By Randall McNeely
In sharing the following personal experiences, I do so only to share examples of the blessings that can come from giving kindness. The names of neighbors have been changed to preserve their anonymity as much as is possible.
Some may think I’m crazy for calling snow a blessing, especially when we’ve just been dumped on. Yet, it is through snow that I and my family have received some of our greatest friendships.
Shortly after moving to Muscatine in 2014, a winter storm carpeted the area with a few inches of snow. When the snow stopped falling, I, along with my wife and children, did what we always do. We pulled out the shovels and got to work clearing the driveway and the walks.
While shoveling, a sweet older woman whom I’ll call Donna, approached us and asked if we would be willing to shovel their walk and driveway. They were paying for a service, but the service wasn’t satisfactory and she was concerned that either she, or her husband, might slip and fall on the remaining snow which often became icy. We were happy to oblige as we were planning on shoveling her walk and drive anyway. We have a tradition that wherever we live and snow needs to be shoveled, we make an effort to shovel our immediate neighbors.
That simple act of kindness led to a rich friendship with Donna and her husband Mike. They have come to know, like and trust us, and vice versa. That trust led Mike to seek our help when Donna needed an ambulance earlier this year. It put us in a position to provide neighborly service that would not have occurred otherwise.
How grateful I am that I didn’t say no to Donna’s request for help shoveling. Little did I know that saying yes would one day lead to the opportunity to save her life. While my gratitude is tremendous, Mike and Donna’s gratitude and kindness to us in return has known no bounds.
Shoveling neighbors’ snow opened the door to other friendships. We got to know our other neighbor Sherry and her husband John. Because of our friendship, we were there to comfort Sherry when John passed away and we’ve continued to help in simple ways. We’ve continued to be there and Sherry has been there for us as well.
Through shoveling random neighborhood walks and drives other doors to friendship have opened. I’ve gotten know our amazing neighbor Phil who always has a smile on his face and has become a regular snow shoveling buddy. I’ve loved it, especially since he has a snow blower.
I’ve also gotten to know Tom, Martin, Rick and Tim and several other neighbors on both sides of the street. When we have major snow storms, as occurred often last year, we get out and help each other out. A feeling of camaraderie has developed and we watch out for each other now throughout the year. Why? Because we are getting to know, like, and trust each other. Because of that trust, there is a different feel to our neighborhood that words can’t capture. It is there, yet indescribable.
So why am I sharing this? I share these experiences to show how simple acts of kindness to our neighbors can open the door to increased friendship, peace, happiness, greater collaboration, and greater safety as neighbors watch out for neighbors. That is what is happening in my neighborhood, and it can happen in yours. I am not suggesting that everyone take that same action in order to better get to know their neighbors. Shoveling is one of the things that works for us. It might work for you, or you might have a better idea.
What I am suggesting is that through simple acts of kindness each one of us can better get to know our neighbors and make our neighborhoods and, by extension, our already amazing community a much better place to live.
The key is to find what works for you.
Some people seem to have what I call a natural “kindness instinct. They always seem to have kindness at the top of their agenda.
The rest of us have to work harder at it. I’ve found a simple, yet powerful, method I use on a daily basis.
- DETERMINE to be a Kindness Giver
When you wake up, look in the mirror and say I will be a Kindness Giver Today!
- Think of and PLAN ways to be a Kindness Giver
Think about where you will be, who you will be with, and what you will be doing and plan potential ways to be kind.
- Look for and ACT on opportunities to be a Kindness Giver
As you go throughout your day be on the constant lookout for ways to be kind and act on them.
- INVITE and encourage others to be Kindness Givers
Actively invite and encourage others to be Kindness Givers.
Determine, Plan, Act, Invite – that’s it. Simple. Effective, Doable.
I am bold enough to promise you that as work through these steps you’ll find what works for you in your life and in your neighborhood. As you take action to be a catalyst for change in your neighborhood, I can also promise that you will be forever glad you did.
Has your life been touched by kindness in action, either giving or receiving? Do you have a story to share. If so, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
Please note that upon request, I am happy to change names to preserve anonymity.
If you would like a copy of Randy’s book. You can find it here.