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Random acts of kindness: 30 ideas about helpful things you can do for strangers, friends or loved ones

Updated on January 7, 2013

When was the last time you did a random act of kindness for a stranger, friend or a family member? If you can't remember, maybe it is time you looked beyond pleasing yourself and doing something nice for someone else. From classic random acts of kindness to quirky yet generous deeds and from examples for grown-ups to lessons for kids and teenagers - this post is full of ideas on what you can do to cheer someone up and make their day better.

If action man Mark Wahlberg can ditch his tough guy image to help an elderly nun to cross the street, so can you.
If action man Mark Wahlberg can ditch his tough guy image to help an elderly nun to cross the street, so can you.

1) Help the elderly cross the street

An old man or old woman nervously waiting at the traffic lights, waiting to cross – this is a common situation but how many times do you see something like this and get down from your car to help?

This random act of kindness is all about showing some care and concern for the elderly. Whether you are driving by or you are walking yourself, help an elderly cross the street. Hold them by their hand and don't let go until you have got them on the other side.

2) Send a gift card to the family of 9/11, Katrina or Sandy victims

Put yourself in the place of a family who was a victim of the horrors of 9/11, Katrina, Sandy or even the Sandy Hook incident. Think about how nice you would feel to receive an acknowledgement of your grief from a total stranger.

Sending a token is as easy as going to and purchasing a gift card. All it takes is a few clicks but your gesture will carry a lot of weight. Let the victims know that they are not alone and that they have your support.

3) Pay for another table at a restaurant

Celebrating your daughter's birthday or your first anniversary? Why don't you offer to pick up the check for the table next to you?

If you have some money to splash, pick a table and surprise them by footing their bill. To keep your random act of kindness really random, don't let them know that you took their check. Keep them wondering when the waiter tells them that the person on the next table just paid their bill and left.

4) Babysit for free

Good babysitters are hard to find, especially at the last minute. If you hear about a friend or family member furiously looking for a last minute babysitter, offer to help out for free. There are few other things that bring a smile on a parent's face than knowing that their kid is in safe hands.

5) Send photographs of yourself to family with a handwritten letter

There is no better random act of kindness than something that can make your family feel happy and teary eyed. If you are living away from your parents, surprise them by sending a handwritten letter along with a few photographs in print.

Even in the day and age of Facebook, email and smartphones, your folks are likely to cuddle up with joy when they get to hold your pictures as they read your letter. You can email your pictures but this way, the kindness and love in your heart for your family will show through.

6) Look after someone's pet while they are away

One of the first questions that bother pet owners before they even start planning a vacation is where they should leave their pets while they are gone. Kennel is the obvious answer but not all loving owners may want to leave their pets in unknown hands.

Do a random act of kindness by offering someone to watch after their pet while they are gone. If you like animals yourself, you may never feel like giving a cuddly puppy or a cute kitty back.

Caring teachers toil day after day to bring out the best in you. When was the last time you thanked your teachers for their effort?
Caring teachers toil day after day to bring out the best in you. When was the last time you thanked your teachers for their effort? | Source

7) Randomly say thank you to your teacher

Teachers have a powerful impact on young minds and they have the potential to carve a good future for their students. If you think that your teacher made a significant contribution in your life, surprise him or her with a nice little card.

Say thank you to your teacher by writing her a sweet message and sending her a box of chocolates or some flowers.

8) Teach your grandpa how to check his email for the umpteenth time

Suddenly turning up at your grandpa's place and teaching him how to check his email is as random as it gets. It is sweet how an oldie can often find logging on to an email account cumbersome and if you know someone who is not tech-savvy, go ahead and make his or her day.

9) Get a few friends to buy a busker's CD

Buying a busker's CD on the street may be called an act of kindness but you can make it bigger. Go the extra mile and get your friends to pitch in and buy a few more CDs.

Selling a few CDs will not make a million dollar difference but it will encourage a busker to continue making more music. It may be just the little motivation he or she may need to put in more effort going from one radio station to another for auditions.

Surprise your grandparents by turning up at their doorstep one fine Sunday morning and mowing their lawn. Go ahead, give the oldies a tender reason to smile.
Surprise your grandparents by turning up at their doorstep one fine Sunday morning and mowing their lawn. Go ahead, give the oldies a tender reason to smile.

