When I decided to challenge myself to doing a random act of kindness every day for a week, I was unaware of the extent of how the kindness would come back to affect me. I figured the generosity would make me feel that little warmth inside. Maybe I’d make a person or two smile. Maybe I would make someone’s day.
I didn’t realize that the kindness would come back around to me. It seemed that every time I did something kind, I received good karma. That wasn’t the goal. I didn’t tell anyone I was going around doing nice things. I didn’t want a reward. Yet the universe rewarded me. And the kindness changed me.
Overall, I consider myself a friendly, polite and kind person. I like to help others as much as I can. But I don’t often go out of my way to give something extra to strangers.
Now spreading the love is a hobby.
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My first idea for my week long experiment was to leave a little money somewhere. I didn’t know how much or where, but I wanted to just give the little that I had. When I needed to run to the Dollar Tree for a few items, I figured out how I would implement my plan. I pulled a $5 bill from my wallet. Five dollars at the Dollar Tree means five whole items! What better way to make a little kid’s day than by leaving the money in the toy section of the store?
This $5 bill means five toys for some lucky kiddo.
I left before I could see who'd find the money, but I’m hoping left an impact on some precious kid at some point that day.
The next day was National Sandwich Day. To celebrate, my best friend and I hit up Subway for buy one, get one free sandwiches. The line was lengthy, but not terrible. When we approached the register, a man came up yelling and demanding a refund for an over-salted pretzel.
“There shouldn’t be this much salt on a damn pretzel!” he shouted, wagging his finger in the face of the poor cashier, who was already under pressure with the busy line.
The man got his refund and left, grumbling under his breath. The cashier apologized a million times to us about the wait. I responded politely and patiently (I am often very impatient!). I paid for my roommate’s food and refused her money as she tried to repay me. The BOGO offer required the purchase of a drink, and I told her to keep the drink. I also bought her some cookies (there is nothing better than those warm, melty Subway cookies!).
Then I asked to buy a gift card, which I left for the people behind me. The cashier's eyes grew double their normal size.
“That … that is so nice of you!” he said in disbelief. He instantly gave me an extra cup for a free drink “for being a good person.” I was a little bummed because I was actually trying to avoid being rewarded for the kindness, but I accepted it and thanked him and left feeling good. I disappeared before the people behind me could react to their gift card, but I hope it made their day.
A gift card I left on a table at my favorite coffee shop, Donkey
I stuck with the gift card-giving for a couple more days, leaving one at my favorite coffee shop. I also left one in the card slot of the pump at a gas station. These sorts of random acts left me again with no idea how people reacted, but maybe it helped someone’s day become at least a little bit better.
My kindness came back to me. Friends were offering me rides home or to meetings. I got that free drink at Subway. I was really feeling the love.
To “end” my week of giving, I decided to do something even bigger and better. I reached out to a local shelter that helps women leave toxic and abusive relationships. This work is dear to my heart, and I decided to try to see how I could become involved. First, I found a way to donate some clothing and other necessities.
The email that made my day (week, month, year ... )
But that wasn’t enough. So I asked to volunteer. And after this December, with some training, I will dedicate a handful of hours each week to these women who need support. And I can’t wait to be part of something bigger than myself.
I want to really make a difference. I want to keep giving. I don’t want the kindness to be random. I want it to be regular.