shadow

I’d like my funeral to be one giant party, filled with people whose lives I’ve touched in some way.

(I’d also like a viking pyre with flaming arrows and a hand-crafted raft sending me out to sea, but that’s not really relevant.)

I’m always on the lookout for ways to become beloved. Stranger needs a kidney? Take one of mine (you don’t want the liver). Terrorists hijack a city bus? I’ll karate-kick one in the face and steal his gun. Your pet is trapped in a burning building? I’m on it! Yeah, okay, I have a bit of a hero complex.

The truth is, big opportunities to be a hero don’t come around that often for most of us, but we probably pass up a whole bunch of small ones every day. This year, one of my resolutions was simple:

Be a kinder, more helpful person.

December and January are always the two worst months of the year for me. Now that I’m finally starting to emerge on the other side of some nasty seasonal depression that had me swimming in circles of self-indulgent apathy, I’m ready to do my part to make the world just a little more awesome.

Here are 15 super easy, mostly free random acts of kindness we can all do to start being the change.

 

1. When someone does a good job, take a minute to tell their supervisor

As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of working in customer service knows, most people only go out of the way to report a problem. Be the person who takes the few extra minutes to say something nice about someone. You’ll brighten three peoples’ day – the employee, their boss and yourself.

2. Send a random encouraging message to someone

A few sentences can brighten someone’s day or even give them the boost they need to keep going. You never know what someone is going through and how much that might mean to them. Send a Facebook message to that person you’ve been thinking about but ‘didn’t want to bother;’ chances are they’re thinking the same thing.

3. Compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is

Parenting can feel like a thankless job at times (so I’m told). If you’re out grocery shopping and you see kids who aren’t tearing through the aisles and knocking things off the shelves, smile at the adult-figure and let them know you think their kids are great.

4. Silence your phone and put it away when you’re out with someone

If you’re with someone, be with that person. Unless you’re waiting on a life-altering call or a potential emergency, make the person next to you feel important.

5. Pick up trash on the ground

You don’t have to scoop someone else’s dog poo off the grass, but if you come across a plastic bottle or cigarette box on the ground, toss it in a nearby bin.

6. Make eye contact & casual conversation with your waitress, barista, gas station attendant, etc…

Having spent years working in the service industry, I can tell you that an awful lot of people treat you like a minimum-wage robot. It can change your whole day when someone takes a minute to make you feel like an actual person.

7. If someone looks lost, go over and ask if they need directions

Don’t just pretend like you don’t see someone wrinkling their brow and glancing between their phone and the street sign; go see if you can help. Even if you don’t know the area that well yourself, sometimes just the gesture can make a person feel better.

8. Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you

Okay, this one’s not totally free, but if you have $5 to spare, it’s just a nice thing to do.

9. Give someone a book you think they’d like

I’m a huge fan of ‘paying forward’ books. If I read a book that I absolutely love, I almost always pass it along to someone else who I know would enjoy it. (Admittedly, this is slightly more challenging with eBooks.)

10. Return shopping carts in a parking lot

Few things are more annoying than thinking you’ve found a great parking space only to find it occupied by an abandoned cart. Except coming out of the store to find that an abandoned cart has rolled into your car and scratched it (both of which have happened to me). If you see an empty cart near you, take 30 seconds and return it to the corral. This will save someone a lot of cussing.

11. Be patient with people slower than you

I am not a patient person. I have to make a conscious effort to not roll my eyes at someone counting coupons or paying with a check in the self-checkout lane. Getting stuck behind a slow driver can bring out language that would make a sailor blush, but I try to take deep, calming breaths and remind myself that everyone deserves kindness and patience. Sometimes I succeed.

12. Donate a bag of dog or cat food to your local shelter

If you happen to see a great sale on dog or cat food at the store, pick up an extra bag and drop it off on your way home. If you have old towels or blankets, bring those with – you’ll make a lot of furry new friends happy.

13. Don’t write that mean, angry comment you want to write

Reading the comment section on most online articles is enough to make you lose faith in humanity. When I see how many people go out of their way to be nasty to a total stranger it makes me want to cry. Instead of criticizing the author, contribute. It’s fine to have a different opinion, but if you can’t express it without name-calling or shaming, well, remember what your mom told you. “If you can’t say something nice…”

14. Clean up a mess – even if you didn’t make it!

Creamer spilled on the Starbucks counter that the barista hasn’t gotten to? Grab a napkin and help them out. Clothes off the hanger in a store? Put them back on. Yes, the employees are getting paid to do this, but why not do something nice just because you can? They’ll appreciate it.

