I alone cannot change the world
But I can cast a stone across the waters
To create many ripples. – Mother Teresa
I read a story in The Washington Post about a renowned scientist who was hoping to find the person who did a generous act of kindness for him almost 30 years ago.
The first thing that struck me about this story is that the scientist, Mahmoud Ghannoum, was still so appreciative of that one act of kindness, he has never forgotten it, and he believes that this one act of compassion made his amazing life possible.
1n 1990, Ghannoum, the leading microbiome researcher in the world, made plans to speak at a science conference in Washington, DC. While in London with his family, they watched on TV as Iraq invaded, bombed and destroyed their homeland of Kuwait.
“It is seared in me,” said Afif Ghannoum, the scientist’s oldest son, “The fear. The look on my parents’ faces, knowing that everything we had was gone.”
Ghannoum flew to Washington as planned, in hopes of finding a job and a new life in America, he put everything on the line. When he got there, he was told he would have to wait a week for a job interview. With no money and no place to stay, his only hope was to find a way to get to the one person he knew in the US who lived in Milwaukee, hoping he could stay with them and then get back to Washington for the interview.
He tried to exchange his one-way airline ticket back to England for a round-trip Milwaukee ticket. When the travel agent told him that wasn’t possible,
Ghannoum said, “I’m struggling. I see you’re black, and you’ve struggled, too. I need your help.”
Not only did the travel agent get him a round-trip ticket to Milwaukee, he also gave him $80 in cash, saying, “So you have some spending money.”
That was it, a stranger who did an incredible kindness and changed his life. Ghannoum got two job offers and the rest is history. Except he never got the man’s name or the address of the travel agency so he wasn’t able to go back and thank the man or pay him back. Now, 30 years later, he’s hoping to find this kind-hearted man through social media, so he can let him know how his compassion changed his world.
I find this story so incredible for three reasons.
First, it’s a clear example of how an act-of-kindness can have a profound effect that we may never know about. Be kind always, it matters.
Second, it stands out to me that Ghannoum reached out and said, “I’m struggling”. That’s HUGE. Too many people think it’s a weakness to ask for help when in reality it takes great courage. We are all human, and at one time or another, we all need help. People think, “I’m strong, I can handle this,” and then fall further and further into a hole.
If you are struggling, please speak up, let someone know, don’t keep pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. So many people care, you are not alone.
Last, we can directly see the ripples from the travel agent’s kindness. Our world is better because of Ghannoum’s scientific contributions. “You know how you see probiotic health this? And gut health that? Ghannoum is the man primarily responsible for that research. He’s the scientist who named the mycobiome, he’s published more than 400 papers on the topic, lectures all over the world and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 25 years, with almost $50 million in grants. He’s a professor and the director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. He’s even a big deal on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, y’all.” – Washington Post.
Your act of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s life – in ways that might be unseen but are no less profound. Plus, you not only impact their life, you also impact everyone touched by them throughout their entire lifetime.
Go be kind.
As always, I’d appreciate it if you would help me get the word out about the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250 (nominate someone who inspires you) and the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 (submit an act of kindness you would do with $250).