10) Mow your grandparents' lawn

You don't necessarily need to find strangers to do random acts of kindness. Hop across to your grandparents' place and start mowing their lawn. Don't even ask, straightaway get hold of the mower and whir your way around the garden. Put a smile on your granddad's or granny's face by doing something sweet for him or her.

11) Distribute cupcakes to the homeless

Simple and anonymous charity is a good way to show kindness to complete strangers. This one is especially for everyone who likes to do a bit of baking at home. Make a batch of cupcakes and plan to give them away to the homeless.

If you don't want to distribute them by yourself, get in touch with your local charity and let them know that you have a yummy batch coming right up.

12) Give out worn out clothes, books, toys and other knick knacks

There are few other sayings than 'One man's trash is another man's treasure' more apt for this random act of kindness. Sift through your closet on a random weekend and zero in on worn out clothes, stuff that you may have outgrown and out of vogue accessories that you may never use. Look around your room or home and scout for things that you haven't used in a while – books, lamps, toys and anything else.

Don't plan for this clean up, just start doing it when you feel like, gather all your unwanted items and drive up to the nearest charity. If you know someone personally who can put these to good use, even better.

13) Stop a bully and help someone who is being bullied

You may know the lifelong scars that bullying can leave you with if you have ever been bullied in school or college yourself. If you are now of the age and stature to intervene and help someone being bullied, do it.

This may be the deepest and most meaningful act of kindness that someone can ever do. Whether you see a brat picking on a meek kid on the street or you find someone bad mouthing a friend on Facebook, do your bit to diffuse the situation or help the victim cope up. The victims who you save are likely to remember you and thank you for the rest of their lives.

14) Buy lunch and drinks for friends or colleagues on an odd day

You can buy lunch for your friends at school or colleagues at work on an odd day. And when everyone asks you why you are doing it, just say that you are feeling happy. There doesn't need to be a reason every time.

15) Chat with the ignored girl or guy in class

Being kind to the not-so-popular kids in your class may just be a matter of a single text message for you, but it can be a big deal for that kid. Boost someone's self esteem, bring a smile on someone's face or make them feel better by sending a text message or simply starting a conversation with a friendly hello.

Are you and your friends adventurous enough to venture out on the streets and give free hugs to strangers?
Are you and your friends adventurous enough to venture out on the streets and give free hugs to strangers?

16) Give a stranger a hug

Giving strangers a hug has always been considered as a cool way of showing kindness to random people and it will undoubtedly stay in vogue for a long time. Not everyone has the courage to go up to random people and offer them a free hug but if you think you can pull this one off, give it your best shot.

Sometimes even something as unassuming as a warm hug from a random stranger can brighten up the lousiest of days.

17) Randomly call and apologize to someone for your past mistake

When someone is hurt emotionally or physically, the scars may not heal until a genuine apology is given. Have you hurt someone in the past? Have you broken someone's heart? Whether it has been a few months, few years or few decades, pick up the phone and randomly apologize to someone who you have hurt in any way.

Don't mince your words as you tender your apology. Say I am sorry with all your heart and let the person know that you genuinely regret your actions and that you ask for forgiveness. Call without expecting them to be nice to you – their wounds may not have healed.

18) Gift away the thing on which you receive a compliment from a stranger

It takes courage, willingness and a heart of gold and if you can give away something for which you receive a compliment from a stranger. And if you can do it, it shows that you truly have kindness in your heart and believe in sharing.

For example, the next time a stranger compliments your cool iPhone cover, offer it to him or her. Say something along the lines of 'You can keep it. I have a spare one at home'

19) Praise someone's good deeds in public

Random acts of kindness can also be done with the use of words. In fact, kind words carry the potential of being engraved in someone's mind and heart forever. Let your kindness go deep into a friend's heart with a genuine praise out of the blue. Praise him or her in public.

You can even praise someone online. If you know a friend who has done something really nice, write about him or her on your Facebook wall, give them a shout out on Twitter or pin a congratulatory message on Pinterest.

20) Share information about pets who need to be adopted

Show that you have a tender heart by sharing information about a pet who needs a new home. If you know someone who needs to give up their cat or dog, contact a pet adoption agency or ask your friends if they would like to adopt a loving pet.

You will be responsible for an animal's happiness and wellbeing if your match making efforts are successful.

21) Help someone unload their cart at the supermarket parking lot

How many times do you park your car at the supermarket and see people frantically unloading their shopping cart in the boot of their car? You can make someone's life easier by simply helping out in unloading their cart and then even offering to put the cart back in its aisle as you make your way inside.

