way that I could ever afford to go and I accepted that. Some family friends of ours and theirs got together and paid for my entire trip AND arranged for a friend and I to stay an extra week back east with a wonderful Italian family! To this day, 20+ years later, I still don't know exactly who paid for the trip.
Our mom worked 3 part-time jobs simultaneously while me and my brother went to school.
Fairly Epic Story
Many years later, in 2017, while working for one of the best people I've ever worked for, who we'll call "J", I finished up another day of installing windows or skylights or some such thing in the late winter rains. I was just about a year into the throws of court, self-representing against jerk lawyer #1 (he was the ex's second lawyer but the first jerk; the first lawyer, however, was nice- there were 7 in total). "J" had hired me on casual/ sub-contract basis years prior and taught me so much about residential glazing. He paid me well and we still keep up as friends. Years later I'm still terrible at it... I should mention he is also very patient.
About 8 pm that late wintery evening I get a text from "J" that a family with 4 kids from Martinique has moved blocks from his home. They needed everything and asked if I had anything to spare like furniture etc. In fact I did. Another long story that also began with kindness, anyway, I threw a nice IKEA single bedframe and mattress, blankets and a number of other odds and ends I had about into the truck.
He paid me well and we still keep up as friends. Years later I'm still terrible at it... I should mention he is also very patient.
I was all excited to meet a family of native folk from Martinique. In my mind they were a black family with 4 small kids. Because the Island of Martinique is a French territory, I quickly memorized the phrase in French, "My name is Tony, I am a friend of "J" and I have a bed for you." In retrospect it was a bizarre introduction, but the best I had. I got to the address "J" gave me and waited anxiously for the door to open. To my surprise it was a young white woman, the oldest of four daughters, who spoke a little English. Undeterred, I blurted out my newly-learned French and was invited into their house. I don't blush easily but this time I felt like a walking cherry-tomato! In case you didn't know, depending on the region of France that a person is from, a different greeting is expressed. Papa wasn't home. They were from the kiss-on-both-cheeks-region. I received 10 kisses on arrival - you do the math. My ears were on fire. I fell in love with the whole family including the dad. I swear the mother could telepathically communicate with me - I feared and admired her.
I brought my kids to meet them, we shared meals together. I bought a minivan for them as they were renting a vehicle weekly which was the equivalent to leasing a Lamborghini. They paid me back. I helped them move, furnish their new place and get their previous slumlord after I opened a formal complaint with the Residential Tenancy Branch - a regulatory branch of the provincial government in BC that oversees rental units. We won. By this time I was working for myself as a sub-contractor with "J" and others. Work was slow, but nothing I wasn't used to. This came up in conversation one day and the French mama took it so personally she marched into the business where her husband worked and who sponsored him to Canada, and demanded that they hire me.
They did. I worked for the same company for 3 months or so before I no longer worked for them. First 10k.
During my brief stint as a regional salesperson for the fancy non-GMO French bakery where her husband worked, I met a miserable stick of a Frenchman. He, who we will call "Rotif", fought with everyone, hated the boss and didn't particularly like me. On one occasion when I asked him to prepare some samples for a sales meeting I had, he told me to, "F*(k off". All the other employees, even the nice ones, told me to ignore him and leave him be.
I'm terrible with "no". He became my pet project. I took him out for beers two weeks later, had it out with him and we became the best of friends. Unfortunately, he was fired a week later. Distraught, he looked desperately for a new job as he was on a temporary work visa which necessitated him to work to remain in the country. I re-wrote his resume, got him several interviews and schooled him how not to smoke like a chimney prior to an interview. Again, unfortunately, he couldn't line up a job by the visa cut-off time so he was forced to return to France. He had planned to stay in Canada so he had purchased a fancy ( fancy for me) car (2009 Hyundai Genesis 350 HP), a ton of kitchenware and the like - none of which he could reasonably transport to France. So, he gave it all to me. In the 1.5 years he was here, no one had taken him out or showed him an ounce of kindness.
About two years after he left, someone hit me when driving that car. The insurance company gave me the book value of the car as it was now a write-off. I tried to get hold of Rotif, but unfortunately never made contact with him again.
Rotif was one of the most generous, crazy and misunderstood people I have ever met. We all hurt. Sometimes people lash out at others because of this. The secret is not to take it personally. A wonderful person once said, "However...whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him."
Your ability to resist overreacting or taking matters personally is like a superpower. It always gives you the upper hand. Give people the benefit of the doubt, if only once, instead of immediately dismissing them as 'toxic'. There is a time to make that judgment call and cut them out of your life. What individuals do and say to you is more so about them, than you. Their reactions to you are colored by their experiences, perspectives and their emotional injuries. It is simply the lens through which they view the world.
Kindness can adjust their focus.
