– Wanda St.Hilaire, Of Love, Life and Journeys
Who didn’t love the movie Pay it Forward? (Okay, aside from the really sad part). We are moved when we witness people step out of self-absorption and notice the plight of others to commit acts of kindness. When a moment of random compassion ripples through the pond of humanity to great distances, it is even more awe-inspiring.
On the break during a CPO presentation of Beethoven & Brahms, my friend Pat and I chatted about the kindness of others. We were sitting in a semi-private balcony, compliments of my acupuncturist and her partner. It was a beautiful performance featuring knighted pianist, Sir Joaquín Achúcarro, who astounded us with his one-handed recital of Brahms.
We were feeling grateful for the gift of the music (and the privacy, because I kept disrobing due to hot flashes) and I pondered that maybe December 21, 2012, rather than heralding the end of the world, was the beginning of a new era of compassion.
Personally, in the past year, I have been the recipient of many acts of over-and-above kindnesses. My Momentum (school) mentor passed along my websites and writing to her mentor shortly after we began working together to garner his opinion. A business coach and writer himself, he loved my writing and made an offer to mentor me for as long as I want or need it. He has become my biggest fan and tirelessly sends me inspiration, advice, and positive feedback—all out of the goodness of his heart.
I have received numerous services, both business and personal, on a website called Fiverr whereby many of the providers have not only given a lot for the $5 they get, but they have gone well beyond the confines of the gig to give more of themselves to be in service.
My wonder boy editor and proofreader, Ryan (whose honesty is astonishing), refuses to charge me if the work I send is under ~10 minutes worth and my hair stylist gives me a pro-rated fee for her services that I did not ask for (but immensely appreciate).
The other day while writing at the café, I noticed a stunning girl of about 30 texting and reading. When she left, she came up to me to tell me that she’d been watching me and debated about coming over (in case I thought she was a freak), but that she really wanted to tell me she thought I was beautiful. Feeling especially low that day, I told her she’d made an excellent decision and that I much needed it and appreciated the compliment. It made my day and lifted my soggy spirits.
Pat said she had observed a mother and child in a store earlier in the week. The little girl was admiring a Barbie and was notably well mannered. Another woman had also been watching them and asked if she might be able to buy the little girl a Barbie and her mother agreed to it. The beauty of the gesture moved Pat.
That week Pat had also been the recipient of a random act from a stranger and was touched and surprised. When someone shows us an act of kindness when we most need it, we feel seen. We feel like we matter.
I first began actively planning random acts after an exercise we were asked to do in a development course at Personal Best which was facilitated (and gifted) by my friend Lynn. I had so much fun that I went on a rampage, buying strangers coffee anonymously, leaving money on park benches with notes, topping up expired meters and whatnot. One man was insistent on knowing who’d bought his coffee and invited me to his table to ask why I had done it. It inspired him to make a plan to do the same.
But as is human nature, my random acts became rather, well, random. In 2011, I learned of a 29-Day Giving Challenge, joined, and blogged about it. It was founded by Cami Walker who wrote a book about a “prescription” she’d been given by a medicine woman to change her focus on her health challenges to a focus of giving.
The selfish upside of random acts of kindness is the boomerang effect or the karmic benefits. Last month on what I now call my lucky corner, I’d said no to a homeless man who’d asked for money. I had $20 left for the balance of the week and needed it. But halfway down the block I heard a voice say, give him some money. Really? Geez! I don’t have much. Yes. And not just change. I turned around and much to his surprise, gave him half of what I had.
Two weeks later, I walked out of the same store, once again, with not much in my wallet. I saw a small envelope near the dumpster and heard that same voice say, pick it up. I didn’t question it and picked it up. As soon as I did, I knew there was something for me inside. And there was. $60 cash. (It’s now Lucky Corner because last week I won $50 and then $10 on my lotto tickets).
The other selfish part of giving is how good it feels. According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation studies have found that we release serotonin, the neurotransmitter that elevates mood, when we do an act of kindness and that it boosts our own immune systems. It’s why volunteering and mentorship are so popular. If we are giving out of a heart-driven sense of generosity, the joy we generate gives us a feeling of wellbeing.
When we shift our focus off of our own miseries to how we can help others, it pulls us away from the quandary we are in. And no act of kindness is too small. We have absolutely no idea how one small act, one compliment, one helping hand will affect another human being.
