My friend and I were walking down the street in the Financial District when we passed a man with a sign saying “I’m homeless, please help. God bless.” He is there every day, and it is a surprise if he is not sitting in the same spot on the sidewalk on any given morning.
My friend didn’t have any money on her to give, but she smiled at the familiar man and said good morning.
His face LIT UP.
HEY SISTER! Your smile just made my whole day!
She was smiling so huge as she kept walking on, looking back and waving at him, saying thank you. You could tell her heart was filled all the way up at that moment, that such a simple gesture had made someone’s day. In that moment, she was a visible soul, not a body.
I think this story really speaks to the way that we are all responsible for the happiness of those around us. Our attitude rubs off on others, our attention does wonders for someone else’s well-being. It doesn’t take much in a material sense. It just takes your whole heart.
And, believe it or not, when you give your whole heart, you actually get to keep it too, only it’s 2 times bigger than it was before you gave it away.
You need to put your heart into each action you take as a leader, and also just as a person. I don’t mean drain yourself until you’re burned out. I simply mean that in every move you make, make sure it’s got a touch of genuine love and care. Believe me, if you remember this, even the most tedious of work can feed your soul a little, and those you work for and with will be better too.
You don’t need to be the most sunshiney person to do this, just be yourself, and open yourself up to everyone you come into contact with.
Want to try it? Here’s a few simple actions you can take to start the habit:
1. Every day for a week, write down one person you are grateful for. Even if it’s just “I am thankful that Joe helped me carry the props back to storage.” or “I really learned a lot from what Julie said in our Philosophy class.” And then, go and tell them what you wrote.
2. Say good morning to someone on your way to work every day. It could be a crossing guard, your barista, train conductor, a homeless person, or the elevator attendant.
3. When you see someone who looks confused, ask them if you can help them with something. The look of relief you might get will be worth it.
4. Ask “How are you feeling?” instead of “How are you?” People tend to respond to “how are you” automatically with “good.” Asking a slightly different question might get you a genuine answer that they really needed to share. (Shout out to my dad for this tip! He’s a mental health professional.)
5. Don’t say “busy” in response to “how are you?” You have effectively told the person asking to please leave you alone. Take a moment to answer honestly, and you might have a great conversation. And you’ll be giving someone your attention and love.
6.Make a joke to a stranger standing next to you in line at Starbucks. “This line is crazy, I need caffeine just to survive getting my coffee.” They may smile, they may ignore you, they may laugh a lot.
Just one smile releases endorphins – and that makes people feel happier. We all need a little boost throughout the day.
This post was originally published on the Swift Kick blog, but tweaked for student leadership.