In this episode of HOW DO YOU LIVE? we feature Nipun Mehta. Nipun explores the question: What can you give if you don’t have anything?

For an audio version of Nipun’s story go to our podcast page. Subscribe to our podcast to get a new story every month.

“My life is an attempt to bring smiles in the world and silence in my heart. I want to live simply, love purely, and give fearlessly. That’s me.”

— Nipun Mehta

Find out more about Nipun here.


Video Transcription:

“What would happen in the place, imagine you took over a restaurant, and you run it the way you’d like, so you’d serve a meal but at the end of your meal instead of getting a check your tab would say “zero”. Your bill is zero because someone before you has paid for you and it’s a gift to you. Now you have an opportunity to pay forward for the person after you. Whatever you like. What would happen? Would people all just take or would people pay forward? Would love be get more love or would people just be selfish and it would degenerate into nothing. We didn’t know but we said, you know, we believe in love. Let’s do it! So we started it, we just rented out restaurant one time, it was just a one time thing, and we invited the community and people came and people loved it and people paid forward and we had enough money to do the next week and then we did it again next week and a third week and a fourth week and like that you can do it for years and years and years and it’s still going on now in 18 places around the world and all this researchers started coming and studying it. They said: “what’s going on? You are trusting people to pay forward, you are trusting that if you create a strong context people will respond with this idea of we”. Right? That really resonates with them and everybody started paying forward, everybody started understanding a lot of the nuances of generosity and people started studying it and as they studied it, it started to create more and more ripples in society. So this idea, this basic unit of a small act of kindness, we sometimes think, does it really make make a difference? It’s so small. What impact… we have so many big problems in the world – what is this small thing gonna do, but there are multiple ways in which the small act creates change the world. First thing it does is it creates a ripple effect on the outside. A small thing you do touches somebody. Imagine you pay toll for the car behind you that person is going to go home, sit on their dining table and share the story with their family and what’s going to happen with that story when it lands into the hearts of young kids? We don’t know but we know that the ripple will carry on. So there is an external ripple effect but there is also an internal ripple effect. It changes you. Many people ask me that before we can give first we have to have. If you don’t have anything how can you give? What will you give? But that’s assuming that we are born bankrupt. That I was born with nothing and actually what that I acquired is what I have to give and that’s just not true because we can give in so many different ways. Sometimes just by listening to somebody we are giving them at very precious gift so how do you start to tap into this idea of multiple forms of wealth, multiple forms of capital, multiple forms of value? You can contribute your time, you can contribute your presence, you can contribute your compassion, you can contribute community, even attention – even the simple thing like paying attention is now a scarce commodity in our world. It used to be that goldfish had the shortest attention span of all living things and now we have replaced them at the bottom of the rank. We can’t pay attention for even nine seconds now. Our attention span moves in less than nine seconds on average. And so you look at that and you say: “wow, what if I can just listen to you?”. Maybe for 18 seconds, maybe for a minute, maybe even longer. What if I can listen to you without any judgement. And if you can just learn to hold space with life in front of you in that way, with that attention, with that care, with that compassion. If you can start to look at life, if you can open each door and instead of saying: “what am I going to get?” if we start to say: “what am I going to give? What can I contribute?”. Not just materially but personally, creatively, spiritually, in so many different ways, then that connection is multidimensional. It’s no longer singular and I think that has immense power and I think we have to cultivate that as society. We live with this myopic lens of value equated to money. Wealth equals money. I think worth as far greater than money. Sure, money is expression of wealth, it’s not to discount that but there are so many different expressions. A mother‘s love is an expression of incredible wealth. Artist painting is an expression of incredible wealth that goes way beyond the market economies. A small act of kindness is an expression of just immense, has immense value the culture the person who is doing it to the person who is receiving it. So how do we start to create systems and structures around alternative forms of capital is the questions that I think we have to hold in society. I would encourage everybody to go out and do a small act of kindness. Right now, today. I think we can do it, no matter how much… you can do it in financial ways you can do it in non-financial ways but we can all do that extra act of kindness but the orientation of the acts of kindness – usually we look for the external impact and while that’s there we can trust in the ripple effect to carry that out but I would say do that act with also an inner orientation to see what kind of inner transformation occurs when you do this act of kindness. I remember this beautiful… after talk to a b

unch of young people they give me a bouquet. They gave me a couple of bouquets in fact and what I  did was I opened up these bouquet at the end and I said okay everybody take a flower go out and gift it to somebody you haven’t appreciated, whether to cook in the canteen or whether it’s your teacher, whether it’s a student – just go out and let this ripple out and so there is this big queue and I was giving out this flowers. Before I finished all the flowers this girl comes back for the second flower, she has tears in her eyes and she looks at me and she says: “can I have a second flower?”. It’s so intrinsic, it’s so native. What impact did that flower have? Is she going to get a Nobel prize for it, is she going to be in the news for that? Probably not but the transformation that happened in her was real, was profound and it changed the eyes through which she looked at the world and those eyes are going to continue to touch the world for infinity going forward and that has a significant value as well so I would say go out and do an act of kindness.”

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