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Embrace Random Acts of Kindness

December 27, 2019

One of the most inspiring things for me about the holiday season is seeing people be a little kinder and more generous toward each other. Throughout December, I’ve seen more smiles, received countless “hellos” from strangers, and observed people openly sharing food, money and other goods with neighbors or those less fortunate. Then that generosity sometimes fades as we become absorbed by the daily grind

As we head into 2020, I’ve made it my personal mantra to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The quote, an uplifting twist on the more disturbing phrase, “commit random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty” is widely attributed to Anne Herbert, a California woman who wrote her version on a restaurant placemat. Decades later, that quote is even more relevant in this age of divisive politics, bullying, road rage, and unchecked social media rants. News headlines can be flat-out depressing, and while I’ll still pay attention to local, national, and world events, no matter how despondent they might be, I’m determined to practice resiliency through kindness. Here are a few ways to spread senseless acts of beauty:

Brighten someone’s day with a compliment. When walking past a neighbor’s house as they work diligently on a garden or yard project, let him or her know how lovely it looks.

Smile! We all can’t be happy all of the time, but when you are, share that good aura with a smile. Maybe a person will return the gesture, or maybe not, but chances are you’ll make someone’s day a little brighter.

Thank people working in often-unappreciated jobs. Thank the retail clerks you encounter or the janitors at your workplace. Show gratitude for anyone who performs a service that makes our lives a little easier.

Reward service industry employees with a generous tip. Restaurant servers, bartenders, airport skycaps, bellhops and others in the hospitality industry receive the majority of their income from tips. When possible, make a server’s day by giving more than a standard tip.

Go beyond the “leave a penny.” Most gas stations and convenience stores have the “take a penny, leave a penny” cup. Maybe add some spare dimes or quarters—that could add up to help a motorist a little short on gas who is trying to get to work, or a person who needs just a few cents extra for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Plugging spare change into a vending machine can also pay it forward to the next person with a free item.

Pick up trash. Despite all of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaigns and public awareness efforts, there will always be litter. Trash also blows off of trucks and out of overflowing garbage cans. While taking walks, jogging or bicycling, carry a bag to pick up and properly dispose of trash on the streets or in our parks. Even picking up stray debris in front of your home can make a difference.

Don’t take things personally. This inadvertently plays into random kindness, as every one of us will encounter a person at some point who challenges our attempts to be kind. Our reactions to people and situations can affect whether we commit random kindness, or if we use words or actions that turn to violence. People we see while going along our daily business might do ignorant things like cut us off in traffic, stop abruptly in a crowded pedestrian area to check their phones, open a car door into our paths while we’re bicycling down the street, let an unleashed pet run into ours or our pet’s space, refuse to hold a door open for us when we’re behind them . . . the list could go on and on.

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to confront strangers who commit these acts and call them every four-letter name in the book, or flip them the one-finger salute, but that causes situations to escalate quickly and unnecessarily. Take a deep breath and try to remember that the person likely didn’t wake up in the morning with the sole intention of bringing misery to your day. It could be that that person is having a bad day and isn’t thinking clearly, it might be because that person isn’t in the moment nor has awareness that he or she is committing an offense—or that the person truly is self-absorbed and uncaring. But chances are that we’ll never encounter that person again, and that fleeting brush with his or her ignorance eventually becomes just a blip on the day’s radar. Put it behind you and, to quote another famous phrase, keep calm and carry on.

Wishing everyone joy and kindness in 2020!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane permalink
    February 3, 2020 5:40 pm

    I love this – this IS how I strive to live my life! Thank you for posting this.

    • February 6, 2020 10:51 pm

      You’re welcome, and thank you for also practicing random acts of kindness!

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