1. Leave a small, anonymous gift for a person who needs it. Maybe your coworker has spent the past week at home giving cough syrup to her kid. Or perhaps your friend just found out her dad had a stroke. Whatever the event, showing support doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. Leaving a box of vitamin C tablets or dropping off a cupcake (because everyone loves cupcakes!) is enough to show you care.

2. Help someone carry a heavy load. So you’re pulling out the parking lot of Flat-Screen-R-Us and you see a 70-year-old woman wondering how to haul the TV into her Buick. Even if your favorite show starts at home in 5 minutes, laws of good karma dictate that if you help her load the car, you’ll only miss a recap of the show.  If the karma gods are extra kind, maybe the show will wait to off your favorite character everyone else hates until next season.

3. Personally thank the chef for a good meal. Chefs work grueling hours–they typically wake up at 5 am to chop the vegetables and leave at 2 am only after the kitchen has been cleaned. And did I mention it’s really, really hot in restaurant kitchens? The internal fire that keeps him going is the hope that you derive pleasure from eating your butternut squash soup. Admittedly, he might also want to be the next Anthony Bourdain and one day leave the sweaty kitchen to enjoy the beaches of Thailand. But anyway. Because customers usually single out the chef to complain, he’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the act of kindness.

4. Buy the coffee order of the person behind you in the drive-thru. Leave it to Americans to take the fine art of relaxing over an espresso in an al fresco café and sadistically mutate it into a frenzied experience. Take pity on the patron behind you—like yourself, she’s probably only getting her coffee ‘to go’ because she has to spend the next four hours auditing spreadsheets. So, take a small load off of her day by issuing a token of thanks. Let the shared coffee serve as a silent nod; a tribute to her hyper-productivity and hard work. She may even return the favor to the person behind her.

5. Being inordinately friendly to the airline staff when your flight gets delayed. It’s a cruel twist of fate when your layover flight is delayed… AFTER you spent four hours having your chair kicked by the kid behind you. But the poor soul fielding angry questions from passengers cannot control the reasons for why the plane is delayed. He can’t control the weather, nor can he control the crew’s late arrival that happened seven hours prior. Considering you cannot control these factors either, enjoy the downtime. Pick up a book you’ve wanted to read (at KC, we like “The Diamond Cutter”). Strike up a conversation with the Romanian-looking guy. Once you’ve regained a sense of sanity, smile and politely ask how the gate agent’s day is going. He might upgrade you to first class.

6. Helping a mother who has her hands full. Imagine that someone hands you a wiggly, crying creature to hold. And then gives you a 5-lb bag to carry. You are then instructed to answer your cell phone (which naturally goes off every five minutes), but you cannot drop the bag or the creature. Welcome to the world of parenthood! If you’re not there yourself, take a few minutes to appreciate your empty two hands and then use one of them to help that parent.

7. Asking a crying person if they are alright. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “today, I want to totally embarrass myself by breaking down in front of people I don’t know.” With this ridiculously obvious statement in mind, if someone’s crying it probably means something really, really bad has happened. Recently. You might not be the person’s friend or family member, but you could make all the difference in the world to this poor person.

8. Remembering the name of service workers. Pop culture is full of quirky, interesting and sometimes heroic service workers. There’s Will the janitor in “Good Will Hunting,” the flair-sporting server Joanna in “Office Space” and the quiet, yet prideful Jenna in the indie flick, “Waitress.” The point is, all of them have stories; each has a unique life. You may not ever learn about their kids, their aspirations or their hobbies… but learning their name is a good start.

9. Taking half a day to pick up the trash in a park. Remember how fun it was to roll down the hill of the park as a kid? Or to play red rover and nearly break the arm of your neighbor? Somewhere along the way, parks become less magical and more, “that grassy space with a bunch of trash.” Just remember—some kids, somewhere, use that space as a playground. It’s their refuge. Help them reclaim it.

10. Giving something, anything to the homeless person you always see on the way to work. What do you want to be when you grow up? I can think of one answer nobody will ever give: a person sitting on the street corner hoping someone will give them enough money for lunch. But, like you, that person probably had very different goals. Very likely, they STILL have hopes and dreams. They might just need a break. Even if you don’t have a lot of money and can only give the person your leftovers, doing so helps them keep going another day. May we all get where we want to go someday.

Share your random acts of kindness below.

 

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