Seven Tiny Acts of Kindness that Go a Long Way
Small things can have a big impact on someone's day
Everyone's in a hurry these days; everything has to be done yesterday. But the other day, I spent my morning busily preparing for a big presentation I was to give that day at work. I paid extra attention to my appearance that morning, wearing my best suit, making sure (hoping) I would be taken seriously at the meeting... I am just a "young hotshot," after all. I arrived at the office, my pulse racing, and stepped into the elevator, along with an older, fashionably-dressed lady. As the elevator made its way up the floors, the lady turned to me, and said "big presentation today?" I guess she could tell by the suit, since the dress code at my office is business casual, and I responded "Yeah, I'm pretty nervous for it, too..." to which she replied "You have no reason to be. I can tell you're well-prepared just by the way you're dressed. You're going to ace it."
That simple compliment gave me such a surge of self-confidence that my nerves vanished completely... for a short while, anyway. But it made me realize the powerful effect that tiny acts of kindness can have on other people. This lens is a tribute to the ones I've witnessed most frequently, and ones that I believe are just too rare in this world.
A smile is the single most powerful act of kindness you can give a person.
It takes many more muscles to frown that it does to smile, and yet I see more scowls than smiles on people's faces nearly everywhere I go! Something magical happens when someone gives another person a genuine smile: it spreads. Smiles are contagious, and can be given on any occasion.
For example, one dreary Monday morning, I walked grumpily into Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee, when I was greeted energetically by the lady at the register. She could just as easily have said "Can I help who's next?" and taken my order like anyone else, but instead, I got a hearty smile and an energetic greeting. The conversation went something like this:
Lady: "Hey there! How are you doin this fine Monday morning?"
Me: "Could be better, it's Monday, I'm tired, and it's raining."
Lady: "Are you working indoors today?"
Lady: "Then don't worry, be happy! It could be worse, you could be working in the rain!"
Again with the hearty smile! I couldn't help but crack a grin... I called the manager over and congratulated him on hiring such a dedicated, energetic worker. It may have taken little effort, but that lady made my entire day with her tiny act of kindness toward me.
Try this: the next time you greet someone you see on a regular basis, give them a warm smile to go along with your greeting, and ask them how they're doing. They'll know it's genuine, because a real smile shows in both your mouth and your eyes.
Smile; it's the second best thing you can do with your lips!
2) Hold the door for others
Trust me, people appreciate it!
As I said, these days, everyone's in a hurry. Many people can't be bothered holding a door or elevator for another person, and don't stop to think that the other person might be in just as much of a hurry as they are! It's a feeling of relief and gratitude especially when someone holds the elevator door, because it's usually quite a wait before it comes around again.
Try this: Next time you're waiting in an elevator, or headed for the exit at the grocery store, and you notice someone behind you headed in the same direction, stick your hand out and hold the door. It takes no effort whatsoever, and hey, you might even get an energizing smile!
3) Let someone in front of you in line at the supermarket or on the road
I was picking up a few groceries at the store the other day; it was late at night, and only one register was open. The lady in front of me had a cart full of groceries stacked so high, it would make the empire state building jealous. I grabbed a magazine off the shelf to read through while she checked out, but as I flipped it open, I heard something I almost never hear, anywhere: "Would you like to go in front of me? You only have a couple things, and I have a ton."
I looked at her for a minute, astonished, before agreeing and thanking her profusely. This has only happened to me twice in my life! I was perfectly willing to wait in line while she paid, but the truth was that I was tired and just wanted to get home. Maybe she knew this, maybe she didn't, but either way, I really appreciated what she did for me.
Try this: If you have a hungry family to feed and a cart-full of groceries, and you notice someone behind you in line who has only a couple, let them in front; they'll really appreciate it!
4) Congratulate someone on a job well done!
All too often, people go far too long without hearing that they're appreciated.
In general, we don't expect much gratitude when we accomplish something. We hope for it, yes, but we don't expect it. That makes it all the more surprising, and satisfying, when we are acknowledged for what we do.
