26 December 2013

20 Everyday Random Acts of Kindness





So there was this guy named Wenceslaus. He was king. Good King Wenceslaus.  He got murdered by his brother in 935, but before he went down they wrote a song about him and what he did on this day, Saint Stephen’s Day, December 26. You probably know the song, but just in case here are the words below (or just click here to read along with the song, courtesy of the Irish Rovers).

Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay 'round about, Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night, Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight, Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence, By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine, Bring me pine-logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine, When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament, And the bitter weather.
"Sire, the night is darker now, And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, good my page, Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shall find the winter's rage, Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's step he trod, Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod, Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing.

Cliff notes version: King sees poorly peasant dude gathering fire wood in the freezing cold, then invites him in and buys him dinner. Then later, King and page are walking home in a snow storm, and King walks before him to lay tracks and lessen wind drag for the page. Nice dude, huh?
In a nutshell, King Wenceslaus was all about random acts of kindness.

This is something I know a thing or two about because 1. I have been on the receiving end of more random acts of kindness than I can count, and 2. A year ago I started a blog devoted to nothing but random acts of kindness. If you have been following here for a while, you might know it as I Believe in Strangers. It was a total failure.

No, really. I stopped posting after a couple of months. And not because of traffic - it got a lot of traffic. I let it fail on purpose.

For one thing, even though it was a very simple concept, I had a hard time keeping up with it – the daily post schedule was too ambitious, and between work and this site, I dropped the ball over and over again. And even if I had more time, just finding source material was difficult. Here is something you might not know: Everyone can recall being nice to a stranger, but very few people can recall a stranger being nice to them. I italicize recall for a reason.

Because here is thing, even people I know in person, and even those who have received a random act of kindness from a stranger in front of my very eyes, could not recall ever being on the receiving end. Even when prompted. By me.

*Crickets*

Easily, 90% of the submissions to I Believe in Strangers were from folks reporting nice things they had done for other people, which, was wonderful for me to read, but it says something us as people. Why can everyone remember being on the giving end of a random act of kindness, but can never recall being on the receiving side of things? How can everyone be giving while nobody is receiving? The math does not add up. This put me up for a bit of contemplative searching, and, if I can be honest here, I didn’t like what I found.

Sometimes people would send in a ‘Let me tell you about this great thing I did for somebody!’  and then, they’d  email a week later to ask why I had not published it on the site yet. What do you say to that?  It was frustrating. Here, I thought it was a wonderful, simple concept that I could use as a New Years Resolution, and it became a major source of irritation that shook my faith in humanity. Talk about butthurt. 

So.  As 2013 draws to a close and I take inventory of the what has come, I will say that, for totally selfish reasons, starting I Believe in Strangers was one of the worst ideas I ever had....it was also one of the best things that ever happened to me. I gleaned so much from those who read and wrote in those few short months. Since my takeaway from this project was GOSH, THERE ARE A LOT OF SIMPLE WAYS TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE, I thought this might be a good opportunity to list a few of my favorites.

If someone reading this can take away an idea to help someone else, fantastic. If it allows me to close the year and lessen the sting of failure, I'm in. Let's start 2014 on the right foot. A kind foot. Can feet be kind? Okay. You get it. Let's go:

