It started with a simple call to action from author Brad Aronson: Think of a kind act someone performed for you. Now, text the person who did it, letting them know you’re glad they’re in your lives.
And so began a heartwarming hour-long conversation on Wednesday evening between Aronson, entrepreneur, mentor, and author of HumanKind; Vera Ludwig, PhD, neuroscientist and research associate at Penn’s Platt Labs; and Citizen Executive Editor Roxanne Patel Shepelavy.
Aronson’s book is a collection of moving anecdotes about the transformative power of kindness—from the life-changing confidence MLB pitcher Jim Abbott derived through the kindness of his third grade teacher, who taught him how to tie his shoes with one hand, to the global impact of young Massachusetts cancer survivor Gabriel Aljalian, who turned the anniversary of his leukemia diagnosis into a worldwide day of performing acts of kindness.
“Being kind makes us feel good. And when we think about the kindness someone did for us, we relive that kindness,” Aronson said, by way of explaining the opening exercise. In real-time, guests started experiencing the effects of their gratitude, as people responded with equally warm messages.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ludwig explained the documented benefits of kindness on our hearts, brains, and bodies. It turns out that connecting with, and doing good for, others has proven scientific benefits for our own well-being—lessons Ludwig has taken from both her study of yoga and meditation, and from her neuroscience research.
“These stories are everywhere,” Aronson said. “If we don’t ask, we don’t hear about them.”
But happiness requires more than just striving to walk through the world focusing only on joy. “Seeing sadness is the first step in making change,” Ludwig said. We are not to tune out the injustices of the world—but to acknowledge them, then dig in to chipping away at them.
If you missed this inspiring event, which opened with a rousing performance by the students of Rock to the Future, the nonprofit that brings free music programming to students throughout Philadelphia, you can watch it below. You can order HumanKind through Head House Books, with proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters, where Aronson is the regional board chair.
You can start experiencing the power of kindness right now: It doesn’t take any money or even much time to brighten someone else’s day with an authentic compliment, a thoughtful gesture, a heartfelt boost.
And do yourself a kindness, too: Make like Aronson, and start asking others about the random acts of kindness that changed their lives. “These stories are everywhere,” he said. “If we don’t ask, we don’t hear about them.”
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