The Great Courses

A Random Act of Kindness

Feb 7, 2014 at 7:06 AM
4 years ago

I was informed by a Facebook friend that she had picked up a stranger's breakfast tab at McDonald's yesterday. When Tonya shared the experience on Facebook, I found myself smiling, as I'd done something similar the day before at the drive-thru of a Taco Bueno and mentioned the encounter on my page.

In both cases, the recipient didn't even know what was happening until we had slipped anonymously out of the picture.  We could only imagine the look on their faces when they were informed, "Actually...somebody already paid for your meal."

It was awesome.

hand into wallet

We did an entire radio podcast on Random Acts of Kindness several weeks ago, and something's happening in these encounters that I didn't expect: They're rippling beyond the recipient and creating a kind of lift for others in the vicinity.

When I informed the drive-thru attendant of my intention to pay for the person in line behind me, his face lit up in a smile, his body language changed, and he became a participant in the experience. No doubt he told a few co-workers, who (hopefully) also had good feelings about the gesture. Perhaps the recipient mentioned the encounter on his/her Twitter page, and those readers became part of the party. This tiny ping echoes outward.

It's like watching one of those YouTube videos with the title, "Faith In Humanity...Restored," as watching the goodness of others brings goodness into our own lives.

Corny? Sure. Sue me.

It's been said that these types of gestures are insignificant, as they don't require any true sacrifice. I disagree. The little things aren't little things, and I've come to see the power of gestures both grand and small. A kind word, a coffee, scraping a windshield, holding a door, leaving a note, giving a gift, paying someone's highway toll, holding an elevator, donating some unused clothes or household items, making a phone call, sharing the umbrella, taking a few extra moments...

These encounters also provide the opportunity for us to see moral and kind acts done for their own sake. Not for religion. Not to please an Eye in the Sky. Not because it's a command in a holy text. Just to benefit another. And by making the world better for another, we've also improved it for ourselves.

mark twain speaking on kindness

You probably already pepper your days with gestures of kindness, but let me encourage you anyway.  Sometime today, do something to benefit another.  That "little thing" might just transform their day.  

-Seth Andrews

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