20 Everyday Random Acts of Kindness
  1. When it snows, wake up early to shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Don’t tell them you did it or let them feel obligated to return the favor. 
  2. Surprise your spouse/family/roommate by doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom before they have to ask you.
  3. Let someone go in front of you in line.
  4. After you leave the house in the morning, make an effort to greet the first person you see with great enthusiasm– the clerk at the coffee shop, the gas station attendant, the bank teller, the security guard at your office building – greet this first person like were your favorite celebrity.
  5. Hold the door open for someone.
  6.  On your birthday, get yourself a $1 bill for every year (28 years = 28 dollar bills). Fold each bill and write “THIS WAS MEANT FOR YOU” on each one, then insert them in random places – in between cans at the grocery store, under the handle at the gas pump, under a stranger’s windshield wiper, etc.
  7. Next time you see a stray grocery cart in the parking lot, take a minute to drive it back to the store. 
  8. Compliment a stranger on their appearance – their hair, their coat, their smile. Hearing “You look nice today” can change revolutionize someone’s day.
  9. Next time you get the check at a restaurant, ask your server to include the bill of the next table. Then leave before they get a chance to thank you.
  10. Every time you see a child, any child, look them in the eye and smile. You are teaching them to do the same when they grow up.
  11. Offer to babysit for a neighbor, friend or family member. Don’t just offer in passing – tell them I would like to do this and schedule a date and time.
  12. Pay for coffee with a $20 and put the change in the tip jar.
  13. Next time you see someone with a stroller, car seat, luggage, or a large box, ask them if they need help. Even if they don’t need help they will appreciate that someone asked.
  14. If you come across a server or store clerk that is especially helpful, take a moment to get their name. Call back later and report your positive experience to their manager.
  15. Pick up a Santa letter and give a child their gift of choice.
  16. Make a monthly habit of rounding up things you no longer use and give them to a shelter, a charity shop, church, hospital, public library, etc.  Tell your neighbors you plan on doing this and they might pitch in too.
  17. Give up your seat for someone on public transportation.
  18. When someone comes home from the hospital, drop off a casserole (if you don’t cook, pick up something from a bakery, etc. ). Unless they need your help with something, don’t go inside – they may feel embarrassed about their appearance or feel obligated to entertain you. Wish them well and be on your way!
  19. Keep an extra umbrella in your glove compartment for the express purpose of giving it away to someone who needs it next time it rains.
  20. And most important: When somebody is nice to you, thank them profusely.  Not only will it encourage them to do the same by somebody else, it will make you that much more aware of your own gratitude and your ability to have the same effect on other people.
Happy Saint Stephen’s Day!

24 comments:

  1. I love this! Thanks!

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  2. It is a shame you felt you had to stop the other site. i enjoyed reading it very much. but I get why you would feel that way too. Sometimes I have a hard time realizing the kindness set before me until long after it passes. this will make me think a little harder.

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  3. Love this. I give a lot of my stuff away on Craigslist free and Freecycle, check out those websites. I also around XMAS mostly I carry around jewelry that I make and randomly give it away to retail workers as I used to work retail and it is a hard job to do and hard to be in a good mood. It makes them so happy and it is more of a gift to me than them I think. I do try to comment people too, like today I commented the girl that rang us up on her tats. I also try to smile at little ones and comment on their clothes too.

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  4. I was "RAK"ed recently! After several sneezes in the grocery store, a man followed up a "Bless you" with "Feel better soon!" I thought it was a very nice touch. And like you said, it made me feel so good, I wanted to pass it on. It really is the little things that count. Thank you, Aunt Peaches!

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  5. I submitted two stories: one was published, and the other was acknowledged (it had to do with witnessing my mom being very nice to someone in distress). I can understand your disappointment, but wish you had featured the 10% of those "receiving" submissions. I miss your blog

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  6. Don't remember exactly how long ago, probably 14 years, I was at the mall with my toddler daughter. We stopped at Mrs. Field's for a cookie and saw that they had a special for cookies and milk. I checked my purse and saw that I was 50 cents short. The lady in front of me overheard me telling my daughter and saw her dissapointment. She gave the clerk the 50 cents. It was so nice. 50 cents, 14 years and I am crying as I type this. You never know what small act can give someone hope again. Make them feel worthwhile. I will never forget.

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  7. I remember once my ex-husband was short a quarter for a snack and the man behind him paid. Also one of the first times I went to Richmond I forgot my toll money and the man behind me paid for me. It really made us happy.

