An episode of the radio show “On Point” with Meghna Charkabarti caught my ear this week. The title of the show was “The Mutual Benefits of Kindness,” and Charkabarti interviewed Christine Sheil, a woman who spoke about her volunteer work at a Veterans’ retirement home. Every month she visits, plays the piano, and sings with the residents. The residents love it! They enjoy singing, laughing, and getting together to do something a little different that day. It clearly brings them joy.
But the point of the show was that it isn’t only the residents who benefit. Christine Sheil spoke about the joy it brings her, how it connects her with her deceased father who had loved music and her deceased mother who had spent her last years in an assisted living facility. Charakbarti then interviewed a psychology researcher who shared the science behind the psychological and physical benefits of helping others. She talked about things like those “feel good” endorphins and anti-inflammatory oxytocin; she spoke about anxiety-reduction, and longevity associated with volunteering.
In short, kindness heals both the recipient and the giver.
Next week, our youth director Tom Schauer is leading a group of 27 youth and chaperones to Wilmington, Delaware on a mission trip. We’ll be working in people’s homes perhaps painting, clearing brush, putting up siding, painting, repairing fences, fixing gutters, painting, … (I’m anticipating a lot of painting.) I don’t doubt that the residents who receive us will be grateful. They will enjoy talking to the youth. They will appreciate the work done on their homes. They will find healing in the relationships.
But those of us who serve will discover healing as well. It’s been a long time of pandemic and the emotional well-being of many youth and adults has suffered due to the isolation. My prayer is that the endorphins and oxytocin will do their work; that the connections made and relationships formed will be healing for all.
Kindness heals. Thanks be to God.
“I will restore you to health and heal your wounds”, declares the Lord.