Can’t donate a million dollars? Well, how about donating a cup of coffee?
Editor’s note: One of our regular contributors has been felled by flu this week, so we’re re-running a popular “Shrink Rap” column from earlier this year. Always time for random acts of kindness!
I have a “welcome” sign on the gate that leads to my wellness center, WellNest. I purchased it at the Sunday Market about five years ago from two artists, an aunt and niece, who make one-of-a-kind, very creative signs from found objects. Mine has always received lots of compliments.
Well, after five years of being battered by the weather, it seriously needed repair. So I tracked down one of the artists, Nicole, at their shop, Tangerina’s, and asked if she’d make the repairs, which I knew would be quite extensive.
A couple of weeks later when my sign was ready, Nicole called and I went in to pick it up. I was thrilled to find that she had done a complete overhaul, beautifully used the colors I requested, and managed to save most of the found objects that give the sign its charm.
When I asked how much I owed her, she refused to take any money. I was taken aback and we went around about this for a few minutes, until I acquiesced and said that in gratitude for her kindness I’d tell more folks about her. So, Nicole, I’m gladly keeping my word.
As you’ve read over the years, I’m a big believer in paying kindness forward. What a beautiful energy it involves, and who doesn’t enjoy a sweet surprise to lift the spirit or lighten the load? Studies show that a minimum of three people benefit from random acts of kindness: the person doing the act, the recipient of the act, and anyone witnessing the act.
Perhaps it’s the truest measure of our heart and humanity when we help others compassionately, with no regard for payback. Payback comes simply in the form of feeling good.
Periodically I’ve put out a call to hear about your random acts of kindness. As I revisited some of your wonderful stories, I was warmly affected by the generosity some people live by. I thought you might be, too, so here are a few of my favorites. Drop me a note and tell me about your random acts, and we’ll keep the “good stuff” going!
1. When I go out dining, I always pay attention to my server. I look for something nice to say about them to the restaurant manager before I leave. Many times we are quick to complain but slow to compliment. (Julie, North Chatt)
2. Once or twice a year I buy new clothes—jackets, shoes, gloves, shirts, whatever. I make a point to donate the item it’s replacing. For example, if I buy a winter jacket and already have one, then I take the jacket I already own and bring it to a shelter. This idea can be applied to items throughout the house. (Martha, Chattanooga)
3. When my partner and I lived in Los Angeles, we would host dinner for the homeless on the day before Christmas. You never knew who would come or how many—on any given year we had 20 to 80 people. I would go around to thrift stores and purchase clothing and get food from the food pantry for them to take away with them. You don’t usually find out what happens after. However, one couple who came to these dinners every year eventually got off the streets, found good jobs and a good home, and years later they came back to let us know what had evolved from that simple act of “breaking bread.” And on that visit they brought bags of clothing and food for us to hand out. (Dan and Bill, Boston)
4. I have a garden and have had one for many years. I always plant more than I need and leave bags of veggies on neighbors’ steps in my neighborhood. (anonymous)
5. While in the military stationed outside of Seattle, I’d accumulated a bunch of old sweatshirts and decided to cut them up to make blankets. I eventually got two of my fellow G.I.s to do the same, then more and more people joined in. By winter we had enough blankets to go to the nursing home and find out from the staff which residents had no family. We’d leave our blankets gift-wrapped under the tree in the lobby with those residents’ names on them. Last year I taught my kids to continue the tradition. (Terry, Atlanta)
6. My friend and I were at a zoo on a hot day and she was walking around with an iced coffee. One of the employees commented on how good the iced coffee looked. So my friend went around the corner, bought an iced coffee for the employee, and tracked her down to give it to her. Later that week I did something similar (with a cup of tea) for the grumpiest person in my office. That person paid it forward the next day with coffee for the UPS man. We’ve started something good here! (Betty, Los Angeles)
Until next time: “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
— Oscar Wilde