When was the last time you extended an act of kindness, without expecting anything in return? Was it in your personal life, your job, or with family? Think about what happened and how it made you feel? What did that act of kindness do for the other person? How did your act of kindness impact bystanders?

In a world filled with uncertainty and suspicion, it’s easy to avert your eyes, not see a need, and walk by a need for kindness.

A few years ago, I was attending an event in Reno, Nevada near the airport. A woman I just met and I went to dinner in South Reno. After dinner, I stopped for gas. While pumping gas, a 12-year old girl came up to me and asked if she could have $1.00 for bus fare so she could meet up with her family at the central bus station in North Reno. It was past 10 PM. This girl’s journey would take almost an hour. She had no idea when the next bus was arriving. She didn’t know if the fare would be more than a $1.00 but she was afraid to ask for more. Meanwhile, she would be waiting in the dark, alone. I offered to drive her to the main bus station.

The look on the little girl’s face told me everything I needed to know. She was shocked. She could hardly speak. She got in the backseat while thanking me repeatedly. We chatted as I drove to the bus station. When we arrived, her family was indeed waiting for her, worried. Don’t ask me why or how this little girl was so far removed from her family at night in Reno. All that mattered to me was that she was safe that night and I hoped that the friendly chat we had in the car would create a memorable moment for her to help her make better decisions later.

As I was driving back to the hotel, my new friend turned to me in amazement. She commented that she had never observed or experienced anything like this.  I don’t think what I did was that remarkable. But, it left an impression on this woman sitting in my passenger seat. She spoke about it all the way back to the hotel. She spoke about it throughout the following day. Then she told me (this is why I tell you this story) that she saw the power of kindness and how a little kindness can change lives because it just changed HERS. She told me she was going to adopt a more outwardly kind life. (By the way, she was already a very kind person.)

Kindness is contagious. I always believed that, but now there’s scientific proof.  I learned about this study when I read co-founder of Fast Company Bill Taylor‘s article “Making Kindness a Core Tenet of Your Company.” The research by Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki relied on by Taylor, showed that participants who believed others were generous or empathetic themselves became more generous. The generosity went far beyond monetary contributions but included showing kindness in many ways. The reach was far greater than people simply mimicking each other. While those who perceived little to no empathy or kindness was less kind. It’s worth reading Taylor’s article because he tells the story of his experience when he immersed himself in the customer-service transformation of Mercedes-Benz USA where he saw how kindness resulted in improved business, happier customers, happier employees, and increased revenues.

A while back, I wrote the article The Key to Being on the Receiving End of How Customer Service Should Work in which I shared a small experience with one woman working at a hotel. The point of the article was not actually how to get the best customer service, but more about how one small act of kindness could have a significant impact and influence.

Zaki’s research reveals perhaps the most remarkable aspect of kindness. Kindness not only impacts the recipient of the kind act, but also the bystanders.

Kindness is at the center of all good customer service. It doesn’t have anything to do with the old saying, “the customer is always right.” In fact, I don’t think the customer is always right. But kindness will pave the way and inform you of how to act, regardless of who is right.

It’s also easier to be kind. It takes less brain bandwidth to be kind and kindness releases a ton of feel-good brain chemicals. To be unkind takes up your brain’s time and energy in a way that does you no good. Isn’t that reason enough to be kind, always? And now, imagine the percolating brook you start with one act of kindness.