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  8. Bloggers do RAK often! Although occasionally we are compensated for posts it usually never makes up for the time and effort it takes to Blog! So I consider myself richer in spirit every time I stop here! My first pin was a couple of years ago and I have enjoyed your posts ever since! Thank you from the bottom of my toes!

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  9. I don't think any attempt to shine a little light in the darkness is a 'failure.' What does it matter if the stories were from those who gave or those who receive? In the final analysis, recalling the fuzzy warm feelings of being kind or having kindness shown both have great value. I personally can clearly recall both the amazing kindnesses shown to me and also the ways that I have paid them forward. That's the point, isn't it? We are here to experience love. In the final analysis the only thing that matters is how we loved and how we were willing to let others love us, which is sometimes, particularly for woman, the more difficult part of that equation. Every little kindness matters, creates a ripple that can become a tidal wave of joy. Keep sharing, keep shining and know that your little light makes great impact in the lives of your readers. Love, Madge

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    Replies
    1. I completely agree. Whether being on the receiving end or the giving end of a kindness does not matter and the ripple you wrote about is so very true. :) Thank you for putting into words what I was thinking! I would not have said it so well.

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  10. I find it really hard to believe that people can't recall acts of kindness done towards them. Am I just lucky because it happens to me ALL the time. Maybe it's because I do a lot of the actions on the list. I seldom make a fuss or complain but if someone gives me good service, or is wearing something interesting or is just doing something nice, I make a point to tell them so.

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  11. A reader of my blog (a woman who I have never met) gave me a gift certificate to my favorite shop on my birthday....totally unexpected and so appreciated. A few readers also emailed me to tell me how they appreciated my blogging and writing efforts....not monetary but something I need to hear and which I consider a valuable and genuine random act of kindness. My young son (who spends most of his time looking at the ground on the hunt for found fortune) found a quarter while on the streets of Boston this summer - just after we had walked through a rather intimidating group of panhandling men....w/o thought or hesitation he turned back and gave one of them the quarter that he had just found. (I was so warmed by his unthinking act of generosity). I know there are so many more that I have experienced and to you point...I can't think of them right off the top of my head....but I am inspired by you to make sure I make a better mental note of them and my gratitude for them.

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  12. I do half of these already. Every year I make an effort to try to be a more helpful person. I work in retail and the one thing I witness the most is how cruel and inhuman store cashiers and store greeters and treated. I ALWAYS stop and say hello to them and when my sales are being rung up, I always honestly ask how their day is going and engage in small talk. Just acknowledging that I see that they are having a bad day can brighten their day. I know. I've been there too. Thank you Peaches! This was a great blog post.

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  13. Thank you Aunt Peaches. Your blogs, both of your blogs, are a kindness to me. And I would like to acknowledge the fact. --May your days be long and your cares be few.

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  14. There isn't one item on your list above that I haven't done on a regular basis except perhaps paying for the next table's bill at a restaurant, but mostly that is because I can't usually afford to dine out myself let alone pay for someone else. I actually had both my kids and I running around a parking lot one afternoon chasing misplaced carts and lining them up in shelters for 20 minutes to teach them how simple and easy it is to put them away. They found it so much fun I had to stop them from doing more than 2-3 carts each time we shopped for months. These small acts of kindness used to be called proper social behaviour. Since when is it not expected that you'll hold the door for the next person or offer to help someone who is struggling? Since when do people feel the need to brag about all that they do to be nice without remembering when someone was nice to them? Have our standards of integrity and decency been degraded to such an extent that what used to be a given is now an oddity? I do appreciate your attempts to get people thinking in this manner, until people wake up to the fact that TV, media and the government are brainwashing us to live isolated selfish lives of blatant consumerism and lowered morals in order to distract us from the slavery they impose upon us through statutes and laws that subvert our basic natural rights this world is doomed to way worse than a lack of kindness. Our governments want us hopeless and bitter against our brothers and sisters so that we cannot stand together against their injustices and blatant thefts.