15. When you get that nasty, discouraging voice in your head, respond with something complimentary about yourself

We’re all just doing the best with what we’ve got. Some days (or weeks or months) suck more than others. Sometimes the negative voice drowns out everything else, but as soon as you can, shout right back. You deserve kindness too!

 

There are no more powerful tools to fight despair, depression, apathy, bigotry, judgment and hatred than small, simple acts of everyday kindness. Plus, making other people happy makes you happy and that is a scientific fact.

 

In February I’m kicking off a Random Act of Kindness 30 Day Challenge where all who join will commit to doing one random act of kindness a day for 30 days. I want to start off with a list of 100 ideas to get people started, so I need some help coming up with good, simple & inexpensive RAKs. If you wouldn’t mind leaving me a few in the comments, that would be appreciated. 🙂

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

Comments

  1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)    

    These are such encouraging and positive satements Mandie!! The world would be a better place if we all did these things more often – I think encouraging someone even for a small thing they’re doing can make such a difference to morale and confidence and as for being patient with people slower and picking up rubbish on the ground, all of these things are so easily missed and forgotten about especially here in London where everyone is so busy and forgets these small things – great post to see at the start of a new year 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks so much, Shikha!

      That’s how I feel – a few small gestures a day from everyone really could make this world a happier, less-stressful place. It is so easy to get busy and forget – that’s why I wrote this list as much for myself as for others! Maybe I don’t get to be a hero every single day, but you never know when just a few words can make a difference to someone. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. travelFREAK    

    Such a nice article! Small gestures/actions can change the world. If we all did half of these things more often – this world would be a better place.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Jeremy 🙂 It’s true – it’s not always the big things that change the world, sometimes the little things make the biggest difference.

  3. Ryan Biddulph    

    12 is SO fun Mandy. We do that sometimes but usually take in animals wherever we live on our world travels. Like we’ll literaly take them into the home or we’ll feed the local street dogs and cats. Most spots, hell, strays are everywhere. It feels so good, it humbles you and grounds you like few other practices because animals ain’t giving you a pat on the back. They’re just going to be the amazing, awesome, naturally truthful/honest/beings whatever they are.

    Loving the list and great to see you again!!!

    Ryan

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Ryan!

      I know what you mean – in Greece I was obsessed with feeding stray cats! My host that I stayed with had about 9 cats that hung around and never really left because of it. Lol. Congratulations on getting married – that’s so exciting! Enjoy your semi-honeymoon – hard to escape to paradise when you’re already living there 😉

  4. Sylviane Nuccio    

    Hi Mandie,

    So glad to see your new post here.

    I’m sorry that you’be been through apathy times, but I understand. The holidays, especially Christmas, was a bit tough for me too, but that was to be expected.

    5 months later and still in my grieving process, so as I’m building a hell of a better life for me as I speak, I also weep on a daily basis. That’s so weird, isn’t it?

    But that’s how we human beings are, We’re not just one emotion, we are a bundle of emotions kinda fighting with each other at times 🙂

    In any case, I’m glad that you seem to feel better.

    I have to say that I try to do most of the things you mentioned on your beautiful list. If everyone would want to try that, they will not only feel better, but make this world a better place.

    Thanks for sharing those precious reminders.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Sylviane!

      I completely understand how the holidays would be such a rough time for you.

      I think at this point, daily weeping is a natural part of the grieving process, and it’s healthier than trying to bottle everything up. We are definitely a plethora of emotions – it’s very possible to feel a lot of things at once. 🙂

      In my case, I have struggled with clinical depression since I was a young child. For the most part I manage it through diet, exercise and activity, but this year for some reason it hit me harder than I have been hit in many years. Maybe it was coming down from the high of traveling and not knowing what I was going to do with my life combined with the lack of sunlight/shorter days.

      I try to treat everyone I come across with kindness, but I’ll admit I’m often bad at reaching out to people – trying to get better at that!

  5. Jaime Buckley    

    Ya know, I can’t understand why you have dark times during December and January—though my oldest son gets overwhelmingly depressed. It the lack of light going on—the overcast days here, but heck, we should have done some Google Hangouts when you hit lows.

    …I can get ya smiling. Promise.
    Heck, I’ll betcha a new kitten.

    Random Acts of Kindness??

    I am SO down for this! BRING IT ON!!

    #1 Tell a supervisor—oh boy. I do this on both sides of the coin. If someone does a crappy job, say a waiter/waitress, someone gets a talking to. But when it’s great, well, I’m causing a scene (seriously). 9 out of 10 times when Kathi and I go out, we know the server better than most by the end of the meal. There’s teasing, laughing and a flow of encouraging compliments.

    Wait….Maybe that’s where the free deserts come from and not the German Chocolate Cake Fairy!

