You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~John Bunyan
Want to feel better about yourself? I can think of no better way than by engaging in a “random act of kindness”. It’s a gesture that not only makes the recipient feel better, it has a funny way of making the initiator of the act feel good as well. So it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
There may be no one who exemplifies the spirit of “random acts” better than the amazing Chris Rosati who, while suffering from ALS, has just begun his latest kindness initiative. Out at breakfast one morning, Rosati saw two girls at the table next to him and gave them each a $50 bill with a simple instruction—do something kind with the money. He forgot all about it until he got an e-mail several weeks later that included pictures from a village in Africa with people holding signs that read, “Thanks a lot for spreading kindness—Chris Rosati.”
It seems the two girls, who were only 13 and 10-years old, knew about a village in Sierra Leone where the residents had been working to fight Ebola. So, to put their money to good use, the girls paid for a feast so the local community could celebrate being Ebola-free. Rosati calls this act the “butterfly effect” and it sparked his new kindness campaign: he is now giving out hundreds of $50 “butterfly grants” to “any kid who wants to change the world”.
Also worth noting is a nonprofit group that is turning kindness into a movement. It’s called the Random Acts of Kindness foundation and its mission is to educate and motivate all of us to engage in kind actions. Their Web site is filled with real life stories of kindness, like the man who each Valentine’s Day visits a local nursing home to give each woman there a red rose. There are also ideas on how to add acts of kindness to your everyday life, with actions as simple as “smile at 5 strangers today”.
I think there are two broad ways to look at providing kindness to others, listed in bold type below. And I didn’t have to look far to find recent examples of both, because they came from people close to me—my brother and my wife.
Look for opportunities to surprise and delight strangers.
I recently traveled with my brother to Florida to catch a few Spring Training games, and during our last night there we treated ourselves to dinner at the Rose and Crown pub in EPCOT Center. We were enjoying a couple of post-meal pints of Guinness when we noticed something odd.
A girl wearing fuzzy mouse ears had been seated at the two-top table next to us, and as she quietly spoke to the waiter we heard him issue a hearty “happy birthday”. He walked away and we fully expected the girl’s Mom or Dad to appear at any moment and sit down next to her. Only they never appeared.
We watched as the waiter returned with a glass of ice water, and then with a fish and chips dinner. The girl ate her birthday dinner in silence alone. She looked to be no more than 15, 16 tops, and we both sat there wondering what events had transpired to cause her to dine solo in such a convivial, family-friendly place.
As I paid our bill, my brother handed the waiter a small wad of cash. “Please pay her bill for us”, he requested and the waiter said he would gladly oblige. We left without saying a word and were long gone before the girl with the mouse ears discovered her birthday dinner had been paid for by someone she did not know.
Look for kindness opportunities in everyday life.
My wife teaches fitness classes at a massive local health club and several elderly people had recently become members. They tended to congregate by themselves in a far corner of the main exercise room and appeared to be disconnected from the rest of the gym, out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
Though it’s not her job, she decided to go over and talk to these seniors and see how they were doing—and she now makes it a habit to stop and chat with them each day she’s there. She tells me how much they appreciate her outreach efforts and I know it makes her feel good as well. It’s further proof that we can derive just as much joy from giving, as we can from receiving.
As always, I believe my spiritual mentor John Templeton has some wise parting words I’d like to share. If you want to add a few random acts of kindness to your life, consider this a call-to-action, a reminder for the days ahead:
Shift your awareness outside of yourself to others. Surely, someone whose life you touch can use your gift of kindness.
This post previously appeared on my Patheos Wake Up Call column, March 17, 2015.