Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Turtle Who Taught Me Kindness

--by Michael Chase, posted May 26, 2008
Life is good, really good. Sometimes I feel like the good karma train picked me up, and simply refuses to let me off. I have an amazing wife, a teenage son that makes me glow with pride, good health, a wonderful family and the best friends a guy could ask for. I have a lot to be grateful for. For many years now, “thank you” has become my meditation as I start each day.

But the truth is, life was not always this good. It wasn’t all that long ago, when the resume’ of my life looked radically different. At one time, my life was filled with nearly everything people try to avoid. Experiencing everything from unhappy relationships to financial struggles, poor health, depression, and an endless stream of negative habits was a part of my daily life. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, happiness was constantly eluding me and disappointment became my shadow. It also seemed as if I was paving the way for a future that sadly resembled my father’s…until he took his own life at the age of 54. This was a defining moment for me. Once the shock of losing my father began to fade, clarity and a new sense of purpose became the dominant force in my life. I remember feeling as if I had “met myself” for the very first time while also becoming conscious of my life’s true purpose. It was in that moment that I had made a major decision. Not only would I change my own life, but I would also make a difference in the lives of others.

Enlightenment and epiphanies can show up in some pretty strange ways. The Buddha found it under a Boddhi tree, Nelson Mandela in prison and spiritual guru Ram Dass through psychedelic drugs. Little did I know, mine would arrive in the form of a hard-shelled reptile simply trying to cross the road -- a turtle.

But this wasn’t just any turtle, this was the world’s most optimistic one. He was tenaciously determined to cross twenty feet of tar as cars zoomed by at 55 mph. But today was his lucky day. My wife’s quick reflexes not only ensured that “turtle soup” would not be for dinner that night, but her act of kindness would eventually become the foundation for everything I teach today. As unusual as this sounds, the simple act of pulling our car over, removing this little turtle from harms way, and placing him back into the wild, caused something extraordinary to happen inside of me. As I stood there holding this tiny creature in my hands, a wave of pure joy came over me. It was that warm, teary-eyed sensation that we feel during life’s greatest moments; like falling in love or the birth of a child. I honestly felt as if my heart was completely opening up as everything stood still around me. In no way would I have described it as “enlightenment”, but there was no doubt about it—helping this little turtle just felt so damn good! But why? After all, it’s just a turtle, right?

And then it hit me. I finally realized what was happening. At that point, a flood of inspiring thoughts surged through me. I walked back to the car, opened my journal and wrote eight words that would later prove to be life changing for me: “kindness creates happiness” and “live a life of kindness”. It was the answer I had been looking for. The secret to inner peace and lasting happiness was kindness. Not “random acts of” or simply being nice, but rather as...a way of life. I had already known the benefits of kindness through studying many eastern philosophies, but I had never actually considered it as a lifestyle.

But, this day was just beginning…

Just thirty minutes after my mini-epiphany, my wife and I arrived at our original destination—a country garden show. After walking around for just a few minutes, a gentle faced 60-something looking man waved me over to the front porch of his farmhouse, for no apparent reason. The entire setting was like a scene out of an old movie -- weathered rocking chairs -- the smell of cookies baking -- and a coon cat that looked as old as the farmhouse itself. “Let her look around, come and sit with me” he said.

I had no idea what to expect, but as I sunk into the large wicker chair beside him, I couldn’t help feeling that he was going to say something profound. After all, if a turtle can change my life, why not a wise old farmer? After a brief hello and a polite introduction, we simply sat in silence and let the sunlight warm our faces. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke. “You know” he said, “I’ve often thought that the meaning of life is making things a little bit easier for those around us, what do you think?”. I was speechless. It felt like I had just been hit on the head again with life’s big karma stick. He went on to tell me his version of “the secrets to life” and how “true happiness can only be found by loving and serving others”. Finally he finished with, “oh, and don’t forget…you really gotta’ love the one you’re with...yourself”.

Life was obviously trying to tell me something.   In the days and weeks that followed, the world looked completely different to me. The more I studied and tested my “kindness creates happiness” theory, the more I was blown away by its life-changing power.   I realized that most of my disappointments in life were simply because I had been unkind to others and especially to myself.

After spending much of my life thinking “what’s in it for me”, my new inner mantra became; “Am I being kind?”. This one simple question changed my life. So, whenever I feel the need to disagree with my wife, lash out at a rude employee in the mall or even before I shove ten cookies into my mouth, I go within and ask; “am I being kind?”. These four little words have become my source to inner peace. It has created many positive changes in me such as recycling and acting more “green” and consciously respecting all of life. I even stopped setting the mousetraps in the garage. (My wife is going to kill me when she reads that last one). Another big change in my life was the irresistible urge to perform “spontaneous acts of kindness”. Things like buying coffee for strangers and giving money to the homeless just seemed natural. Each kind act felt like a blissful surge of energy through my chest. But what became even more exhilarating were the intense feelings of warmth towards everyone around me -- especially difficult people. Whether there was someone who acted rude in traffic or an inconsiderate person in line at the grocery store, I no longer felt anxious or offended -- I simply wished for their happiness.  That’s when I realized what it truly meant to be living kindness.

All thanks to an unexpected turtle crossing the street, that one day.
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Readers Comments

Generasi wrote: Miya より:keigo-shi,hmmm, interesting. Anyway, let me exepct the next step of oma in nyc and new step of rex what a funny name it is. So-san,how s your new apt? Thank you so much for inviting me to your funky events. I will try to skill up my billiard until i see you guys soon. We can see again anywhere.
Aulia wrote: Lol. Xd grats on the awesome cneroct. T_t i'm envious seriously. User conferences my company had an online one at one point but it didn't turn out so good t_t our phone line died on us (it was a phone/online thing) so it's excellent to years your company's went well. I'm afraid of ever being summoned for jury duty. T_t i'm glad you didn't get picked. =d it's a good relief. Lol. And your turtle is adorable! I want now. =d
wanderlust wrote: Awesome story, my favorite one on here so far.
terry tinkle wrote: thanks mike, sharing your story was an act of kindness to us all. and I really liked how you described what Maslow calls the peak experience and what I like to refer to as being fully alive. But as I read your story it gave me another insight it is when we are most aware of our ONENESS. Peace
Richie wrote: this rocks
Pancho Ramos wrote: That was the turtle of wisdom... slowdown, slow food, slow science... ;-)

Hermano Mike, you are another rebel planetising the movement! Thank you! :-)

If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.
shashi wrote: this is one of the most beautifula and heart warming blog I ever read
yasmine wrote: to b kind in our country means your are stupid weak and u get no respect.but the word kind needs you to b strong from inside and never care about other peoples comments or responds so again u fall in this circle of being alone and not respected and mayb laghed at or mayb they think u are dum? well i tried to b kind i beleive in being kind i was raised with avery kind mom and i have a kind husband but what did this do to them kind mom has been divorced after 37 years serving and loving my dad and my very smart husband whom i beleive could have been one of the most important doctors he ended helping the poor people only no money from his job and so kind that our two children wer spoild and messed their lives .as for me i am still married after 36 years but i feel that i am lost not happy yet not sad i thank my god for what i am .
baby wrote: a b'ful piece for the heaart, thank u.
Ilonai wrote: Kudos to your wife who was living with the first you, walking the journey with your unenlightened self and... simply stopped to pick up the turtle as a matter of course. Kudos to you for picking such a life partner.

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