Extreme Kindness

Extreme Kindness

Kindness as a first reaction.

While attending university in Victoria several years ago I had an experience that shaped the way I participate in compassionate action.

It had been a particularly wearisome week and I was marching across the expansive Uvic campus with my nose buried in a book. I was pretty tuned out to the rest of the world. My directive was clear: ‘Get to my next class with as much speed, as little distraction and the maximum information stuffed into my already gorged cranium’ I skipped quickly across grassy knolls and sidewalk curbs taking the most direct route possible. I was just hitting near perfect pace when my cadence was instantly broken.

“Attention! Arrt!” A voice boomed. I halted, spun around and instantly was nearly sucked from the curb (which I was apparently traveling over), by the wind from a passing delivery truck!

When I had regained my balance I was facing a young man, my age, with a slightly embarrassed expression on his face.

“I mean…Watch out!” he said with a smile and a nervous laugh, having blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.

I let out a nervous laugh myself as the blood began to rush back into my face.

We both stopped for a few minutes to talk and laugh. I thanked him for saving me from certain truck grill mutilation. Stunned but joyful, we shook hands and went our separate ways.

Upon reflection of this episode I realized how imbedded within the human programming it is to help. We all have it. It’s the first inclination to take action, (in any language) to help when the situation dictates, even with total strangers. Marc Ian Barasch describes this reaction in, “Field Notes on a Compassionate Life” when he sites interviews Holocaust rescuers. When asked to describe why they would endanger their own lives to harbor Jews from the Nazis one rescuer simply stated, “The hand of compassion was faster than the calculus of reason.”

I realized that when my Qubequois compatriot yelled out he did so because he believed that it was important enough to act immediately. Forget embarrassment? You bet. When choosing to act, he didn’t even engage it. He just moved on that first compassionate impulse. Given that we all have those immediate notions isn’t it important enough to act immediately for the betterment of the planet? To act on these impulses or at the very least promote them within the hierchary of your decision making process?

So, here is my challenge for this week:

Pay attention. Listen to you initial impulses. Be brave and engage in impulsive, heartfelt and compassionate action.

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31 Responses to “Kindness as a first reaction.”

  1. Christopher Says:
    July 21st, 2006 at 10:52 am

    Great blog Erik.

  2. Laura Says:
    July 24th, 2006 at 2:04 am

    HEY!!!!! I’m Laura from The Waratah Girls Choir, Australia who, if you dont remember,you guyz showed around in Victoria while we were on our trip to Canada!!!! I suddenly remembered this afternoon about your website & its AWESOME!!! I have told ALL my friends about you guyz & i wear my blue arm band with pride! :-) You do an awesome job & if there were more people in the world like you guyz the world would be a WONDEFUL place!

  3. Jen Says:
    July 24th, 2006 at 10:52 am

    Be brave. Easier said than done much of the time … at least for me. I like to think I am a self-confident person, secure in my self, but often times I find myself holding back from an initial impulse, scared of what others will say or think, how they will judge me. How much life and love have I missed because of this? Lots probably. And all for opinions that in the end matter naught.

    Your challenge for the week connects nicely with Brad’s blog about positive risks. Being brave can be a risk, but the rewards can be phenomenal.

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