    Damn. There goes another belief down the crapper.

    I’ve gone so far as to say to the manager, “You know, that girl is so on top of her game, you’d have to be an idiot not to consider her for a raise.” Then I stare at him for a moment and add, “You’re…not an idiot, are you?”

    Love doing that.

    #2 Send random messages to someone is a habit of mind (as you know). People do it to me and it totally makes my day. It’s shocking how often it can flip a nasty day around and help me emotionally get back on top. My buddies Ondi and Craig send me texts telling me how they believe in me…and I appreciate it.

    (BTW—check yer email)

    #3 Compliment a parent on their child. Do it. Often. You’re spot on here…but I dare people to try something a step further.

    Wait…..uhhhh, ok. Wife made a good point. Never mind.

    I don’t think your readers should try my tactics. I have 24 years experience at being NON-weird in grocery stores to pull this off without having the cops called on me. Moving on.

    You know what? The only ones I haven’t done are #8, cause I don’t buy coffee…and #12, cause I have too many animals to feed at home. They’re called “kids”….get it?

    Goats = Kids = Children

    Hell, I thought it was funny.

    I love the idea of RAKs!

    Ohhhhh, I didn’t mean.

    Hey, I’d appreciate a new acronym, cause that’s gonna get us guys in trouble talking about it (blush).

    …but I’m in. Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Call up your parents and tell them thank you for raising you.
    2. Apologize to someone for speaking unkindly.
    3. Find someone who looks down in the dumps and sit down next to them and say, “You look kinda down. So I just wanted to make sure you know I think highly of you.” Then tell them 3 reasons why.
    4. Write a letter (or email) to someone and tell them how they have made a positive impact in your life and tell them thank you.
    5. Get up extra early and do the household chores for someone else (dishes are always awesome to do for mom).
    6. Make breakfast in bed for someone.
    7. Give a loved one a shoulder massage, foot massage or wrist massage (awesome for use writers). My daughters do this for me and half the time they get me to cry I’m so grateful!
    8. If someone says I love you, STOP! Take a moment and look directly into their eyes and with a genuine smile, say, “I love you back.”
    9. Invite a friend over who’s been having a rough time and watch a movie with popcorn and treats. Awesome for both of you.
    10. Cook someone dinner.
    11. Mow the lawn of a senior citizen.
    12. Take a meal to someone who is ill.
    13. Have a “game night” and invite friends over you haven’t seen in a while, telling them you just miss them and wanted to hang out.
    14. Send a card to someone struggling.
    15. Make someone a JibJab card.

    …ok, I’m not doing everyone else’s job—BUT if you get stuck, let me know =)

    1. Mandie    

      I’ve already decided that next year I’m just going to leave the country for those months and go someplace sunny. Normally I’m prepared for it and can deal but this year hit me harder than it has in a very long time. I do need to be better at reaching out, but I don’t ever want to bother people with my crummy feelings.

      Of course, that makes me a giant hypocrite because I LOVE when people come to me to talk about their crummy feelings. Okay, I didn’t mean that quite how it sounded but it feels good when you can lend an ear to someone who needs it. Of course, I always like to be the helper not the helpee (hero complex…)

      Oh man, I’m imagining you and Kathilynn coming to my table when I used to be a waitress. You guys would have made my night (and probably gotten free cake). 🙂

      I do send quite a few random messages to people (usually after a glass of wine…) but I have to say none so random as yours! I snorted but thankfully nothing came out my nose this time.

      For the record, I don’t buy coffee either, except for my once-a-year splurge on a grande sugar-free peppermint mocha, but if I DID…

      I love your ideas!! I’ll definitely be using them.

      However, some of them make me woefully aware that every single one of my friends lives in a different state. I’m not sure they could make it to an impromptu game night. 🙁 (Note to self: make new friends that live less than 5 hrs away.)

      By the way, I don’t know what a jibjab card is, but I’ll be expecting one for my birthday. Don’t worry, it’s not til June, so you have time.

      1. Jaime Buckley    

        I always loved a bright, intelligent and sarcastic waitress. Someone with bite, but a smile and who knows good people when they meet them.

        Make sense?

        Google JibJab and you’ll see. Very funny service.

        Hey–if you don’t have friends close then you should add one to my list:
        16. Make a new friend–it’ll be a good deed to them and a to you as well!

      2. Jaime Buckley    

        BTW girl….next time you feel crappy, you email me.

        You’ll feel better, that’s a guarantee.

