I was working with a friend who is a medical professional, and in reviewing patient feedback forms, we discovered something fascinating: kindness was the number one reason that patients expressed gratitude for their experiences. Not efficiency, not getting everything diagnosed accurately, but kindness.

On the surface, it may not seem like a big discovery, but there was something deeply moving about some of the comments. You could discern that the folks who took the time to respond were not used to being treated that way in a professional setting, and in some cases, it felt as though they may not have been used to being treated that way in life, in general.

It’s such a simple thing – kindness. It takes so little to express it, and yet it means so much to those who receive it. It was a wakeup call for me. I began to think outside my circle of family, friends, and clients. I started thinking about service workers that I come into contact with on a daily basis. Beyond a perfunctory please and thank you, when had I ever done more? Unfortunately, the examples I could recall were few and far between.

This experience inspired me to begin a simple and meaningful practice: to look directly in the eyes of the person that is helping me, whether at the grocery store, the post office, or a restaurant. To genuinely ask them how they are and to listen for the response and receive it, and to say thank you with the same focus. And once a week, to go beyond by sharing with someone who provides a service to me, how grateful I am for what they do.

There have been three outcomes, one expected, and two unexpected. First, most people respond, as in the surveys, with true gratitude for being thanked or shown some act of kindness. Second, I feel like I receive far more than I give, and thanking others actually feeds my soul. Third, I seem to be attracting acts of kindness to me, since beginning this practice.

What would be possible if we all took the time to connect visually with those at work, whether co-workers or clients? To elevate “please” and “thank you” from being filler words to words that actually matter. To offer to carry something for someone when they’re struggling? To give a compliment when earned, and offer a kind word when someone is having a rough go? The older I get, the more I realize that the most meaningful acts are often the simplest.