“That was so cool!” The Transformative Power of Human Kindness

11/03/2017 03:29 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2017
photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

Earlier this week I was getting my haircut at my favorite barbershop in Santa Barbara – Willies. It is no frills and I love going there for three reasons:

  1. They are in no hurry. This means that sometimes I wait and it also means that they give me their attention when it is my turn.
  2. They take their craft seriously. They give a good haircut for sure. More importantly, they talk to me. They ask me what’s going on in my life. They listen, and they tell me about what is going on in their lives.
  3. They are kind – really kind. They allow one person who is without a home to have her mail delivered there so she has a place to pick it up. On more than one occasion I have seen them give a haircut without charging for it. They warmly greet whomever pokes their head in the shop – whether that person is wearing a suit and tie or tattered clothes and no shoes.

On this particular day, a man with a long beard and no shoes poked his head in to say hello. My barber gave him a warm hello and asked him how he was doing. They chatted and the man asked if he could sit on the chair on the sidewalk just outside the door of the shop. “Of course, but it may cost you a sip of your drink.” They both chuckled.

Then, I watched as a sheriff’s deputy came by and started talking to the man sitting outside the door. I felt some tension in my body as I anticipated some kind of confrontation. Soon they were sitting next to each other laughing as if they were old friends. Then, they stood up, the officer put his arm around the man, and took several selfies of the two of them.

After several minutes, the deputy walked into the shop and said “that was so cool! That guy has an amazing story.” My barber agreed and even filled in some more details about the man’s life. The sheriff then proceeded to show my barber and me the pictures he had taken. He was beaming.

On one hand, this is not a big deal really. Just human beings with different life experiences being kind, open, and respectful to each other. On the other hand, I couldn’t help feeling that it stood in relief to so much of modern life. Either way, I felt blessed to be there at that moment.

Later in the day, as if the universe did not want me to forget all this, a reference to the Harvard Grant Study popped up on my newsfeed. This study has followed 724 men for more than 75 years. Some went to Harvard and some were from the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. The conclusion of the study? The director Robert Waldinger says “The clearest message we get from this seventy-five year study is this: Good relationships make us happier and healthier.” Being kind is good for you - go figure.

Simple mantra for the day:

For the gift of human kindness and connection – thank you.

May I make time to practice this today.

May all human beings experience this today.

The poem was written in a coffee shop after my haircut.

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