We all hurt. Sometimes people lash out at others because of this. The secret is not to take it personally
An epic, kinda movie-like, recent story
In mid 2019 I met a retired woman, quite by chance, who was an old family friend of my mom. I hadn't seen her for 29 years. She was from a small town some 400 km (250 miles) away where we had once lived for perhaps two years or less. We were at a local educational group I frequent when she recognized me once my name was announced. Let's call her Liz.
One of Liz' daughter's lived mere blocks from me and was going through separation and family court with a child caught in the crossfire. It naturally followed that I shared my experience. The details of the situation of her daughter's and mine were remarkably similar. Like me, her daughter, who we will call Tina, had got a protection order against the ex. This makes it necessary for the parent in question to have a supervisor present when they see their child. In time, Tina learned of this and approached me to be a supervisor. We met for coffee to discuss the details. Ex would be paying me (quite well) for these supervised visits. Days then weeks then months passed - nothing. Some 6 months later, I received a message from Tina asking if I could help out as a supervisor again. Sure, no problem. Days then weeks then months passed - nothing, again.
I wasn't offended, these things aren't always in the control of the asker. Though I definitely felt for her, I was beginning to think she was a bit flaky. And, well, hey - it's tough to balance being a single parent and all the crazy ex drama. I had kept in touch on and off with Tina's mom, Liz, by text though 2019 and into 2020.
Fast forward another 4 months or so and we arrive at August 2020. Liz asks me to help her and Tina with a task to get some equipment back from the ex from a business they had both been involved with. It went well, and only took a couple hours. Liz offered to pay me for the time, but I refused. I still had no idea what Tina did for her work or business. I mentioned in passing to Liz that I repair machinery in case some of her daughter's stuff needed fixing. With the task finished, we went our separate ways.
Three more months passed and Tina got hold of me to see if I could work on a couple small machines. I got them running in a very short time. It wasn't worth charging for so after exchanging war stories, she took the machines and before leaving mentioned that she really wanted to get the business online. If only she knew someone who did websites... I mentioned I do that too. We exchanged email addresses and I said I would do a mock-up for her and the other business partners. If they liked what they saw, we could go ahead.
They liked what they saw. It went ahead, and then some.
The Cool Part
Now, what I didn't know was that this 'little' company had grossed over a million dollars annually several years of its 15-year tenure. That Tina was the founder (and a tenacious one at that), that it was featured on the Dragon's Den and that the company partners + ex had tried a coup d'état. Tina was in such a state because she was fighting on all fronts with very very limited support. Yet again, few people, if any, lent a helping hand.
Soon after the draft site was accepted, I got to work. The site went live.
Hours after the site went live, orders were coming in. Tina's company did so well offline that it already had a cult following. Oddly, they were never online except for a single page site that said "For orders call ### or email @company.com". Nothing more. Tina couldn't cope. She just looked at me and said, "could you handle all the online orders?". We wrote up a contract and I hit the ground running.
She then came up against the biggest trial (literally) of her life. A 3-week Supreme Court trial against her ex to protect her children and the business partners who had sided with her ex. This poor woman has been through a hell that I shudder to imagine. She had been dragged to court 35 times previous to the trial by her narcissistic ex in the span of two and a half years. She was the business. By this time, I was fairly involved with assisting her. When she asked if I could take over while she went to court, I stepped up. What she didn't know is that I HATE full-time work. It goes against everything I stand for. But I did it anyway.
Running this business was more than full time.
She made me a key to the shop. She gave me credit cards, her car (fancy hybrid), access to email, computer and told all the other distributors, vendors and employees I'm in charge of everything. Oh, and basically no instructions. Whoa! In the first week of her absence, I shipped out just over $35,000 in orders as well as handled EVERYTHING else (this was in the middle of her slowest time of year!). My goodness that woman works hard! This was such an awesome learning experience. She unknowingly gave me the three things I thrive on; trust, responsibility and the latitude to do things my way.
After the trial was all said and done and when the dust had settled, I gave it all back to her in better repair than I received it. She wrestled back the company from the partners and the ex and placed what they foolishly tried to steal from her in my hands. She is an amazing female entrepreneur.
Today, I have another amazing home-based business. I love what I do, though it's not the only thing I do. My kids pack all the orders and get paid for it, so they are learning at a young age the value of work. I've also made at least two more good friends.
I could go on, but then you probably wouldn't like me.
Lessons learned and the takeaway
Kindness is taught by example and kind actions are a learned behavior. It is comfortable to receive but often uncomfortable to give.
Kindness pays continuous and generous dividends from seemingly insignificant investment; however it must be genuine and shown without the hope of reciprocity.
I've learned that you really never know just how powerful the butterfly-effect of your small kindnesses can be; it can inspire others to be the same, heal a broken heart