On November 8, I will face an important and consequential choice. The decision I make that day will shape my future and possibly change the world.
Then, on the next day, November 9, I will face the choice again. And on November 10, too, and November 11, and pretty much every day after that.
I’m not referring to the upcoming presidential election, though certainly that’s consequential, too. I’m referring to the choice all of us face every day—the choice to be kind to everyone who crosses our path, whether or not we agree with their politics. The choice to reach out to someone in need, whether we have a little or a lot. We all can afford to be kind. The choice to be kind allows us to be an angel on earth.
Kindness, I’ve learned, exists all around us, if we take the time to look carefully. I’ve learned that the functions commonly ascribed to heavenly angels—godly tasks such as charity, compassion, forgiveness, guidance, assistance and love—are all tasks that we, as human beings, are fully capable of performing right here on earth. We can be each other’s protectors and messengers and guides—we can be the angels we so desperately need in today’s world.
My journey began way back on September 1, 1986. I was a 35-year-old sales executive in New York City, and one day I passed an eleven-year-old homeless boy panhandling on the street. I stopped and offered to take the boy—Maurice Mazyck—to lunch. That was it—a simple act of kindness. A cheeseburger, fries and a milk shake. But after that lunch, Maurice and I got together every Monday for the next four years, and many hundreds of times in the years that followed. We became friends.
Today our friendship is more than thirty years old and still going strong.
Since the 2011 release of my first book, An Invisible Thread, I have heard from hundreds of readers who were eager to share their own “invisible thread” stories with me. Their tales of chance encounters, unexpected friendships and heroic acts of kindness are amazing and inspirational—a Wall Street financier who gives a total stranger the greatest gift of all, the gift of time; a click of a garage door opener that creates a magical bond between a woman and two little girls; the poignant connection between a child who lived for only five hours and the twin girls she helped to save. The common theme that connects them all is the remarkable power of kindness.
I have heard story after story about the profound and lasting impact that kindness has on both the receiver and the giver of that kindness. “The act itself can be very small,” says Dr. Dale Atkins, a psychologist, author and kindness-expert who helped me with my newest book, Angels on Earth, which is a collection of some of the amazing stories I’ve heard. “If you can go to Africa to help, God love you, by all means, do it. And if you’re Bill Gates and you want to eradicate all disease, go for it. Most of us, however, don’t have those kinds of means.”
“But every single one of us can hold a door open for someone else. Or catch someone’s eye in the street and smile. Or say, ‘Hey, that color is perfect on you.’ Or if you’re a kid in a playground, every kid can say, ‘Why don’t you come and play with us.’ An act of kindness not only stops us from feeling powerless, it makes us feel powerful.”
This wonderful rush of empowerment is available to all of us, every day. It all depends on the choice we make when we reach the various turning-point moments in our lives. The times when a simple action or gesture, designed to benefit not us but someone else, can change the very course of two lives.
Imagine a world in which these acts of kindness happen often and everywhere—in which we recognize that we are not only connected to each other by invisible threads but also responsible for each other in big ways and small. Imagine a planet where we all realize we have the power to be angels on earth.
This election season has presented us with a choice that promises to shape our future, but the truth is we face just such a choice every day—the choice to look beyond ourselves and make a difference in the life of someone else. What choice will you make the next time you’re presented with an opportunity to be kind? Will you take advantage of that blessing?
Will you choose to be an angel on earth?