I want to tell you a short story about a man who I’ve actually been thinking about a lot these last few weeks.
Peter Van Beek was born on 10 March 1934 in the Netherlands. In 1970 Peter and his wife Margarethe settled in Australia with their three sons. Peter and Margerethe spent most of their life working at the Buderim Ginger Factory, but after retirement, Peter suffered a heart attack and had to surrender his driver’s license. What was Peter’s response to this? “Well if I can’t drive anywhere, I can spend more time waving.” He started spending four hours or more a day at the roundabout outside his home, simply sharing a wave and a smile with the people passing by. Peter did this for more than ten years. This made a profound impact on the families and commuters, to have a friendly, familiar face to see every morning and every afternoon.
Did you know that there are health benefits to acts of kindness, not only for the recipient but for the giver? Performing kind acts can help with connections with others, which gives a boost in oxytocin. It gives a mood boost, and has been linked to the release of dopamine, also known as “helper’s high”. It also can give people a sense of identity, helping a person to improve their self-esteem and see value in their actions.
I have been fortunate enough to experience these benefits for myself, as I absolutely love the smiles and greetings I receive every morning as the students are coming into school. For many of them, who may have had a tricky morning arriving at school, a simple hello and a high-five exchange often gives them the little “mood boost” they need to start off their day.
This has gotten me thinking not only about how kindness can impact our health but about why this occurs. I believe it is not by chance that we are naturally wired to respond positively to kindness, whether it is towards us to by us. As a Christian, it makes sense to me. I believe that we were designed this way as human kindness reflects the kind nature of God. I believe that sharing kindness with others is living out exactly what we were created to do.
Jocelyn Carolissen, College Pastor