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Kindness, Laughter, And A Fond Farewell To A Dear Friend

Kindness, Laughter, And A Fond Farewell To A Dear Friend

A dear friend of mine passed away recently.

Margaret McCathie was one of the kindest people I have ever known in my life. In some ways she was like a mentor to me, although she probably wouldn’t have thought of our friendship in that way.

I always looked up to her because I was inspired by the quality of person she was, how she never had a wrong word to say about anyone, how she would drop everything to help someone in need. 

She was always so kind to me. She helped me to believe in myself, even at times when I struggled. She always saw the best in me. She saw the best in everyone.

She was always giving of herself.

And she was almost always smiling.

With Margaret, I think the two things definitely went together. 

Copious amounts of research shows that kindness and happiness go together. One of my favourite studies was when over 600 people were given a small sum of money at the start of a day and told to spend it that day.

Except, half were asked to spend it on themselves and the other half were asked to spend it on others.

At the end of the day, when they were all assessed, those who had spent the money on others were the happiest.

Why is this so? I’ve often wondered.

I could tell you the science bit, but I think there’s something deeper going on.

I think, deep within us, we know that helping others is the right thing to do. It’s a spiritual thing for many of us. Margaret definitely had that kind of knowing. When we help others, our actions align with something deep within us that says, “Yes!” and that part of us bubbles up and fills our heart and mind at that time.

It’s a deep, wise, all-loving part of us. Some call it the Higher Self, others, the Soul. It’s that part of us that knows, even amid the difficult and confusing moments of our lives, that all is well. 

It is calm. It is peaceful.

And it rises up in us when we are kind, when we love, when we show compassion, when we point our attention towards the needs of others. It rises up because we align with it.

It’s like opening a valve. And the infinity of peace flows through it.

The science bit is that kindness, because of how it feels, fiddles around with our brain and body chemistry and produces feel-good substances like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.

But this is because of how it feels. My question has been, why does it feel that way? And I have come to believe that it is because kindness aligns us with who we are at the deepest level.

I’ve had this conversation with Margaret on several occasions over the years. Margaret was never bothered about the science, although she appreciated that about me, that it’s how I have been able to reach people and convey important subjects and principles.

Margaret just knew.

I’ve often questioned why I’m drawn to science. I’d rather just know, like Margaret did. When I reflect, I’ve wondered if I’m trying to convince myself of things. Maybe. Maybe not.

To be honest, I think using science for me is part of what I feel as a sense of purpose. I’ve always had a sense that my role is to teach, to communicate principles that help people get along, to feel joy, for us to live in harmony with smiles on our faces.

Science helps me to communicate some helpful principles for achieving these things in a language that many people understand.

A hostile person once asked me for advice.

“Be kind” is what I told him.

“Why,” he demanded.

“Why not?” That’s what I’d liked to have said. Margaret would have said that.

I said, “because it will soften your blood vessels and improve blood flow to your heart.”

Hostility is associated with coronary artery calcification, a hardening of arteries. Kindness is associated with a healthy heart. “It’s not rocket science,” I said. “It’s your health and all you have to do here is choose what sort of person you want to be.” 

He understood it when I put it that way. He was a technical sort of man.

I’ve come to learn that science helps me explain healthy principles.

Kindness is contagious. That’s another principle I’ve explained several times and Margaret loved for me to explain the science for people. The ‘R-number’ for kindness lies somewhere between 3 and 5. It depends on a number of factors.

Research shows that kindness causes a domino effect that knocks down at least three dominos – or ‘spreads to three degrees of separation’ as us scientists would say.

It means that if you use an R-number of 5, a single act of kindness will typically impact 125 people. That’s 5 x 5 x 5.

I like to believe that explaining these sorts of things helps people live healthier lives and be nicer to one another.

Laughter is very healthy. I learned that from Margaret and then I did some research to uncover some science that she could put on a flyer she was getting made up.

Margaret was a trained laughter therapist. She studied with Dr Patch Adams and toured China, Tibet, and Russia with him, visiting nursing homes and children’s hospitals dressed as clowns and making people laugh.

She made me laugh a lot.

Once, we were running a laughter and joy workshop together for a large insurance company. Margaret arrived in larger-than-life brightly coloured clothing. In the lift, we met two company employees dressed in grey suits. Margaret immediately began to interact with them.

They both stared at the ground, but she didn’t give up. By the time we got to the upper floor we were travelling to, they had loosened their ties, they were smiling, and their cheeks were flushed. She always had that kind of effect on people.

Laughter makes us feel good. It floods the brain and body with happy chemicals. It supports mental health, helps counteract stress and reduce anxiety and depression. It also supports the immune system and improves blood flow to the heart. There’s a lot of good reasons why we should find a way to laugh every day.

Margaret laughed every single time I met her. And she was infectious because she made me laugh too. She is one of the few people I’ve ever known where I can honestly say that I always came away feeling better after we met.

So I bid Margaret a fond farewell. She will be missed but never, ever forgotten.


David R. Hamilton PhD
After completing his PhD, David worked for 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. During this time he also served as an athletics coach and manager of one of the UK’s largest athletics clubs, leading them to three successive UK finals. Upon leaving the pharmaceutical industry, David co-founded the international relief charity Spirit Aid Foundation and served as a director for 2 years.

Now a bestselling author of 6 books published by Hay House, he offers talks and workshops that fuse science, the mind, and spiritual wisdom. David writes a regular blog for the Huffington Post.

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