Attention: Recent research has shown that your serotonin levels may be increased through acts of kindness.
Bear with me. This is more important than you might think.
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is associated with moods. People with low serotonin levels are prone to anger and violence. Many antidepressants act by increasing the level of serotonin.
A Virginia researcher discovered that when someone receives an act of kindness, he or she feels a sense of well-being that is apparently associated with a small increase in serotonin. This effect also occurs in the person who PERFORMED the act of kindness.
It also occurs among people who WATCH the act of kindness.
I didn't know any of this a couple of weeks ago when I was about to have lunch at a fast-food restaurant and noticed a homeless guy holding a sign nearby. Although I am very active in a homeless ministry, I was a little pressed for time that day, so I decided to just ask him if I could get him lunch and bring him a bag on my way out.
He turned me down. That's pretty unusual, but I think you will understand why it was important when I start wrapping biochemistry in spirituality.
Just before I left for lunch that day, I had been discussing with someone whether God wants us to do charitable things in public or whether they should be done quietly. Remember, Matthew 6:2 says this: "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
My instincts told me that God would be honored to have someone ministering to His lost lambs in full view of others. But I wasn't sure after reading that passage.
Fast-forward back to the fast-food restaurant.
Ten minutes after the homeless guy had turned down my offer for lunch, I was still standing in line at the restaurant. It wasn't until I was next in line that the homeless guy materialized at my elbow.
"Man, I don't know what I was thinking," he said loudly. "Of COURSE you can buy me lunch. Get me whatever you want and thank you very much!"
So now there were a couple dozen people in this restaurant who knew what was going on. They started smiling. They made eye contact with me as I was getting catsup and napkins. They acted like they knew me, like I'd done something for THEM.
I had lunch with the guy, Ricky, listened to his story and tried to help him get into a drug-treatment center. I started to leave when I noticed a New Testament that had been left in my car several months ago. I decided to give it to Ricky, but when I got back in the restaurant, he was gone.
Not to worry. Off in the back corner a guy in a business suit caught my eye. He pointed over my shoulder and mouthed the word, "Bathroom."
That's where Ricky was. I gave him the New Testament and went on my way, leaving a wash of serotonin in my path.
I thought God was pretty clear in that lesson: If your heart is in the right place, if you are not trying to glorify yourself, then I want you to be My candle up on a lightstand for the world to see.
A week went by and I found myself in another fast-food restaurant. As God would have it, a homeless woman I have known for three years was there finishing her lunch.
I grabbed a sandwich and sat down to chat with her. We discussed a book I was reading about the Prodigal Son, then she broke down in tears and told me a story I'd never heard before -- about the two sons she lost to miscarriages.
Again, a couple of dozen people came into that restaurant with all the world's troubles -- work, school, broken relationships, car problems -- and witnessed a homeless woman being hugged by some guy in business attire.
When I went to get a drink refill, every eye was on me, as if I was somehow refilling a dry, dark corner of their souls.
God commands us to love one another. He could have just left it at that.
Instead, He wired us so that obeying His commandment, or even watching someone else's obedience, fills us with joy.
Your article was a blessing to me this morning. It possesses exactly the right balance of all elements of good writing; but more than that the message itself brings one right back to the heart of Christian living.
Also thanks to Jan for featuring it on the front page showcase so that more people are able to partake.
Isn't it wonderful how when we take the time and effort to bless others, not only do they get blessed, but so do we ... and others all around! Isn't that just like God ... it's the ripple effect ... not so random acts of kindness - I love it!
I am glad this article was posted on the Frontpage Showcase so that I could notice it and read it. I thought at first that Serotonin was some sort of bad drug. I'm glad that it has such a positive effect on us when we do good to others by following God's commandments. Thank you for letting us know about this important chemical that the brain releases when we do good .
Oh how how I love this article!!!! This must be how my missionary son feels in Los Angeles as he helps people and teaches them about the Gospel! Thank you for writing this piece. It has touched my spirit in ways I just can't express. I'm grateful that your article is being showcased for all to read. Congratulations.
"When I went to get a drink refill, every eye was on me, as if I was somehow refilling a dry, dark corner of their souls." I love that line. in fact, the whole article is like a beverage for the soul. Thanks for this inspiring, challenging message.
Al--Sorry for the really late notice, but I'm going to feature this EXCELLENT article in the Front Page Showcase for the week starting...tomorrow! Thanks for being the incredible blessing that you are.
Very well written story. It is a very good feeling when we listen to God and do what He says. It's a very bad feeling when we pass it by, rationalizing why "it's just not a good time" or "next time, for sure, God..." What a ministry you have! Thank you for sharing!
Al, of course I will stick with you. (Thanks for your message on 'private message.') This story, "You Want Fries with that Serotonin?" was terriffffic! ... "I gave him (Ricky) the New Testament and went on my way, leaving a wash of serotonin in my path." That was the highlight of the story. It brought to mind the few times I have been able to experience the "serotonin." (although I have never heard that word before.)I could state a few instances, but this is not the place to do so. PLEASE keep writing these good stories about how you are helping the homeless. Ignore my ignorance about your previous article. I now understand it better. You deal with people like that all the time, I am sure, in your line of work.
God bless you...Helen