From unloading shopping carts to helping someone with their grocery bags - supermarkets are places where you may get plenty of opportunities to show random acts of kindness to strangers.

Comedian Russell Brand is spotted helping out a homeless man by giving him his t-shirt, some water and food. He went a step further and even gave the homeless guy a ride in his Range Rover, reportedly to take him to a rehabilitation meeting.
Comedian Russell Brand is spotted helping out a homeless man by giving him his t-shirt, some water and food. He went a step further and even gave the homeless guy a ride in his Range Rover, reportedly to take him to a rehabilitation meeting.

22) Buy a takeaway for a homeless person

The sight of homeless people on the streets generally evoke mixed emotions. Rather than look away when you pass by a homeless person, walk to the nearest takeaway and buy a meal for them. Make sure you do this without being asked else you may be encouraging begging.

Offer a few words of advice and be a good listener as they open up about the problems they face in their lives. Give a few helpline numbers or charitable organizations where the homeless person can call to cope up with the troubles of his or her life.

23) Pay the bus fare for someone who looks needy

Do you travel by bus a lot? Then be on the lookout for people who are digging in virtually every pocket of theirs to find some money for a ride and offer to buy their ticket for them.

Don't come across as pitiful or sympathizing. Act if you have had a good day and want to give everyone a treat without a reason.

24) Tell a cop that he or she is doing a great job

Cops face the wrath of many sections of the society day in and out. Some say it is all a part of their job but they deserve a bit of kindness too.

The next time you see a lone cop doing his or her beat, stop by and say thank you. Tell them how an awesome a service they are giving to the public and the good contribution they are making to the society. Your kind words are likely to motivate the cop to do an even better job.

25) Pay for the car behind you in a drive-through

Whether you are buying a quick meal or grabbing your morning coffee, pay for the car behind you when you are paying for your own drive-through order. Leave a small note, something along the lines of 'have a nice day'

Random acts of kindness are all about giving without expecting anything in return, so don't ruin it by giving your contact details on that note.

26) Give someone a job recommendation

Are you in the position to give someone deserving a job recommendation? Then give it without them having to ask for it. You could give it in writing or simply vouch for their skills on LinkedIn. This is your way of showing gratitude for how they behaved while working with you.

A job recommendation from your perspective may be something as small as jotting down a line or two. But for the person on the receiving end, it may be a gateway to a promotion or a new job – a truly life changing random act of kindness.

27) Buy chocolates or flowers for your daily bus, tram or train driver

Do you take the same bus, tram or train to work every day? If you do, chances are that you may be bumping into the same friendly driver on a daily basis. Bring an ear to ear grin on his or her face by getting some chocolates or flowers on a random day.

Let your drivers know that you may not be thanking them every now and then, you appreciate their service from the bottom of your heart.

Double top the guy or girl who comes to deliver pizza. Give these runners a reason to smile all day.
Double top the guy or girl who comes to deliver pizza. Give these runners a reason to smile all day.

28) Double tip a pizza delivery guy

A neat way to show some kindness to strangers is to double tip the person who comes to deliver the pizza. Don't wait for the festive season to show your kindness otherwise it will lose its genuineness and become a more of a formality.

Whether it is a sunny, rainy or snowy day, surprise the delivery guy with double the tip and express your generosity.

29) Pay off someone's debt

There are few other things more relieving than knowing that your debt has been cleared. Whether it is the last installment of a student loan or a minor credit card debt – any form of liability can pin someone down financially and emotionally.

Irrespective of how big or small the amount of your monetary help is, bailing someone out from the gallows of debt is an act of kindness that will never be forgotten. So if you have recently had a windfall gain, share it with someone deserving and make their lives a tad easier by offering to pay off some of their debt.

30) Converse with a taxi driver and give a generous tip

Cabbies don't have the best of reputations but it may be impractical to let one or two experiences cloud your judgment for everyone else. Many taxi drivers are known to join the ranks as a stopgap arrangement while they study or are in-between jobs.

Next time you take a cab, try to start a discussion with the driver. From educational background to family history, make small talk, start a humble conversation and ask the cabbie everything you possibly can. Leave a generous tip when you leave and thank him or her for the service. You will be the reason for one happy cabbie on the roads of your city for the day.


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