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Seven Tiny Acts of Kindness that Go a Long Way

Updated on May 28, 2014

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.

1) Smile!

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?"

Me: "Yes..."

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?

See results

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?

See results

In Summary

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!

Thank YOU, for taking the time to read through my list! - Did this article make you smile? Go ahead, leave me an act of kindness, and comment!

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    • rking96 profile image

      Rick King 4 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Very actionable list and almost all are free. Everyone should be doing several of these each day. Easy to read. Thanks for sharing!

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 5 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: Thanks for the feedback Darcie, and glad to hear you had a great morning! It just sets the tone for the rest of the day, doesn't it? :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Little acts of kindness can go a long ways, both for the receiver and the giver. :)

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      LOVE IT!!! Thank-you so much for sharing these seven beautiful ways to create happiness all around .. boy am I ever having a sweet morning today.

    • TheBLU26 profile image

      TheBLU26 5 years ago

      A great lens, very well presented and so true! Excellent work!

    • RBENL99 profile image

      RBENL99 5 years ago

      This is a very good lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your experiences, many times when I get frustrated with indifference and intolerance I have found there are angels who would help. If only they were more, people who are like angels and who I would love to thank a hundred times for what they have done, without expecting anything in return.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very important things to do. I try to as much as I can.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Contributing just a little bit of money to help someone and their family in need :-)

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 6 years ago

      A smile can warm even a stranger's heart. I like this lens.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Wonderful. Blessed by a Squid Angel :)

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      I love small acts of kindness. You're right, they do go a LONG way!

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 6 years ago

      @julieannbrady: Thanks Julie! I see your actions speak every bit as loudly as your words, which is fantastic :) keep on being awesome!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      It's heartwarming to see this presented from the man's point of view. As a woman, I'm always holding the door for others ... and extending a kindness at every chance.

    • kaposzta profile image

      kaposzta 6 years ago

      Thank you for these tips, I'm going to do at least one of them today :)

    • MarilynImanse profile image

      MarilynImanse 6 years ago

      What a great page! I love this quote: "There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all." I believe that it is the little things in life that make the biggest differences. Thank you for the simple reminders of what it takes to change another person's world.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 6 years ago

      Yes, we all should show some kindness towards each other in 2012. A nice lens.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 6 years ago from Ljubljana

      Good points. Small things, not political programs can improve the world to better place. Thumbs up!

    • Harshitha LM profile image

      Harshitha LM 7 years ago

      I love your lens. Thanks for making it.

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 7 years ago

      @Harshitha LM: Thanks for the kind words Harshitha! The very fact that you enjoyed it brings a smile to my face :)

    • Harshitha LM profile image

      Harshitha LM 7 years ago

      Beautiful lens Jason. I wish to vote for all seven of those acts of kindness. Be it smiling or saying thanks to someone - It might look very insignificant to some but it sure makes a difference to the one who receives it.

    • profile image

      Manik_Bajaj 7 years ago

      I like to hold the door for others, especially for women. I believe you should always hold the door for a lady, whether you know her or not.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 7 years ago from UK

      I Love this! Beautiful lens in more ways than one :)

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

      Keep writing like this Jason...the world needs more of it. Blessed by an Angel. I will be featuring your lens on my angel lens: angel-on-assignment

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 7 years ago

      @ohcaroline: Thanks to everyone for all your amazing comments! These comments, knowing I helped brighten someone else's day in some small way, are the reason I write lenses like these. Lately I've been busier, and it's been tougher to get on here, but hearing every once in a while that I helped make someone smile gives me the motivation to want to keep on going. Thanks so much to you for your blessing ohcaroline, and to everyone to whom my lens has brought a smile!

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      Great lens and love your attitude. I do agree that small acts that can be so easily done really mean a lot to others.

    • profile image

      raj_sam6 9 years ago

      Wow man, you made a great lens! i think there should be more of these around here.!

    • Mellithorpe profile image

      Mellithorpe 9 years ago

      Jason, Great lens. I wish more people thought like you. I try to do most everything you wrote about but so do not, oh well. You have every reason to be proud of this lens.

