Susan Jeffers

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Words of Wisdom From the Archives
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Adapted from the works of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

''The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.'' Kahil Gibran

Remember that time when you saw a stranger drop their wallet as they were walking away and you rushed over to give it back to them? Remember how thankful they were for your kindness? Do you remember that little glow you felt in your heart afterwards?

Acts of caring have a transformative power. Susan said, ''Caring is another way of projecting light.'' When we perform an act of caring, we are creating more love in the world and we are forging a connection to another person - even if we never see them again.

We're not talking here about caring in the big sense - as you would for your friends and loved ones. The caring we're talking about are the small acts of kindness that we do for strangers, acquaintances, or anyone who comes into our lives ever so briefly. Even helping animals or plants. Saving a bee from drowning is an act of caring. Everyone and everything is deserving of caring acts.

Smiling and saying hello to the homeless person you pass on the street. Helping an elderly person put their groceries in their car. Offering sympathy and patience to the sales clerk that is overwhelmed. Putting out your neighbor's trash cans because you know they work late. There are thousands of ways we can offer acts of caring every day. Each time we offer caring and kindness to others, we are lighting up our soul. Susan wrote in Dare to Connect:

How easy it is to bring the light of the Spirit forth! One simple act of caring and the whole world is transformed right before our very eyes.

So why do we shirk from caring when one small gesture can make a difference in the lives of others and in our own? As Susan wrote, when we act with caring, ''Everyone is touched, uplifted, and comforted. Everyone connects with love. So why are acts of caring not glaringly abundant in our society?'' Here are her answers to that question:

  • To care requires that we keep our heart open.
  • To care requires taking responsibility.
  • To care involves the possibility that we are needed.
  • To care requires giving the gift of ourselves.

An open heart means that we are open to everything, including pain. When our hearts are open, we have a deeper understanding, and a deeper feeling, of what it means when we come across a sick person begging for money, when we see a hungry child, or an elderly person stumble and fall. When our hearts are open to other people's experiences, we can't help but be a part of their pain as well as their joy.

Often, we don't want to take the responsibility for their pain - it's too difficult and we are already so busy. Responsibility, in this context, of offering acts of kindness to others doesn't mean an obligation for other people's happiness. It simply means that we know that our interactions affect other people and we approach that responsibility with awareness. So even when we are running late and our take-out order still isn't ready, we take a deep breath and smile at the person behind the counter and tell him that it's alright. A little bit of giving on our part can make the difference in that worker's bad day.

But if we do that, doesn't that mean that we are needed, that what we do affects other people? Yes, yes it does, and that can be a scarier thought than opening our hearts! It is putting our responsibility into action. It means being the ''grown up'' in our own lives and reaching out to take care of others. When we know that we are needed, we live with our open hearts and take seriously our responsibility to others.

Yet we still persist in thinking that we have nothing to give. This is simply not true. We all have something to give and we know it, even if it's hidden under all those powerless thoughts. When we know that we have something to offer it connects us and grounds us. It shows us how each of us can touch another life in a powerful way, no matter how small the act.

When we accept Susan's answers to the question of ''Why don't we care more?'', we know that our lives warmly touch dozens, if not hundreds, of other lives every day. As Henry James said, ''Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.''

We know that we can make a difference to those we come across. Kindness towards others is a universal language. Susan teaches us:

We can bring a quality of caring to all our human exchanges, whatever they may be. We innately thirst for the feelings that come from acts of caring. They make us feel useful, connected, Spiritually whole. Acts of caring make life worth living. A life of emptiness can be transformed by a life of caring. It takes so little... just a little attention off the self, the opportunity to say to someone else, ‘Hi, I'm here. How can I help you on your journey on this very strange planet?

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