My job works the way most jobs in the corporate world do; I get things done, hand them in to my manager, and if it's on time and done well, he says nothing. Maybe a transparent thank-you. Then one day, completely out of the blue, he came up to me and told me that he was taking me out for lunch, as a way of saying thank you for all the hard work that I do for him. It wasn't a bonus, but it didn't have to be. The fact that he was acknowledging the effort I put into my work completely blew me away. This one is important to me; I always try to recognize the achievements of others, because I know how badly we all want to hear it.
Try this: The next time you hear about someone's accomplishment, whether it be a promotion, building a treehouse for their kids, or baking the perfect cake, take a second to congratulate them on a job well done. Everyone loves to have their efforts acknowledged!
5) Top up someone else's parking meter
Go ahead, be a hero!
There's nothing worse than popping a few coins into a parking meter to run into a building for only a few minutes... when those few minutes turn into quite a few minutes... and when you finally get out, you notice a nasty parking ticket stuck to your windshield.
Sometimes, however, the angels smile down on us. I had stopped at the bank and popped a couple coins into the meter, expecting only to be inside for a few minutes. But then one topic led to another, and time began to fly, as it always does when you don't want it to, and I knew just sitting there that my meter had expired. When I got outside, though, I noticed something: there was no ticket on my windshield. And when I took a closer look, I found time still left on the meter! The only answer is that someone topped up my meter while I was inside. Whoever that person was, I'd like to thank them for the feeling of relief it gave me to see my windshield free of paper. It made my day.
Try this: The next time you notice another car's meter has expired and the driver is nowhere in sight, be their saving grace and pop a coin or two into their meter. You'll surprise the heck out of them, and make their day in the process.
6) Get in touch with an old friend
You check your email, only to notice a message in your inbox from an address you can't recognize right away. You wonder how it passed through your filters, when you suddenly notice the subject line: "Long time no see!" You open the email, only to find that it's from an old friend you haven't heard from in years. Best of all, they're contacting you just for the sake of getting in touch, rather than because they need a favour.
It's always a great feeling when someone you used to be close with contacts you just to say hello, because it means that you were on their mind. Recently, an old friend I went to elementary school with dropped me a line, wanting to get in touch. We agreed to grab a drink some time and do some catching up. That email certainly brought a smile to my face!
Try this: Think of someone you used to be close with, but don't hear from or speak with anymore. Send them an email and let them know you were thinking of them, and that it would be nice to do some catching up. Better yet... call them; bring a bit of the human element back into the equation! It's a great feeling to be remembered by someone for no reason other than who you are to that person.
7) Say thanks when someone does one of the above!
People who do the things above do them because it feels good.
But at the same time, like I mentioned in point number four, people love to be recognized and appreciated. The next time you get the chance, say thanks to the person, and give them the satisfaction of knowing that you appreciate what they did for you. They made you smile, so return that smile back wth a genuine thank you!
Speaking of which... thanks in advance for taking the polls below; I appreciate it!
Which of the below would you most appreciate seeing?
Which of the seven acts of kindness are most important to you?
How friendly are people in YOUR hometown? - Is your city full of angels, or do people avoid walking around at night?
Let's find out how friendly people really are! Cast your vote, and let me know where you're from in my guestbook!
In your general opinion, how friendly are people in your hometown?
If you're reading this, and you're one of the people out there who does one or some of the things I mentioned, then from the bottom of my heart, I congratulate you. You're somebody who brightens other peoples' days, and the world is better off having you around.
Most likely though, a few of you will read this and think to yourself, "These things are so small, nobody cares about them!" For those of you out there with this mindset, I'd just like you to take a second, and imagine the last time anybody did any of these things for you. How did you feel? Doesn't it beat the alternatives? Doing these things for others not only makes them feel good, it cheers YOU up, as well. Did you know that, all other things equal, happy people live longer than miserable ones? So go ahead... add a few seconds on to someone's life and share a smile.
I'd love to hear from you if I brightened your day even a little bit! Also, if you have time, please check out my follow-up to this lens, titled There's a Silver Lining in Every Cloud; tell me a positive story and I'll feature both your story and your favourite lens!