Be kind to others

How kindnesss changed my life.

I was sitting in front of my computer for an hour thinking about what to write. While I was staring at a blank screen, I got a message from a high-school classmate. That message gave me the seed to this article.

1985 was the year that changed my life. Jan 1985. two months before graduating from high school, my father left us. I did not know the reason then. Until the day he died a few years ago, I did not find out the reason. I would not want to ask my 75 year old mom about something that long been buried in memory.

A month after my dad leaves, my two brothers, mother, and I had to go separate ways to survive. My mom did not know how to apply for a job since she has been a housewife all her life. She went back to her parents home. My brothers and I started to look for work in our teen age years.

Primo, a classmate in Colegio San Agustin, where I attended school, asked me to go to the top floor of the Citibank building in Paseo de Roxas. He said that I should look for Atty Antonio V. Agcaoili. The senior partner of Agcaoili and Associates. Apparently, his dad works for the law firm. I took the bus the next day to the law firm.

I was asked to wait by a beautiful mestiza receptionist in the waiting area. I flipped through several old editions of Fortune magazines. After 30 minutes, I was led to the office of Atty Anva. The office smelled like cigarette smoke. It was a spacious office filled with picture frames.

Atty. Anva was a heavy smoker. My interview was just Atty Anva asking me what happened to my family. After a few minutes of sharing my personal story, he hires me. There was no job opening, but he hired me.

Atty. Anva then stepped our of his office for a few minutes. I can see him talking to his office manager. He comes back and says that I can photocopy documents for the eleven lawyers in the firm for the minimum wage of P1, 500 a month less government dues. On the side, I will also clean homes that they reposes on behalf of a Bank client. That will earn me an extra P100 for every home I clean with the company messengers and drivers.

The job may not be too glamorous or impressive. However, my photocopying job led me to other jobs, which landed me a computer programing job for FEBTC. The job in FEBTC landed me an IT Management job in Saudi Arabia. That IT Management job led me to other executive roles in the Bank with a career lasting 20 years. My last job was SVP for Strategy and Transformation before I decided to go back to the Philippines.

A few months after I came back, I went back to Atty Anva to thank him. I dropped by a wine store in Makati Avenue to get him a bottle of wine. It was his kindness that changed the course of my life. I was eagerly looking forward to seeing him again.

It was unfortunate that when I went up to his law firm, I found out he had passed away many years ago from lung cancer. His son sadly delivered the message.

However, his son said something interesting. When news of his dad’s passing away came out in the newspapers, hundreds of people dropped by their law firm to pay their respects to his dad. Hundreds of people, like me, were in gratitude to this remarkable man. Atty Anva touched the lives of hundreds of people even without the knowledge of his family.

What did we all have in common? What did Atty. Anva do that was so amazing? It was simple. He showed us a random act of kindness. He showed us the power of kindness. Kindness to a total stranger.

In today’s world, it’s easy to be sucked into selfishness. It’s effortless to cover your actions under the guise of a good cause. It is effortless to focus on our needs and ignore other people’s needs. It is effortless to justify our actions even if they are hurtful.

However, it was kindness that changed my life. It was kindness that changed the lives of hundreds of people touched by Atty. Anva.

Being kind to others is so powerful that it can change opinions and even lives. So, in this very challenging and sometimes painful pandemic, let us remember to be kind to one another.

Be kind no matter what.

The Quiet Power of Kindness

“Don’t underestimate the power of kindness in the workplace” is another genuinely insightful study from Harvard Business Review.

The article drives the point home that everybody wants to be happy. It’s a basic human instinct. The context of the article is todays new normal. A regular ‘Thank you, Garry’ or ‘Great Job’ recognition in the hallway is no longer the norm. It now seems like a practice from a distant era.

HBR’s study explains that showing kindness brightens the recipient’s day and brings happiness to the giver. Acts of kindness bring meaning to our life because we are investing in something much bigger than ourselves. Studies show that people giving compliments get more benefit from it than the recipient of the praise.

Kindness is like a boomerang. According to HBR research, kindness is paid back. Kindness is also paid forward—an act of kindness breed kindness. I read a story about the effect of a kind gesture a few months ago.

These two friends were walking in the streets of New York, catching up on old times. As they were chatting, the person in front of them had his backpack open. The person did not realize that some of the documents had fallen off his backpack. Without missing a beat, one of the two friends picked up the pieces of paper that had fallen on the street.

They reached the guy at a pedestrian crossing. The crossing light was red. As the guy stood waiting, the two friends tapped him on the shoulder. He looked back, and he was handed his documents. After the guy thanked them, he crossed the street. A bystander, who witnessed the entire incident, walked up to the two friends. He complimented them on their act of kindness.

Let’s see who benefited from this act? The backpack guy undoubtedly felt good that someone took the time to pick up his documents. The two friends felt good that they had a good deed for the day. The witness felt good after witnessing the good deed. All of them will probably find an opportunity to perform an act of kindness in the coming days.

At work, kindness fosters collaboration and teamwork. No matter the size of the gesture, big or small, people appreciate it. It helps create psychological safety in the organization.

If kindness has such great benefits to oneself and the organization, why don’t more people act accordingly? Why do we hesitate to show kindness to others?

I observe that, at times, people feel awkward to show kindness. We are more critical in the workplace. A toxic work environment promotes a culture of individuality. We are quick to find faults in others, but we are hesitant to find a good deed. At times, we dismiss good work as part of their job, so there is no need to show a kind gesture.

Sometimes, pride gets in the way. A gesture of kindness can be seen as a weakness by traditional managers. Some find it difficult to say a kind word, especially in public. Sending a private “thank you” email would be more comfortable for them.

Leaders, let’s set an example. The world is already challenging enough. Let’s not allow pride or awkwardness to get in the way of building an environment of kindness in the workplace.

It has always been a dream of many to wake up excited to come to work. A culture of kindness can help bring us closer to that dream. Let’s do our part and start now. Show kindness to the person next to you.

Stay safe,

Jordan Imutan
jordan@imutan.com
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