Can you remember the last time you were the beneficiary of a “random act of kindness” – an unsolicited, totally unexpected kind act from a stranger? How did you feel, and how did that affect the course of your day? Can you remember a time when someone else benefited from your random act of kindness?
I’ve been collecting them for a few months now; the last one was in a giant French metro station when my wife’s ticket didn’t work and she was stuck behind heavy metal bars with her luggage. A woman behind her used her pass to unlock the gate and motioned her through. I didn’t have time before one long trip to mow our lawn; imagine the pleasant surprise when I returned to discover that our neighbor mowed it for us! Earlier this year, as my wife exited our car on a busy street she dropped a book; an Excel Energy truck driver noticed that her arms were full, got out of his truck, picked up the book and returned it to her. The random act that got me thinking about this was when a woman in front of me at Starbucks offered to buy my coffee. I thanked her and declined the offer, but she insisted, saying: “I’m just having a good day and wanted to buy someone a cup of coffee!” There were more, and they were all “game changers” of sorts; in each case I immediately felt positive about the initiator (and in the truck driver’s case, Excel,) it brightened up my day and caused me to “pay it forward” with others.
What difference has it made for you when you were the recipient of a random act of kindness? How about when you were the initiator? These are challenging times, with many of us preoccupied about our own sets of concerns and agendas; the environment seems a little unfriendly, or indifferent at best. I wonder what the impact would be if each of us made a commitment to initiate a random act of kindness daily, or a few per week. In most cases that should be pretty easy; there are adequate opportunities if we’re paying attention. Opportunities could be as simple as opening a door for someone (a lost practice!) or picking up dropped change (and returning it of course!) At work we could help someone with a workload to help her leave earlier, treat someone to a cup of coffee or favorite snack, ease a new employee’s transition or take the time helping someone reload a complicated printer. It’s amazing what just an unexpected smile can do to brighten things up. (If we’re ever at a loss for ideas, of course one can find multiple resources on the web merely by searching “random acts of kindness.”)
Many businesses already give via community or charity efforts, and in most cases those are planned, budgeted and promoted programs. I’m intrigued with the prospect of a business or institution incorporating random acts of kindness in its business model or culture; if any of you are aware of that, please share it.
Big random acts of kindness can make a big impact, including help with rent, repairing a vehicle or taking care of someone’s yard. The impact is magnified when help isn’t requested and there is no sense of obligation; the “surprise” factor can totally redirect a relationship, course of events or outcomes. We all have opportunities to be change agents, and some of the changes can be transformational, by initiating random acts of kindness. May you be the beneficiary or initiator of one or two soon!
“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.”
- Samuel Johnson; English poet, writer
“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
- Amelia Earhart; Aviation pioneer, author