This article was written in 2016 for a website that is no longer live. I am republishing it here with some minor edits.
Sometimes the people that smile the most are the ones weighed down by the most pain.
That certainly was the case for me. Last month I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the most contradictory time of my life.
As far as most people could tell, I was happy. I was a performer. I was ambitious. I told jokes constantly–my favorites were terrible puns that’ll make you cringe.
10 years ago last month I was also depressed, alone, scared, and purposeless. I was suicidal.
But I fought it. I learned to manage it. I’m alive today, but that doesn’t change the fact that I was a contradiction of public joy and isolated brokenness during that time.
I was not unique in my battle with depression. Many people go through a phase where they’re searching out their identity and unsure if it’s true. The thing that allowed my contradictory lifestyle to run so long and so deep, though, was that I didn’t have any kind of foundation or support system to land safely on. I fell back into the depths each afternoon on my lonely walk back to an empty house.
I eventually found a safe place to land, and with a single cup of coffee bought for me by someone I hardly knew, I began to find and love my true self.
It took years to get to stability, and I still struggle with self-hate sometimes, but it was a start. A start is better than nothing.
Sadly, this is not the case for many people in this incredibly large and complex world we live in, and that’s why I do what I do. If a single, simple act of kindness was enough to pull me up from the grave, then surely the same can be done for others.
Earlier today I logged into Twitter and saw a post by John Sweeney, the Founder of the Suspended Coffees community. It said:
I think he’s right. Many people who talk about being kind stop at talking about it. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of talking about kindness and not actually do it.
But I think another part of the reason why that is such a problem is because people are looking for BIG acts of kindness that they can celebrate publicly. Acts of kindness that can change the entire world. We want to be remembered longer than 3 seconds in someone’s Facebook feed for our contributions to society, so we work and plan out our next big grandiose statement… or we get frozen in place waiting for the idea to come.
Not everyone practices what they preach because they often think it takes a lot more work than it really does to be kind. That’s the mindset we put ourselves in, and it’s the habitual lifestyle that we create.
It’s time to change that. And guess what–it’s incredibly easy.
“Not everyone practices what they preach because they often think it takes a lot more work than it really does to be kind. “
Kindness is not about making grandiose statements. It’s not about getting a video to go viral. The impact of kindness is subjectively defined its quality received by an individual, not by the objective quantity of recipients.
We make the world a better place not by trying to be remembered by the masses for our great acts, but by small, simple, humble acts that are remembered in the changed hearts of individuals we impact.
Sometimes people disagree with me, or comment in articles I write, saying that small acts of kindness like buying a stranger a cup of coffee only make the giver feel better about their truly shallow hearts. I laugh because I don’t know how they think they can possibly disagree with me. I am living proof that simple acts of kindness, though they might seem shallow, can actually have the most profound effect on someone.
A single cup of coffee changed my life. It saved my life.
Last year I had the great honor of presenting a TEDx Talk in a room full of Miami University students and Professors. My subject? Coffee: Each Life Changing Cup.
I talked specifically about this radical idea of simple kindness. I shared my story briefly about depression and my suicide attempts, and then I talked about how I beat it. How, because of a cup of coffee, I not only learned to love myself, but I made new friends, I met my fiance, I found my first place to live after being homeless, and I pursued a career that makes me feel fulfilled every single day as I serve others.
Kindness is simple. So simple, yet so impactful. Don’t get frozen in fear that you’ll mess it up–if you act with a genuine heart then the people you are showing kindness towards will see that heart and recognize the humble truth behind it.
To those of you who are feeling now the same things I did 10 years ago, there is hope. There is life. There is love, for you. And it can be found in simple acts of kindness shared with a stranger.
Featured Photo Credit: Pexels