Heart of Forgiveness

CocaColaMachineI’ve spent a great deal of time pondering the concept of grace.  One of the very first grace-filled moments that I can recall took place when I was about seven years old.

Jim was a soft-spoken man and the owner of a small gas station in Vallejo, California that I passed by each day on my way to and from school.  On one especially warm afternoon as I was walking home, I couldn’t help but notice the big red soda machine sitting just inside the station.  I would simply have to get a better look at the cold bottles of Coca Cola, even though I knew full well that I didn’t have a dime to my name that day.  Jim saw me.  “Hey Blondie, what can I do for you today?”  Jim’s question caught me off-guard.  But, I was even more surprised at the words that came out of my mouth.  “I think I lost my dime in your machine.”  Jim knelt down and intently checked the machine for the “lost” dime.  Without so much as a word, he reached into his shirt pocket for a dime, dropped it into the machine, and then handed me the bottle of Coke that I had so longed for a moment before.

My heart pounded like a sledgehammer and my cheeks burned with shame.  I walked home much faster that day, full bottle of Coke in tow.  I was so upset by the time I reached our house, that I opened the front door and ran directly to my bedroom.  Falling on my knees before the bed, I confessed to my mother what I had done.  What a premium opportunity for a reprimand!  But, I suspect that Mom could see I didn’t need to be convinced of my guilt.  Instead of scolding me, she comforted me and told me that she was proud of my confession.  Then, in a soft but firm tone she informed me that I would be returning to the gas station, along with a bottle of Coke and an apology.

I died a thousand deaths!  But, before I could protest we were on our way back to the station.  I can see that little gas station as clearly in my mind today as I did that afternoon so many years ago.  Jim stood near the soda machine, almost as if he had been anticipating my return.  The sight of my friend brought a flood of tears.  Approaching him with my head down, I struggled to express my remorse.  I was surprised again, this time to feel the gentle touch of a hand on my shoulder and the comforting words, “I’m proud of you, Blondie for coming back and doing the right thing.”

Those who extend the hand of grace and forgiveness often do much more that they realize.  I learned so much that afternoon.  I received a blessing from my mother, whose grace was not cheap.  She loved me, forgave me, and accepted me.  But, in her Godly wisdom she did not spare me the discomfort of owning my wrongdoing.  And, I received another blessing from my friend, Jim.  He forgave me and affirmed me.  But he also demonstrated by his actions something I would never forget.  He had purchased the bottle of Coke with his own dime, despite the fact that he knew I was guilty of lying.  Then, he waited patiently for my return.

 

Kindness is Healthy

CaptureRedwoods

  • There is little doubt that performing acts of kindness has a profound impact in the lives of others. What you might not be aware of is the many positive health benefits it provides for you, as well. Scientific research strongly suggests that kindness promotes better health physically and mentally. Consider the following:
  • Kindness promotes happiness. Not only do we feel good when we perform an act of kindness, but there is an actual biochemical response that occurs in our brain that is often referred to as “helper’s high.” It is believed that the good feeling is due primarily to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin – known as endogenous opioids. They cause levels of dopamine to rise in the brain which results in a natural high.
  • Kindness enhances heart health. Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Of particular interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which expands the vessels. This reduces blood pressure, and therefore oxytocin is known as a “cardio-protective” hormone. The key is that acts of kindness can produce oxytocin, and therefore kindness can be said to be cardio-protective. 
  • Kindness slows aging. Two known villains of speeding the process of aging are free radicals and inflammation, both of which tend to result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices. Research suggests that oxytocin which we produce through emotional warmth reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease, so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
  • Kindness creates healthier relationships. This is probably one of the most obvious points. We all know that we tend to gravitate towards people who are kind. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and creates a greater sense of bonding.  Kindness is an inherent human trait. In other words, we are wired to be kind.  Our ancestors had to learn to get along with each other. The stronger the emotional bonds were within the groups, the greater the chances of survival. When we are kind to one another, we feel a connection. Thus, new relationships are formed and existing ones strengthened.
  • Kindness is contagious. When we’re kind, we inspire others to follow suit. As we practice virtues of understanding, compassion, and empathy, we find that goodness returns to us in like manner. Being kind is like paying forward, and the benefits come back in unexpected ways.