Kindness Pays

Austin Dorenkamp

ABOUT A DECADE AGO, when I was in college, I lived in an off-campus apartment complex. The complex had an on-site property manager named Joni. She got to live in one of the apartments in exchange for managing leases. Joni was in her 60s and didn’t have any close family, so she was always eager to talk to whoever stopped by her apartment “office.”

Many of my fellow residents tried to minimize their interactions with Joni, since she could talk your ear off. But I sensed that Joni was just lonely, so I made a point to spend five minutes talking with her whenever our paths crossed. A few months later, I started receiving $100 referral bonus checks from the property management company. It turns out that Joni had begun putting my name down as the person referring a new tenant whenever someone signed a lease.

That brings me to a second, similar story. A few years ago, a friend and I had just purchased a rundown house. We had aspirations to turn it into a rental property. To call the condition of the house unlivable would be an understatement, and we knew we had a ton of work ahead of us. Since my friend and I both had fulltime jobs, this meant working on the house at nights and on weekends.

One day, when my friend was at the house, a neighbor came by, wanting to chat. We still had plenty of work left to do, so my friend could easily have brushed off the neighbor. Still, my friend took the time to talk for a few minutes. The neighbor mentioned that she was looking to sell her dad’s house, and asked whether we might be interested. We definitely were, and a few months later we reached a deal.

Whether it was the house purchase or the referral fees, neither favorable outcome would have happened if my friend and I hadn’t taken the time to slow down and get to know another person. In today’s fast-paced and increasingly virtual world, stopping to take an interest in others is a simple kindness that’s too often overlooked.

Money, of course, shouldn’t be our motivation when showing kindness to others and, in any case, it’s rare we’ll earn a financial return. But we’ll still get to experience the joy that being kind to another person can bring—and that’s priceless.

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