  6. Anna    

    Yay! Glad to see a new post here, Mandie! I know what you mean about the self-indulgent apathy. I’m trying my best to get through mine this year, and I hope you’ll overcome it too! I love #15… doing an act of kindness for ourselves. 🙂 But this reminded me that I need to reach out to the people in my life more. I always think about how I need to contact this one person, and yet, I always put it off. I mean, I bought postcards with specific people in mind weeks ago and still haven’t filled them out. 🙁 Thanks for the reminder… I think I’m gonna go write some emails now to those I care about!

    1. Mandie    

      Anna, I think you and I go through a lot of the same things in regards to our blogs! (And our self-doubts). I always think about how I should message someone and just tell them I think they’re awesome, but then I get all introverted and worry that they might think I’m weird. Which is dumb, so I’m just going to start doing it! Haha Good luck with your emails. 🙂

  7. Charles McCool    

    Oooooh, I did one of these things today. I am such a great person. 😀

    Seriously, though, wonderful list of RAOK and other goodness.

    1. Mandie    

      Hahaha, Charles you ARE a great person. 😉 And thanks!

  8. Adrienne    

    Hey Mandie,

    I LOVE that you have a hero complex. I think we need more of that in the world today actually.

    Show me someone hurting a child, the elderly or an animal and I become an entirely different person. I will kick their ass quicker than they know what hit them. I have a mean streak that just festers up from deep down inside me.

    I love your list of things we can do to just be better. We have a guy that is our porter here on our property and I try to let him know from time to time just how much I appreciate him. I’ll bake him some cookies because he just loves them. He just feels so unappreciated most of the time but boy does he get that light back in his eyes when I shower him with praise. It doesn’t take much to make someone else’s day.

    Great advice my dear, thank you for these reminders. Hope you’re enjoying your week and great to see you again.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Mandie    

      Adrienne,

      I love that! I occasionally try to bake cookies but I have such little self-control that the dough rarely ends up making it to the oven. Haha, next time I should just be realistic and buy TWO packages!

      You’re so right – it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. I think most of us feel taken for granted or unappreciated at times, so a genuine, heartfelt ‘thank you’ can go such a long way!

      But…cookies are even better. 😉

  9. kelli    

    Hey Mandie
    I loved this post so so much. Great tips. I agree with how these little things can really make a big impact, not just for other people but for our own well being.

    One tip really resonated with me about not writing negative comments. As you know, I am all about preserving our energy and focusing positively, and I never engage negatively on blogs or social media.

    If I read a post and I don’t agree with something, I won’t mention that, but will discuss something I did agree with and like. I am all for opening a dialogue and what have you, but when I see how some people engage online ,I think ‘what is the point of all this negativity?’ If you don’t like something, fine, but why are you wasting energy writing hundreds of words arguing your point? What is being gained? Just my humble opinion.

    Great stuff as always!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Kelli!

      You’re exactly right – practicing kindness does as much for your own well-being as it does for others. 🙂

      Ugh, the negative comment thing really gets to me, too! Not that I see any of that here, because my readers are AMAZE-BALLS. But even on sites like Tiny Buddha or Mind Body Green, where I would expect people to behave with some modicum of kindness, I’ve seen nasty, negative comments.

      I’m like you – WHY waste your own precious energy writing out something mean to a total stranger? I’ve left comments where I actually disagreed with an author’s point, but I did so gently and respectfully.

      Energy multiplies – of course we all feel pissed off sometimes, but you can choose whether you feed those feelings or not. (Don’t mean to sound self-righteous here, because I’ll admit I do feed my depressive feelings sometimes, but at least those really only hurt me.)

      Thanks for popping over!

  10. Alex    

    I love the advice of picking up trash on the ground, I’m currently travelling through India and this is a constant reminder!

  11. Alex loves travel    

    Your advice about picking up trash would be well heard in India where I am currently! Good list!

  12. Tamara    

    Very cool. I’d sign up for the RAK challenge 🙂

  13. Peter    

    These are some great tips, unfortunately I am quite impatient so number 11 hits me hard. These tips are really useful and I really cannot wait to use them. I’ve used some of the tips listed previously but not very often, maybe once or twice.

  14. Theodore Nwangene    

    This is really very sweet Mandie,
    If we can really practice everything you listed here, the world will indeed become a very better place.

    I love Michael Jackson’s song (Man in the mirror) a lot because thats the same thing he talked about there. We really have to become the change we want to see in this world, it should start from you and I and then extend to others.

    Lots of people needs our help out there and if we can render a helping hand to them, they’ll forever be happy for it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. Haley Castle    

    Great list! Very timely for this time of year when we think that voting is going to make such a huge difference in our lives when it’s really our everyday actions that make more of a difference. I choose to make a difference by smiling at strangers, meeting rudeness with kindness, and saying unexpected nice things to people who need to hear them. That will make more of a difference in the world than relying on politicians to do it for us.

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