    • julcal profile image

      julcal 9 years ago

      FABULOUS LENS! Yes, i smiled the entire time. I am always deeply touched by the smallest acts of kindness. they cost the other so little, yet give so much! Where I come from they were common. Where i live now, they are alien. I still give them, and people think I'm special - it's just the way i was brought up. But I hardly ever receive them. Doesn't matter. Getting the thanks and making a difference in other people's lives is good enough for me.

      Thank you so MUCH for this lens - it makes me think of home. 5*, FAV, Tweet and Facebook !

    • Kevinbe profile image

      Kevinbe 9 years ago

      Great Lens! Very inspiring...

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      Thanks Sharon! Let me know when it's finished, and I'll add it to my lensroll! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      As promised, I've featured this wonderful lens on another one of my lenses...

      It is a work in progress :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Fabulous lens!!! I've featured it in a lens about SquidU. Have a look...

      I'm going to feature on one of my other lenses as well... I'll let you know when it's done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Great lens. 5*

      Except for #5 I do all of the above and I really wished that a lot people would too.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 9 years ago

      great lens!

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      Thanks everyone, you're all makin my day here! I appreciate the kind words; they were the reason I was inspired to write this lens in the first place! It got me thinking of all the other nice things I've seen people do lately, and shortly after, this lens was born :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I feel warm and fuzzy now! Here is a :) for you and Congratulations on a job well done!

    • Jaebird88 profile image

      Jaebird88 9 years ago

      LOVE this lens. I wish everyone in America could read it. I personally try to live by these standards...don't always succeed at it, needs improvement. But if everyone did these little things we WOULD have abetter world.


    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 9 years ago from Concord VA

      Great lens! I worked at Kroger for 24 years, and I learned that you can win over a grumpy customer with just a smile and nice comment (like you were that day). It's a simple thing to do! By the way, I live in a small town in Virginia where your 7 acts of kindness are generally done by most folks.

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      Thanks everyone! I'm glad this lens is serving the purpose I designed it for :) it's also a reminder to myself to appreciate the little things... if you can learn to do that, you'll have so many more things in life to appreciate, because little things are everywhere!

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      Thanks everyone! I'm glad this lens is serving the purpose I designed it for :) it's also a reminder to myself to appreciate the little things... if you can learn to do that, you'll have so many more things in life to appreciate, because little things are everywhere!

    • financialadvise profile image

      financialadvise 9 years ago

      This lens leaves me with a warm an and fuzzy feeling. We practice these ways of living on a daily basis. It only takes a second to make someone else feel that they have value. And also, smiles (the real ones) are contagious.

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 9 years ago

      WOW!!!!! Great lens. Wonderfully done!!!!!!!

    • SugarPirate profile image

      SugarPirate 9 years ago

      Great idea for a lens! 5 stars. I always liked the concept of the "mensch", the person who helps strangers with no expectation of return. The world can always use more kindness and courtesy, and you never know how a little thing might brighten someone's day.

    • cineteq profile image

      John Parr 9 years ago from Montreal

      Nice reminders, thanks for sharing them.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      What a nice sentiment. I always love a well-written, feel-good lens.

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      On a side note, apparently I don't always check my spelling in comments as well as I should :P

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      [in reply to BisDak]

      I have pretty calssic values when it comes to chivalry, and I believe the man should open the door for his lady when and where possible; but holding the door for someone is just common courtesy, and woman aren't the only ones who aprpeciate it my friend!

    • BisDak profile image

      BisDak 9 years ago

      When I was still in college, learned that it's only eastern gentlemen that will open and hold the door for ladies. I don't know if its true but I noticed it through the years.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 9 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      What a great lens! My husband is one of those people who is always cheerful. He is know for his greeting. When people ask how he is doing he says "I'm doing the Best". This always brings a smile to peoples faces.

      Five stars for a lens that made my day!

    • jrr2112 profile image

      jrr2112 9 years ago

      Thanks Mike! I've actually seen the movie a few times; it's extremely powerful and moving. I should actually work on posting a link to the movie information in here.

    • MikeMoore LM profile image

      MikeMoore LM 9 years ago

      Nice list. My wife likes the movie 'Pay it Forward.' If we're in a drive thru, she'll sometimes pay for the people behind us, and tell the clerk to tell them to pay it forward. I've had it happen to me once too, and it made me feel good. If you've never seen that movie, you should check it out. Great lens and five stars.