One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life, followed one of the hardest times of my life. For reasons that I won’t get into here, I was struggling at the time with immense grief and debilitating feelings of rage and hatred toward people that had wronged me in the worst way possible; my feelings were so dark and dangerous that they were frightening even to me.
I had no idea I was even capable of the thoughts that consumed my every waking moment; I consider myself to be a nice person – kind and considerate – and yet here I was obsessing about vengeance, revenge – making people pay for the hurt and loss they had caused me.
I had no idea what to do with the feelings, how to stop the thoughts, how to rid myself of what felt like a mass of writhing snakes that had taken up residence in my belly. I couldn’t seem to find my way out of the darkness and I knew that my whole way of being was not only taking a toll on me physically and emotionally, but was also affecting my family; how could it not with a wife and mother who had a face like a thundercloud, scowling constantly, and had such a short fuse that everyone walked on eggshells.
I remember vividly, the day it all changed. It was a particularly tough day and I was driving alone in my car. I was just so angry and hurt and hate-filled. I couldn’t contain the rage as the tears poured down my cheeks and I put out, what I now recognise, as a plea to the Universe.
“What do I do with these feelings?!!!!”
The answer came to me sooner than I could’ve imagined. I had to stop for fuel (because in the middle of an emotional breakdown the practicalities of life still happen!), and as I stood at the pumps a car pulled in opposite me. In the back seat were the smiling faces of some precious children. They waved at me excitedly and begrudgingly I smiled and waved back; and I noticed that even that simple act slightly adjusted and lightened my foul mood. As I walked into the petrol station, an idea crossed my mind – to do a Random Act of Kindness for the woman who was the Mum or Aunty that was driving the car with the children in it. I asked the attendant to please add the cost of her fuel to mine and paid for both amounts. As I walked out of the service station, I smiled at the woman that was about to come in and said “It’s all good – Random Act of Kindness. I’ve paid for your fuel today” She was clearly thrilled and thanked me profusely. I told her it was no big deal – it was only $15 – and wished her a nice day.
As I drove away in my car, I was suddenly struck by an amazing realisation! The black feelings had gone! Completely! I was so overwhelmed by the reality of what was dawning on me, that I pulled my car over to the side of the road. I had tears absolutely streaming down my face as I accepted the truth of the epiphany I had just discovered:
“Rage and hatred CANNOT exist in a space where there is love and kindness!!!”
In that moment I understood that I had the answer to my question of what to do with those horrible and persistent feelings – I just had to replace them, where ever possible, with as much aroha and kindness as I could rustle up; it really was that easy.
The lesson I discovered that day has been the most massive gift to me and really has changed my life. I am no kind of saint, so sometimes I still struggle with some pretty gnarly emotions, but now I know what I need to do; I immediately look outside myself and actively seek out acts of kindness to replace whatever black feeling I may be having. I sometimes even plan ahead now, for the days that I know are going to be extra hard for whatever reason.
The Random Acts of Kindness that I have undertaken in the last few years are as varied and as random as their name suggests; meals cooked and gifted to families in need; homemade cookies handed out in the ED waiting room; frozen cokes on a hot day to road-workers; trolleys returned at the supermarket; Pataka Kai stocked up with fresh food; grocery vouchers given to unsuspecting shoppers; flowers presented to strangers on the street. In each case people think that I am giving them a gift, but the truth is the biggest gift is the one that I receive from the giving – the return to a state of peace and gratitude within myself and a release from any negative feelings I may have had. How cool is that?!!!