A couple of months ago I received an email from The Daily Stoic congratulating me on signing up for the New Year, New You Challenge. I knew immediately who it was from…. My wife, Hill, clearly thought my New Year’s goals were lacking and this was the motivation I needed to get on track!!! Thirty days, thirty challenges. I nailed the first three days – took a cold shower, wrote out a mantra, and quietly quit doing something. After that it was pretty hit or miss (don’t tell Hill, it was mostly miss). But I alway enjoyed the insights from the stoics and the thoughts Ryan Holiday shared.

A quote from Seneca on day ten of the challenge has stuck with me.

“There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbor, has not benefited himself…The reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves. For they are not practiced with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it. I am grateful, not in order that my neighbor, provoked by the earlier act of kindness, may be more ready to benefit me, but simply in order that I may perform a most pleasant and beautiful act; I feel grateful, not because it profits me, but because it pleases me.”

There are proven, scientific benefits of kindness. But what I think is more important is the genuine feeling of well-being when performing or receiving a true act of kindness. Apart from the joys of life’s most significant events, nothing has brought me greater meaning and happiness than being the recipient of an act of kindness. Nothing has lifted me up higher than when I have been of genuine service to someone in need. I love this:

The reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves.

I’m reminded of a story that happened a number of years ago. I had just finished up some work and was getting on the freeway to meet up with a friend. As I looked over my shoulder to merge I noticed a car broken down on the side of the road and a girl looking at the tire. I was running late, and tried to justify that someone else would be by to provide assistance. I quickly decided that I needed to help her out. As I approached the car I could tell she was quite distraught (as this was a time before cell phones were universal). She was traveling from out of state with her two baby girls, and she had no idea how to change a tire. She had no way to call for help. Changing the tire was an ordeal and took me quite a bit of time. I missed the appointment with my friend, but drove away feeling gratitude for the experience of offering the gift of kindness. She had asked for my address, but I thought little of it. Two weeks later I received a card in the mail with a picture of her little girls, their handprints, and a brief note thanking me for being their guardian angel. A small act of kindness meant the world to this young mother. Clearly that day over twenty years ago still affects me.

Acts of kindness don’t have to be big to make a difference. You never know what others are going through and how you treat them can affect them positively or negatively. So today, remember to be kind. Help someone in need. Tell someone you’re grateful for their friendship. Offer a smile. Show gratitude. Pay a compliment. Send a thank you note. Shovel some snow. Reach out to a friend in need. 

I’m reminded of a famous quote by Aesop:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”