Kindness Bio — Spread the Ripple — Zeenat Merchant Syal
Kindness heals, kindness matters
1} what does kindness mean to you?
Kindness according to me is, Love in action. There is this very pure space within each of us where love resides. It's a space that is untouched by the world and all its impending negatives. It's a pure and loving space. This is where kindness stems from and spreads its wings. And this is why when someone is kind, I know it comes from a space of purity that is almost Divine.
2} what’s a particularly kind gesture someone has done for you?
Many years back, when I was in the middle of getting a divorce from a very violent marriage, I was carrying a huge sum of money and important paperwork by the local trains in Mumbai to reach the divorce attorney. This was in the middle of the heavy monsoons that hits Mumbai once a year. While I was traveling by train and was careful about all the money and paperwork I was carrying(being hyper-aware of the petty robberies), I got off at the stop I needed to be at. It was pouring cats and dogs. Somehow gathering my stuff, I tried to hail a taxi to reach the lawyer's office. Not one taxi would stop, because of the heavy rains.
In that interim, as I was trying to look through my bag, I realised there was a hole at the side of my bag and the envelope of huge sums of money was missing. My heart stopped, my eyes filled up and I sat there on the footpath and cried for what felt like forever. I thought I was going to end an especially painful chapter of my life, by finalising the divorce which had taken me more than a year to bring to a conclusion. And, just when I thought I would finish paying the lawyer so he could finish the final leg of the nightmare THIS happens.
I think after crying for the longest time a taxi driver stopped next to me. He asked me if I needed to get somewhere. I told him I needed to go to the lawyer's office and then home, but I told him in between tears that I had no money and was robbed on the train. He pointed at the closest public phone booth (this was not a time when cell phones were normal)and urged me to call home. I called mom and she simply told me to “get home asap!”. The taxi driver spoke to my mom and paid for that call. He asked me to check if all my other belongings were intact. Thankfully all the paperwork needed was still untouched.
He took me to the lawyer where I explained the situation and then he took me home. All the while I was simply in a numb state. He reached my home, safe and sound. I asked him to wait while I got the money from home to pay him his fare for the five hours he drove me in heavy rains. He insisted I was like his daughter and he couldn’t do that. I still asked him to wait while I got him the fare and that I couldn’t thank him enough.
As I got back to him, he refused to take the money, but he said, “I don't want you to think that just because one human robbed you, that all humans are bad. Remember that and God will take care of the rest. Keep me and my family in your prayers.” And with that, he left.
I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me if this stranger would not have come and rescued me on that stormy evening. And I don’t know what possessed me at that moment to even trust him enough to go sit in his car! But something about that stormy night, while it left me shaken, it also left me with faith in the power of human kindness.
3} what is one of the kindest things you have done for another?
For me giving of myself and my time to something bigger than myself always felt good. This led me to start working with and providing mental health support to victims of domestic violence and victims of suicide.
Another daily kindness habit: making eye contact — that’s a big one for me, and something I notice myself trying to do more. I realized that true eye contact is an intimate thing to give and receive from another. The eyes are the window to the soul, and perhaps if more of us engaged in these intimate eye contact exchanges, our world would blossom more soulfully. It’s hard for me — sometimes I feel like I’m being “caught” or I get shy or I’m unsure of myself. So eye contact makes me feel vulnerable with strangers. But I’m learning, And, when I do make myself vulnerable like that, the rewards I get are remarkable. The ripples from that connection are immeasurable. I often get told by clients and friends, “You make me feel like I am the most important person in the world.” It might not be the kindest thing to do, but in my small way, I feel like I’m making a difference.
4} how do you show kindness to yourself?
Coming from a space of being bullied in high school and developing severe body image issues, it has been very hard for me to learn to be kind to myself. But, I’m getting better at it now in my forties! I give myself alone time daily, to recharge and introspect. I don’t belittle myself for the mistakes I humanly make. I show myself respect and kindness no matter how shitty I may be feeling about the externals in the day. I make sure I give myself a treat every time I achieve something big(nurturing my inner child!). No more do I wait for external validation. I’m my own cheerleader now. This amount of self-love and compassion comes after years of self-healing. Most of which came because of helping others heal.
5} what is your favorite book, film, or poem with strong messages of kindness?
Like Ali Hall, my all-time favorite “kindness” movie is Patch Adams. But, The Pursuit of Happyness comes a close second. I’m a sucker for true stories of triumph over all odds. This is one movie that shows the journey of someone who is literally down in the dumps(homeless) and how he single-handedly didn’t lose hope and became a business tycoon. Never ever losing his authentic self which was kind and compassionate. The story is of Chris Gardner who is famously known as the homeless salesman, who made it big. Will Smith who played Chris in the film was nominated for an Oscar for his role. It's stupendous!
A quote I love and has become my mantra for life: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”~ Mother Teresa
❤ With Love, Zeenat Merchant Syal, M.A, M.Sc
Zeenat Merchant Syal is a Practicing Counseling Psychologist & Spiritual Counselor. She writes on Healing the Mind, Heart & Soul through Positivity & Self Love on Positive Provocations & offers Online Counseling there too.
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