What a Sandwich Taught Me About the Momentum of Kindness

When you hear the term “act of kindness” what do you picture? Until recently, when I heard or read the term “act of kindness”, I pictured smiling faces, food banks, clothing drives and large groups of people gathered for a specific cause. But recently, that image was replaced by, of all things, a sandwich.

…share the goodness with someone else…

It is as random as it sounds. The other day, my friend kindly offered me a sandwich. A picture-perfect sandwich crafted with ham, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and cheese sitting between two slices of soft yet slightly toasted bread. Yes, if you can’t tell, food makes me smile. So when she offered, I happily accepted. But quickly realized that I had packed my lunch for the day. I was faced with a decision- either eat this delicious sandwich, which I clearly didn’t need, or share the goodness with someone else? I never really thought about it. I work in Orange County, home to some of the most affluent cities in the country. How many people go hungry here in the “OC” as it’s commonly referred to. Do people even go hungry here? I have seen some of the less fortunate in the area so I had an idea. After a bit of searching on the Internet, it turns out 301,000 people are at risk of hunger each month in Orange County, California according to www.feedoc.org.

With that many people at risk of hunger, the decision was clear. I decided to take some snacks from the lunch I had packed myself, along with the sandwich my friend so kindly shared, and make another lunch from that. I thought for sure there had to be someone out there that needed lunch, so I decided to go for a drive.

…all of it, was so fulfilling- much more fulfilling than enjoying something for yourself.

Finding someone wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I found myself driving around aimlessly until I came to a stop at an intersection. There I found a young man playing a guitar. He smiled as he played and at his feet, there was a sign that read, “Anything helps”. It was a sign, literally. So I pulled over and offered him the lunch. The strumming stopped, his eyes lit up and he ran towards me. He couldn’t stop saying “Thank you.” I almost felt embarrassed because I hadn’t really done anything special enough to warrant such a response. But his gratitude was clear and in that moment, it hit me. Driving around, looking for someone that might need a lunch, seeing this young man, witnessing his reaction…all of it, was so fulfilling- much more fulfilling than enjoying something for myself.  Granted all this unfolded in a matter of hours, I learned a lot of things from the experience.

Here’s what I discovered.

1.An act of kindness can come in so many different forms

An act of kindness can come in so many different forms, even very subtle ones like a ham sandwich. Not to sound cliché, but kindness is all around us. If we see past the cloud of negativity and harshness that lingers all around the world these days, we see that, more often than not, there are people willing to share and willing to do something for others.

2. An act of kindness, big or small, is inspiring

I didn’t plan on receiving a free sandwich that day nor did I plan to drive around and share a sandwich. But I was inspired as the direct recipient of an act of kindness. If we find ourselves on the receiving end of kindness, let’s think about how we can extend the reach of that act.

3. An act of kindness carries momentum with it

Ultimately, those of us who receive kindness also determine the reach of that act of kindness. This reach can be extended if we continue sharing kindness after receiving it. So as easy as it can stop with us, it can just as easily continue through us.

4. Gratitude isn’t the real source of fulfillment

Gratitude, as good as it can make you feel, isn’t the real source of fulfillment. The young man playing his guitar was extremely grateful and I’ll admit, it made me feel really good to see how grateful he was. But since then I’ve reached out to others in a similar way and have received a variety of responses. Some have expressed indifference, some even reluctance. Thankfully none have been angry. But in each moment, surprisingly, I still felt the same degree of fulfillment.

5. My motivation to share kindness

I learned that the sandwich may have been the catalyst for me to share that day, but my motivation to share kindness is deeply rooted in my faith and in the efforts promoted by the INC Giving Project.

Since helping with the INC Giving Project, my values and motivation to do good have been enriched. The goal now is to carry the momentum of “an act of kindness” even further, for as many people as we can.  

…carry the momentum of “an act of kindness” even further…