Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Invisible Smiles In an Empty Flower Vase


--by twiceblessed, posted Oct 22, 2009
About a dozen college kids gathered around me after a talk on the 'spirit of service'. The theme of the talk was small acts of selflessness; they will not only make someone smile but also shift your entire perspective on life. That instead of obliging the receiver with your act of service, it is actually your privilege to get an opportunity to be kind.

For some, these are common sense ideas but college students generally don't think about these things. When you're in college, you're more worried about YOUR grades, YOUR job interviews, paying off YOUR loans, meeting YOUR significant other and so on. In our commercialized, image-driven world, it's only natural to take care of your things before you serve others.

So here I am -- a dozen folks asking me how to 'Be The Change', a stack of smile cards in my left hand and a commemorative bouquet of flowers idling in the chair next to me.

"Opportunities of service are everywhere, in every moment. We just have to open our eyes to them. That's the whole journey, to go from auto-pilot, zombie, i-have-my-agenda mode to being in the dynamic moment, coming alive and being real with all that's in front of you," I say with full confidence.

"Go out and do some smile-card acts. Something small. Pay for the toll for the person behind, pick up your neighbor's trash, appreciate a janitor, talk to a homeless person on the street. So many ways to serve." Everyone is fully tuned in.

Just then I saw the bouquet of flowers on the chair next to me and got pumped-up.

"Ok, hey, let's try something right now," I declare. I untie the beautiful bouquet and continue with my idea -- "Let's give a flower to a random person we appreciate, just because, and leave 'em a smile card to keep the spirit going."

It is such simple idea, it seems radical.

All of a sudden, excitment is in the air! We all brainstorm ideas of people to 'tag': "The bus-driver." "The receptionist." "My dorm mates." "The janitor." "A random student in the lounge." One of the guys takes a red rose and we wonder if it's ok for him to tag his girlfriend. :)

The flowers are distributed and everyone is excited to 'be the change', to make someone smile before they head back to study for their mid-terms the next day.

Of course, this is not the kind of the thing that Gandhi is known for, that history books write about Martin Luther King Jr., or that the Dalai Lama got his nobel prize for. Yet it is. As Mother Teresa once said, "You can do no big things. Only small acts with great love." All of a sudden, in some small way, everyone felt an exuberant naivete of somehow being linked to a lineage of these legends. Everyone parted ways with geniunely happy faces.

By the time I return, I logon to helpothers.org to post this story. Lo and behold, I see that someone has already ordered more smile-cards with this comment:

"I actually got some from an inspirational speaker that came to the University and I used them for the first time today. Where I was standing in the campus center holding some flowers that I had gotten, a girl came up to me and asked where I had gotten them and was wondering if she could get some. I just said "Here take mine." Then I gave her a card and went on my way. I left with a big smile on my face and I'm sure she had one too."

At home, I pause to look at an empty flower vase. And then, I see all the invisible smiles it contains.
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Readers Comments

Thaata wrote: Thanks for helping me come out of my depression. Being in this world full of such excited souls can i be lonely. Let me join you.
brighteyes wrote: TwiceBlessed...I love your story and your writing style....I can remember being in college and yep, was not thinking about RAOK...but hey any age can "be the change", make someone smile,
help someone out. You're added to my hero list...thanks for sharing & caring!
Smiles from Brighteyes
Jan wrote: AWWWW..thanks so much for the inspiration...bless you...Jan
Donna wrote: There is no better feeling than visitng the elderly at a nursing home. They are so greatful. It;s makes you feel real good inside!
ADEMI wrote: God bless you friend, don't stop doing this, one day the smile you give to people will catch up with you.
Dinesh Shah wrote: It is real 'LIFE'... I AM FROM 'LIFE' NGO
AND SEEN TOO MANY SMILES WHEN I AM AT RECEIVING END BY HELPING OTHERS ACTUALLY GOD HAS GIVEN ME AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE MY SELF CONSCIENCE
speedi wrote: wonderful idea..
plus it's always nice to visit shut in in our nursing homes,,just a few minutes of your time maybe the difference between making someone's day and the empty lost feeling many are left with....
Mo wrote: I agree full-heartedly with Patty!
Patricia wrote: That is so true the idea that "instead of obliging the receiver with your act of service, it is actually your privilege to get an opportunity to be kind."

We need to turn this around and when other people want to do us a favour we need to graciously accept. It is a shame that so many people are not comfortable accepting things and don't realise that they are giving pleasure to the person who is offering the service or item.

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