On doing kindness

What comes first to your mind when you hear the word “kindness”?

Kindness photography. Cr: https://kelloggfamilyfoundation.com/

Is it a warm feeling surrounding your heart? Or is it something that makes you smile every time you think of it?

It’s a confusing question, I know, because it could be something so much more than that. But if I change the question to: “What is your purpose in doing kindness?”, what will your answer be? I guess everyone in the world has their own answer, their own purpose(s) on doing kindness.

I’ve been thinking about kindness quite a lot lately: its whole concept, feeling, meaning, and purposes. I know when I’m thinking about kindness, I’m thinking about something that does not have a concrete answer. Maybe I’m just going to running around in circles, endless and pointless thinking.

I’m not going to say that kindness is an abstract concept, it is more likely a subjective concept that everyone has. Everyone surely has their own concept of kindness, whether it’s doing or receiving kindness. We all have our own concept of kindness. Maybe for some people, kindness is to act kindly to other people, to be friendly, generous, or considerate. But for other people, kindness is so much more. Kindness is about affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care. And I know that some people out there also have this concept of kindness: to act kindly and doing those things for people without expecting something in return.

On the other days, I get hung up on the idea of “being taken for granted”. In sum, it is a feeling of lack of appreciation or feeling of gratitude by other people when or after we do nice things or kindness for them. This idea is widely used in contexts that intersect with doing kindness. Let’s say we act kindly to other people, be it showing affection, care, or else. But instead of being appreciated or they are being thankful for what we have done, they do or say nothing as if it never happened, or even worse they despise it. If so, then we are being taken for granted.

I hate to think about the idea of “being taken for granted” itself. And I thought if that idea existed in our life, then should we separate the concepts of kindness and sincerity? Even though I know, it’s all about the intention of the act itself.

So I asked all my friends for the answer: “Have you ever feel like you are being taken for granted?”, “How would you feel if you are being taken for granted? Not being acknowledged or appreciated for whatever you have done for other people? Will you feel offended, sad, mad, or else?”, “What was the point of doing kindness? And how should you feel afterward?” …..and many other questions. Some of my friends giving me the exact thinking that there should be a separate concept between kindness and sincerity, that it’s all about the intention. My other friends told me that the feeling of being taken for granted is a normal, humane feeling. And just because one’s feeling like they are being taken for granted, it doesn’t always mean they are doing kindness insincerely, but we, as humans, we crave the feeling of being validated and appreciated by other people. And maybe, by feeling taken for granted is one of the ways we seek them.

Sometimes I wonder how all the great selfless people I know feel after they did a big meaningful act for other people. I won’t say “kind act” anymore because it’s something much more than just a kind act. You can call it heroic but all I know is their act has taken a big sacrifice of themselves, be it their time or even lives.

One of those people I met before is someone who sacrificed his life to save others when the tsunami hit his place back at the end of 2018. His leg was caught by a fallen tree as he tried to save himself after evacuated the tourists back then. He almost got rolled back by the waves to the ocean, but thankful he survived. When I asked him what was on his mind when he acted like that, he said all he knew was that he was only being responsible for his duty to look after the tourists while they are in his place. Even the only thing he remembered when he almost rolled back to the ocean was that by him saving others by risking his life, he had fulfilled his life principle: to be useful to others.

I know and I firmly believe that there is a great motivation and desire behind his action, something even greater than any measurable material reward. I am sure, he is also an ordinary human like us who has fear. But I wonder, how does he feel after doing such a big act? And if it’s not the human reward or recognition he hoped for, did he still feel he was being taken for granted for his actions?

Sometimes I am confused and ashamed whenever I feel like being taken for granted by others. I try to remember his story and how big his heart is for other people. I try to remember the other big-hearted people I have known in my life: those who sacrificed their time to establish taman bacaan and foundations, those who during this pandemic has helped many people directly, those who sacrificed their wealth without a doubt for the sake of the welfare of others. I know I’m still nothing yet compare to them, and maybe what I’ve done isn’t much, but how come I feel that way?

Maybe I should have stopped myself from thinking, or contemplating too much about kindness. If there is an action that I knew is good and would help and be meaningful for others, I should have just done that without question things anymore.

If I ever caught myself being sad for feeling like I’ve been taken for granted, I have to remind myself that there is no kindness ever wasted. Maybe it will not get acknowledged and appreciated by people, but I know that kindness itself will be recycled and circulates around the universe. I might not know much about the concept of karma, but I believe that every good deed that a person has done, will find it ways to back to them.

In the middle of my contemplation, I watched a good video by Kurzgesagt. It’s an animated video of a short story called “The Egg” by Andi Weir that was published in 2009. There is a quote in his work that really enlighten me and I love so much:

“Every time you victimized someone, you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

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