"Hey Doc, give the patient in room 2 a few minutes. We are warming him up," the nurse called out to me.
"Warming him up? What do you mean?" I was at the free clinic, a couple of months ago.
"Well, he gave his only winter coat to his room mate at the homeless shelter," the nurse replied.
"Why?! It's freezing outside," I said.
"He says his room mate needed it more than him," the nurse replied.
I had no words for a moment.
"How is he going to get back to the shelter?" I asked. The wind chill was in the single digits outside.
"Oh... We'll rustle up something from the clinic. Everyone here wants to give their coat to him," she replied.
At that moment, I would have given him mine in an instant. Imagining a homeless person give his only coat to someone who needed it more than him, was very touching. This was a collective sentiment of whoever heard about this patient's magnanimous act of kindness. It's a ripple effect. On hearing about random acts of kindness by complete strangers, a surge of goodwill & generosity envelopes people.
And this sentiment is more common than you may think. A recent opinion piece on CNN.com rekindled memories of this particular incident. What is the neuropsychological basis of such sentiments, when we witness or hear about acts of kindness by almost total strangers?
Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at UVA, called this positive emotion "Elevation" -- a warm, uplifting feeling that we experience when we see unexpected acts of kindness. It often makes us want to help others. And some psychologists call this emotion by another name -- "Kama Muta".
'Kama Muta' means "Moved by Love" in Sanskrit, and has been used in ancient Indian scriptures through ages. This emotion has a few distinct features. People may feel chills, goosebumps and some even might tear up seeing an unexpected act of kindness or love. After the initial intense feeling has passed, many folks may have a sense of buoyancy and uplift. The feeling is contagious and one good deed leads to another.
So please, everyone, let love and kindness flow. Inspire and be inspired. God knows we need compassion and humanity in today's turbulent times. Open your hearts and give without remembering. Real charity doesn't care if it's Tax - deductible.
"If you don't have charity and kindness in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." ~ Bob Hope