We all have it in us to heal, and be healed
When was the last time you witnessed a random act of kindness? Perhaps it was a gift of food from a neighbor; a smile from a stranger; some hand-me-down clothes for your children; or just someone politely holding the door open. Whether physical or verbal, the true power of random acts of kindness spans beyond that moment of gratitude. They may be small, but such good deeds carry their weight; for many of us, they return to our happy stories for many years to come. Random acts of kindness have the power to re-connect us to the world we so often leave behind. Here, we explore how these unforgettable gestures hold the ability to delight and heal in unimaginable ways.
No loss is too small
Grief is something we will all experience at some point on our path; from losing a loved one to ending a relationship. How that looks and how that feels will be different for everyone. For one person, the loss of a childhood pet will only have a brief impact; for others, it could manifest into genuine trauma that lasts a lifetime. We all have very different relationships and interpretations of grief and of loss. Some of us find the strength to move on quickly; many of us will take years to begin that healing process. There is no end to the healing journey, of course. Yet it is possible to see the clouds part, and leave those darker moments behind. For some of us, the true path to healing begins with that first helping hand.
Far from home: the true power of random acts of kindness
I recently spoke with Laura Formentini, activist, non-profit photographer and author of the book ‘Twenty-one Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Growth and Healing’. Ultimately, it was through one particular act of kindness that empowered Laura to take the first steps of an impossible journey. Hailing from Milan, Italy, Laura’s charitable outlook and love of travel led her to some incredible places, giving back to both animal and human communities along the way. As a true believer of ‘love in action‘, Laura’s mission was to implement small acts of kindness to make the world a better place. Yet in August 2019 when far from home in Ethiopia, Laura received the unthinkable call that would change her life forever – together with the unexpected kindness soon to follow.
Grief is love with nowhere to go
As a symbol of peace, strength, and regeneration, it made sense for Laura to land on the olive tree for the title of her book. For during her stay in Addis Ababa collecting stories of positive transformation, Laura received a call to say her son had taken his own life. With a 35-hour plane journey back to Denver ahead of her, even the next few hours felt like an impossibility. Yet, while Laura waited patiently for her flight, it was the kindness of a stranger that gave her the strength to board it. As a volunteer from the village, this man comforted Laura, held her hand, took her to lunch, and to her favorite museum. He even called her ‘sister’, and made sure she never felt alone. Before leaving for her flight, Laura asked the man why he chose to help a complete stranger. The man simply laughed and replied: “It was my human responsibility.” Suddenly, Laura felt like she had somewhere to go. Without this random act of kindness, she couldn’t have taken that first step of the hardest journey she’d ever have to make.
Healing goes beyond just ‘acceptance’
It was through her writing that Laura was able to heal cathartically, and pay this man’s gift forward. Through this book, not only was Laura able to offer a lifeline to others, but she was able to embark on her own healing journey. While the Kübler-Ross model details the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance – Laura argues that sixth step of healing is the missing part of the puzzle. Is it by going beyond acceptance that transformation may truly take place. It was during this phase that Laura learned that while the physical form does not last, love – and the actions that we choose to take – live on forever. In this instance, Laura miraculously transformed the worst trauma imaginable into something beautiful.
In a world where you can be anything…
Be kind. When life feels unpredictable (as it does so often nowadays) it’s random acts of kindness that can help people feel connected. True connection comes from understanding the fact that being vulnerable is not only okay, but necessary during times of grief. Some people will never know the magnitude of their kindness, but they ultimately have the power to save someone’s life. It may not feel like it at the time, but helping someone in the smallest possible way can do more than restore one’s faith in humanity. It can pull us from the quicksand and remind us that whatever life throws at us, we are all worthy of living a joyful, purpose-driven, healed and happy life.