Did you ever take a family road trip where all the family members set a collective intention of performing acts of kindness? Few years ago, I started this new and constructive habit of aligning my energy with kindness and sincerely looking for opportunities to serve during my solo or group road trips. For starters, I would pack cereal bars, jackets and other small items and distribute them to our homeless friends on the street. Sometimes it was an elderly man waiting at a light with a board seeking food or a lost young adult pondering if anyone cares. Even though I carried on these acts of kindness, nothing was more impactful than my Christmas road trip from San Diego to Mt. Shasta, California.
Here is my entry from my Kindness journal, Dec. 2014.
"Today, I was driving from SanDiego to Sacramento and felt a calling to share the winter clothes I was carrying in my car. Upon arriving at the outskirts of Sacramento, I checked straight into the cold and windy deserted streets. I rigorously searched for many miles but could not locate a single homeless person. Suddenly, my awareness was drawn to a security guard outside a store and he kindly guided me to the location of the local homeless around the vicinity. It was an absolutely deserted street with minimal lighting and my eyes spotted a gentlemen and couple of others in the dark alley -- "would you like some sweaters?" I asked them with a sweet tone. It was one of the coldest nights here in Sacramento (below freezing) and as I stepped out of my car, the wind chill froze my bones. Even in the dark alley, their eyes lit up with joy, as if I was Santa unpacking Christmas presents -- "Oh I like that one!" said one of the ladies. I gave her a jacket that perfectly fit and she giggled with joy at this unexpected gift on a cold night. Perhaps the warmth of LOVE was the only comforting factor for all us. After all the three people received the goodies, I also handed them some food and bid them farewell -- "Much love, please take care." I was happy that I arrived at the precise point on such a cold night to provide these sweaters. I could not locate the guard who guided me to them! And I smiled at the heavens! Hey! It's Christmas, magic is in the air!"
The big AHA moment I had after this event? This was not a random act of kindness. I felt consciously inspired to act, explore and serve. Thus, I have learned to call them conscious acts of kindness. Yes, I diligently and consciously wrote about every act of kindness in my journal and realized integrating kindness with gratitude is a powerful way to experience genuine satisfaction and joy. You never know how your simple story might inspire others.
I recently came back home to Bangalore (India) to spend some time with my dear family and friends and was super excited to take a road trip with my parents. I understand many folks are not excited to take road trips with parents! But I am super grateful to have parents who have lovingly fostered my kindness and remind me to align my energy with LOVE during our road trips. It's a family tradition where in all are required to participate. To give you a fresh example we (mom, dad and me) drove from Bangalore, India to Puttaparthy, India for a few days.
On our way dad pointed out many shepherds who walk long distances on country roads with large flocks of sheeps, goats and cows. Initially I was amazed to experience the Indian country side after living for a long time in the states and found the sights of animals on the road fascinating. I laughed out loud as my hands barely touched the flock of sheep from my car window.
Right at that moment, I aligned my intention of serving these simple and humble shepherds who mostly come from economically challenged backgrounds.
On our way back I reminded my dad about our promise to serve the shepherds and walked up to the bakery and packed some cakes, veggie sandwiches and water and packed them into separate bags. We thought many of these shepherds can't afford to enjoy a good dessert and they may love it (be creative). They say nothing is more powerful than a selfless thought and the universe presented us with many opportunities to meet these folks on the road. Firstly, a group of shepherds herding a large flock goats rushed to our car and accepted the goodie bags with love. You are blown away by their simplicity and humility to accept loving gifts from total strangers! I think there is genuine trust in their eyes as they connect with your selfless intention and a smile breaks upon their tired faces. My dad instantly pointed out to me -- "See how happy they feel to receive such a simple gift? Their smiles bring us happiness!" A lesson for parents to re-affirm the positive message when the child is doing something good, as I have noted that we humans have become really good at catching people when they are doing something wrong.
A few more miles ahead a little girl walking in the hot sun with her grandma giggled with happiness to accept desserts -- "What! A cake! In the middle of the road!" her innocent face lit up with a smile. But the most amazing encounter was yet to happen! I pointed out to Dad this women who was walking on the corner of the country road with a big pile of dry sticks on her head. You instantly realize the strength of India is defined by these incredible and hardworking women. My dad called out to her from the car window and she walked towards the car, barefooted with a heavy pile on the head and I got a glimpse of her tired face. We rolled down the window and my mom gave her a goodie bag with water. Boy! I can tell you her face totally transformed with a smile and she felt cared. It's at the core of all human needs -- does anyone care for me? If you imagine yourself in her shoes, I guarantee that you'll experience the thrill when someone offers you care in the middle of a highway, when you almost gave up! This is totally unexpected for the recipient and recent scientific studies have shown that those who are recipients of unexpected acts of kindness are more likely to pass on that same energy to others.
My father says that we add real value to a road trip with genuine acts of altruism, something which most Bollywood (Indian cinema) movies miss. I grew up watching many of these in which the protagonists are solely focussed on having a good time for themselves without a care or concern for fellow beings. Eventually, they run out of pleasures and are caught up in a cycle of ups and downs. Yes, you can add an extra boost of lasting happiness to your road trips with random or conscious acts of Kindness. It can be as simple as saying something positive and kind to someone, a hardworking waitress, a janitor or your own family members.
They say a family that prays together, stays together. This fantastic philosophy can be expanded to selfless service too: A family that compassionately serves together, stays together with LOVE.
- Pack thank you cards and sweetly pass them on to the people you meet on the road trip. Parents can also ask the children to decorate the cards.
- Maintain a kindness + gratitude journal. Sometimes gratitude journals can focus on what we received and by integrating our stories of kindness we also document what we have shared with others.
- Parents can involve children to be consciously aware of their environments and how they can be kind to others. They are closely watching you.
- The most simplest way to be kind during your road trip is to share a positive word or an authentic smile. Hey! even wave at your fellow cars with a goofy smile.
- Before you step outside the door, set an individual or group intention to experience happiness by being kind to yourself and others. From my experiments, group intentions work like magic! even the negative ones -- "Oh no! we are going to experience so much traffic today," vs "Let's all be kind to one another."
- Explore and meet new people with warmth and expand your comfort zones by finding new and creative ways to share just like my parents.
- When you are feel frustrated with traffic during your road trips, instantly switch your thoughts to gratitude. You are in an air conditioned car that takes you around, there are millions on the planet who may never experience this privilege, wow! so let's be kind and grateful.