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  15. I do most of these on a regular basis. Yesterday i tipped my waitress 50% because she looked like she was having a bad day. Little things add up to make a big difference!!!!

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  16. Re the shopping carts idea (#7):

    A friend of mine recently emailed me the following:

    "I use political awareness to justify leaving my cart way out in the parking lot. There are few things that the little guy can do to help create full employment. I like to park way out to avoid the parking traffic, and I feel if everybody leaves their carts all over the place the store will have to have have an extra employee to pull in all the carts, moving us closer to full employment. The same goes for demanding the TSA pat down"

    :-)

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  17. Peaches, I am knwn as the person spreading around acts of kindness. How do I know? Well, bumping into strangers thanking me for that time that, or my husband threatening to divorce if I do not stop to put so much energy into helping people I dont even know.
    but hey, that's the trick, I cannot remember one tenth of it, especially if it involves complete strangers. But I believe my husband, and even strangers, on their word. And the reason is, I believ, that a real act of kindness toward a stranger is absolutely gratuoitous. You do it on the spot because it happens and you feel like, sometimes even when you don't feel like. Thats why you forget it, or it would be a planned act of kindness. I don't believe nobody is kind to stramgers, I have been on the receiving end too often to think otherwise. But I think the very nature of doing such a thing is that you are kind and you forget about it. Of you ould just be a boasting ballon fillen of air, and not a kind perosn. Is it that simple.

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  18. I do many of the things on your list out of habit, but also because of the good example my parents set for me.My husband and i are now trying to set the same example for our children. We do things that they see, like buying our xmas tree from the local food bank, or knitting hats for a local charity. its all of the little things that add up

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  19. I LOVE #6! Thank you for all the great suggestions! I'm so sorry more people didn't tell you how someone did something nice for them. I see how just touting our own good deeds is self serving. {{HUGS}}

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  20. Wonderful blog today Peaches. You did make a difference - Keep the other blog up, even if you do not update it. People will read it and it will still help people smile. As you can see with your comments, it was read. Love your summary list! Smiles are definitely contagious! Let's all have a wonderful 2014.

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  21. Closely related to an interview question I would ask- I work in a restaurant. I would ask what the best customer service experience they every had was and what made it so great: gas station, restaurant, grocery store, post office.. whatever. It always surprised me how no one could ever remember a positive experience. Usually I'd get a generic "went to a restaurant and our drinks were kept full".. Those with legit answers, I believed, were actually OF SERVICE by recognizing and valuing great service. To this day, I try to share with those around me how it is up to us to be the nicest person someone speaks to all day. Especially in today's society, when many people work from home, we may well be the ONLY person that they speak to. 2014? I'm in.

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  22. Closely related to an interview question I would ask- I work in a restaurant. I would ask what the best customer service experience they every had was and what made it so great: gas station, restaurant, grocery store, post office.. whatever. It always surprised me how no one could ever remember a positive experience. Usually I'd get a generic "went to a restaurant and our drinks were kept full".. Those with legit answers, I believed, were actually OF SERVICE by recognizing and valuing great service. To this day, I try to share with those around me how it is up to us to be the nicest person someone speaks to all day. Especially in today's society, when many people work from home, we may well be the ONLY person that they speak to. 2014? I'm in.

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  23. I remember so many times when strangers have been kind to me. One of my children was born in the car on the way to hospital. It was a cold Winter night, we had stopped next to a pub, my newborn on my lap, and a young lady kindly gave me her jumper to keep him warm (in the commotion, I lost her details and was never able to thank her properly, sadly). There have been many times since when people have helped me out when I've been with kids on public transport, or lost in an unfamiliar place. When I see people navigating stairs and escalators with bags and pushchairs, I try to help as I know how difficult it can be.

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If you enjoyed this post, or have any further ideas on this topic, please take a moment to share by leaving a comment below. Some of my all-time best blog posts are prompted by comments from readers like you. Thank you!
-AP

 
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