Random Acts of Kindness
As we approach the end of December, many of us are anticipating Christmas, celebrating Hanukkah, perhaps participating in other religious events, or may not have any spiritual affiliation of any kind. It often occurs to me that if we are truly observant, it doesn’t take much to be reminded of how many people have less than what they need. Some of us are experiencing more sadness than we think we can bear, stress that sincerely battles the body and emotions, or we are desperately missing loved ones that are no longer in our midst. For many folks this holiday can be difficult and lonely. As a result, we see tempers flaring, patience running short and nerves being stepped on. Watch the crowds and citizens around you – it can sometimes be a little hard to determine, but see if you can guess, who might be struggling?
Since we could never enter the hearts and minds of our fellow passengers in this life, let’s just assume from the start that everyone could use a leg up on any given day. Even you, even me.
I was standing in one of my favorite coffee shops last month, one person ahead of me. As he waited for his order we began chatting about nothing in particular, but something he said made us both laugh. I quipped, he retorted and it was all funny. He collected his coffee and pastry, said something to the clerk, turned to leave and said goodbye to me, wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. As I received my fancy latte-something-or-other and started to pay, the clerk said, “no need, the customer ahead of you paid for it already”. He was gone, no thank-you required as far as he was concerned. A perfectly executed Pay-It-Forward. It is always such a surprise.
I couldn’t help thinking about it all morning. Why does it generally take someone else sweetly blindsiding us to get us thinking about a random act of kindness? Why not do it regularly, without a reminder, without need for a thank-you or hearty recognition? As a famous footwear company once said… “Just Do It”. I say, “Do it, and Quietly Disappear”.
Here are some suggestions for how you can willingly participate in Random Acts all year long, not just during the Holidays. But beware of side effects: if you are sad and depressed, it may make you smile, even more so on the inside; if you are lonely, you just made a friend; if you are angry, it will change your attitude; if you are afraid, you get to escape before you are caught; and if you are already feeling good, you have just managed to spread the jolly germs. (Never worry, the CDC won’t care!)
- Smile at someone on the street and wish them a Merry Christmas. Don’t concern yourself with political correctness. They may wish you Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa! Perfect, wish them the same right back!
- Say thank you to someone and shake their hand, for any reason.
- Thank a fireman, policeman, military or veteran for their service. Wave as they drive by in their vehicles. They give us or have given us so much.
- Go out of your way to hold open a door for someone with a cane, walker or other disability. Do it for persons pushing child carriages, carrying a lot of packages or otherwise overloaded. Don’t forget the outside and inside doors. Stop traffic around them if necessary. Be in charge of assisting them in getting there safely.
- Stick American flag stickers on your mail, bill payments and other correspondence.
- Pick up trash or discarded litter that isn’t just on your own property.
- If you can afford to, give an extra gratuity to someone who has provided exceptional or hard-worked service to you. Waiters and waitresses really hustle and spread themselves thin at this time of year, often with folks who can be quite demanding.
- Go through those closets and remove gently used clothing that you can dispense with. Pay attention especially to warm jackets that are no longer being used. Bring them to collection points. Many organizations are gathering at this time.
- Volunteer for something/anything. Bring food from the pantries to shut-ins. Distribute gifts, call Wreaths Across America and find out where near you they require help in placing or removing wreaths on the stones of our fallen heroes. wreathsacrossamerica.org
- Retire a loved and cared for tree ornament by sending it to a friend. Write a note that tells them how much they mean to you. Send them love and a piece of your family history.
- Sit and paint with a child or grandchild. Cover the table, don’t worry about the mess. Give them your time, your attention and your wisdom. Play!
- Buy a coffee or hot chocolate for a Salvation Army bell-ringer, a volunteer standing in the elements collecting donations of any kind or that person in the coffee line or drive-through.
- Send blessings and love to the person who cut you off on the highway or parking lot; anyone who is driving dangerously or speeding. Wish them safety on their journey. Smile and give them a wide berth, not a swear word.
- Stop during your hectic shopping or errands, relax and have a cup of tea. People watch and send good wishes and loving energy to anyone who looks like they need it.
This is the time (actually anytime is a good time!) to change our attitude through gratitude. I assure you it is a much better thing we do when we randomly give help, love, a hand or a thought to someone else without being asked or rewarded. Best sleeping aid in the cabinet!
Love and Blessings,