Many is the story of one brief word of encouragement or gesture of kindness preventing a suicide. Of utmost importance is the fragility of teenagers who may be in a black pit of despair and need some kind words or someone to listen and understand without judgment. Here is one poignant story from a hair stylist, The Story that Changed My Life.
It only takes a moment to make someone’s day. Sometimes when the people closest to us do not see our pain, a stranger’s kindness can make a massive difference. The next time you feel an inner nudge to compliment someone or do something kind, don’t doubt yourself. Just do it. Your nervousness or reticence will be eradicated by the response.
I firmly believe that the reason unconditional kindness and compassion feels so good is because it is one of the fundamental fuels of love, and that love, no matter how trite it sounds, is the answer.
“Be the miracle you seek.”
-God in Bruce Almighty
55 Ideas for Premeditated Acts of Kindness
- Give a stranger who looks stressed a small bouquet of flowers
- Help an elderly person with something: crossing a street, carrying groceries, etc.
- Leave $2 at the lotto-checking machine with a note: A random act of kindness for your winning ticket
- Leave money in laundry machines
- Buy something you really, really want (can be very small) then give it to someone else
- Hold the door for someone who is a distance from the door
- Clean snow off of someone’s car
- Leave money in a library book
- Make it a habit to pay attention to those around you who may need assistance
- Make someone a CD of beautiful love songs
- Bring a single or elderly neighbor dinner one evening
- Tell someone they have inspired you or that you admire them
- Promote someone you believe in with their efforts at their small business
- Write out your best recipe and give it to someone who’d appreciate it
- Tape a sign in a public bathroom – You are Beautiful. Yes! I mean YOU
- Pay for a coffee/latte and tell the barista to give it to whomever orders one next with the message that it was a random act of kindness
- Buy someone’s train or bus ticket
- Buy your boss flowers and say thank you or tell them you think they are a creative genius or an amazing mentor
- Say something nice to an overworked clerk in a store
- Set up a lemonade stand in a park on a hot day and give away lemonade and hugs (how good will you feel afterward?)
- Give away a computer or cell phone you no longer need
- Offer to make a colleague lunch the following day
- Pay for the order behind you at a fast food drive through
- Make someone an amazing YouTube playlist: great music, inspiring stories, funny videos, cute animals – whatever will make them smile
- Give someone a little box of Timbits (if you’re a Canadian!)
- Tell a child or teenager something absolutely wonderful about them (they’ll never forget it)
- Sing to a small child
- Send a card to someone struggling with an illness or disease to tell them you think they are courageous
- If you are a woman, smile and say something nice to an elderly man. If you are a man, smile and say something nice to an elderly woman – ageism is too prevalent in this society
- Smile at everyone you pass by for one whole day
- Send a teenager a card telling them who they are makes a difference to the world
- Hug someone who has given you amazing service
- Take a friend and go to a chemo ward or radiation ward and deliver a chocolate and a smile or hug for everyone
- Send your mum or dad a letter of all the reasons why you love and appreciate them
- Write a love note of appreciation to your spouse and leave it in a surprise location
- Give a chocolate bar to a taxi or bus driver
- Leave money on a park bench with a note to cheer someone
- Post a letter of appreciation to a police station or firefighter station
- Leave a car wash ticket in an envelope with a note on someone’s dirty car
- Drop by a senior’s home with roses or balloons to give one to each resident
- The next time a homeless person asks you for money, give what you can with a big smile and a “have a wonderful day”
- The next time you see a homeless person pushing a cart, stop and give them a $5 coffee card from the local coffee shop
- Bring a box of donuts into a police station
- In colder climes, give socks out to the homeless around a shelter
- Compliment a stranger
- Buy a case of cold water on a hot day and give out bottles to homeless where they gather
- Give a stranger a movie pass
- Leave a small potted flower on a neighbor’s doorstep
- Buy a roadside flag person/worker an ice cream cone on a hot day
- Bring someone at work who needs appreciation some flowers
- Call someone you haven’t in a while to tell them you love them
- Leave the coin in a shopping cart for someone to find
- Tape money to a vending machine with a note – Free <pop/water/chocolate bar> on me!
- Take your “one day” clothes to Value Village/Goodwill
- Post a card or handwritten letter to a friend or family member
Entertain the idea of random acts of kindness as a way of life. You’ll be the change you wish to see in the world!
You Get What You Give Video (Beautiful)
In honour of Easter, this post is dedicated to every person who has ever shown me an act of kindness and compassion. Thank you.
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Coming next post …. ‘Life by Heart’ bracelets!
Post © Wanda St.Hilaire