It might be a weird source for learning life lessons, but I think the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas has an awesome lesson for us. In short, the Grinch has a heart that is two sizes too small. But once he “puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore” and figured out that helping others is a better option than hurting them, his heart grew three sizes and he goes on to give back things he stole and celebrate Christmas with his former foes.
To bring this back out of Whoville and into the real world, I have two quick thoughts on helping others and then I’m going to leave you with a challenge for the week.
1- You might think that helping someone in a small way doesn’t really matter, but it does.
I saw a beautiful thing at Disneyland last week. I saw a dad climb onto the flying swings ride with his five-year-old son. It’s the ride that spins around and sends you out over the edge of the platform. The height requirement makes it so that a smaller rider has to have a grown up with them. The dad was obviously nervous, and when the ride started he quickly covered his eyes with his hands, clenched up and stayed that way for the whole ride! However, his son was over-the-moon that he was soaring high. His arms were up and he was simply joyous to be there.
The dad’s small act of sucking it up and overcoming a fear of heights for a 40-second ride did a lot more than we might think. That boy got to do the ride, and that’s great. But the bigger thing I saw was that the boy saw his dad do something that made him uncomfortable so that his son could have a slice of happiness. That lesson is something he might not have noticed consciously, but I’ll bet it left a subconscious groove that will forever change him for the better.
I want to drive this home by saying this: you have no idea what someone else is going through. Your small act of kindness might be the one thing that helps them get back on their feet. It might seem insignificant, but it’s the right thing to do and it could change that person’s whole outlook on life.
2- Helping others builds you up too.
Did you know that the ability to help others can be exercised and grown just like a muscle? It’s true. Did you know that when you help others you will 100% of the time feel better about yourself as well? Here is an article that I loved reading. The conclusion is that generosity and gratitude create an upward spiral of well-being. It even talks about the actual parts of the brain that are activated when helping others, and a bonus is that the studies are done with functional MRI’s – one of my favorite (nerdy) technologies! I’m not proposing that we should do random acts of kindness only so that we can feel better, but it is definitely an awesome side effect. As your self-esteem climbs, you are able to access levels of energy you had forgotten about, and see things in ways that are more positive and productive.
I want you to do a random act of kindness this week with absolutely no expectation of return favors or payment. The only rules are that it has to be for someone who can’t possibly pay you back, or done anonymously. I want you to feel that feeling that may have been dormant for a long time. Lift someone up by paying for their groceries or their Starbucks, by helping with a repair on their home, by filling a financial need, by sending them flowers, or any other way you can think of helping them. The only goal here is that I want you to feel your heart “grow three sizes”. I believe that if you do this once it might wake something up in your brain and heart that has been forgotten. It’s so easy to get caught up in life that we forget that we are closely tied to those around us and that the world is a better place when kindness, not selfishness, is the dominant attitude.
Let’s end selfishness and self-centeredness in our own lives, I’ll bet it will spread to those you help.
Let’s end average together.