August 25, 2023

Arrow’s D&I Speaker Series: A Conversation on Kindness with Orly Wahba & Gail Smothers 

Category: D&I Series

Author: Michael Gutgsell

To celebrate Be Kind to Humankind Week (August 25th-31st), Arrow resident Gail Smothers sat down with Orly Wahba to discuss kindness. Wahba is an educator, community activist, author of Kindness Boomerang, and founder of Life Vest Inside, a non-profit organization dedicated to infusing kindness in the world. Throughout their laugh-filled, enthusiastic conversation, Smothers and Wahba discussed the way acts of kindness made positive changes in their lives, who taught them about kindness, and the benefits of kind actions.  

Smothers and his wife chose to move to the Boulevard St. Charles after she experienced a terrible stroke. Of life at the community, he says “You have to understand that dealing with roughly a hundred elderly people you will run into all sorts of issues.”  

Smothers credits his wife with teaching him everything he knows about being kind. He never heard her criticize others; she would just let things roll off her shoulders. “I try to be an example of how to be happy, no matter what. No matter what, just be nice.” If he recognizes that somebody’s having a hard time, he takes the time to sit with them and find ways to comfort or encourage them in specific, personalized ways. 

Making the choice to be kind benefits Smothers, too. It feels good to make a difference in someone’s day, and there’s scientific support for this. When you do something good for someone your endorphin and oxytocin levels increase and cortisol levels decrease, reducing stress. Being kind helps you live a better, healthier, and longer life.  

But kindness isn’t something you check off a to-do list, Wahba clarifies. There is a difference between charity work and kindness. It can be easier to perform acts of kindness for strangers rather than the people in your own home, so make the conscious choice to not take people for granted. “Kindness is seeing the beauty in others and helping them see it in themselves,” Wahba says. “If everybody realizes they matter and make a difference, imagine how much more positive change we could have in the world.” 

Examples of everyday kindnesses can be saying hello to a stranger, holding the door open, or helping out with a chore. By training yourself to acknowledge acts of kindness, you will end up seeing them everywhere. We see what we look for, so train your eye “to catch the good,” as Wahba says, and you will end up becoming a magnet for good. Wahba’s book Kindness Boomerang provides an act of kindness for every day of the year along with an inspirational quote and short reflection. For Smothers’s birthday, the act is: “Try and settle a fight between friends. Kind words and patience can solve any problem.”  

And these acts of kindness set into motion others. “Kindness is a supercharger and gets passed along,” Wahba says, which is the fundamental philosophy of her organization Life Vest Inside. To illustrate this concept, she created a short film (which you can watch here), in which one considerate act is passed along a street, finally returning, in a new form, to the initial person who chose to help someone in need.  

Finally, Wahba ends the conversation with the reminder that kindness begins within ourselves. She asks us to “Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome and fantastic you are.” Love yourself in spite of your flaws and it will allow you the freedom to embrace others. “No matter what mistakes were made yesterday, you can bring something beautiful in the world today.”  

Note: The poem Wahba refers to in the conversation is “The Dash” by Linda Ellis.  

For the full conversation, click here.  

Saint Charles, Missouri-based Arrow Senior Living manages a portfolio of communities that offer varying levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Each and every senior living community supports residents by focusing on dignity, respect, and quality of life. The programs and amenities offered are selected to provide only the highest standard of quality and comfort.

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