random acts of kindness

a cardboard box of free plums

At the Corner Perk Cafe in Bluffton, SC, an anonymous donor pays for the coffee of anyone in line behind them until the funds run out. Two years ago this idea caught on and now people donate regularly, or even stop by to donate without buying anything. It made us wonder about the principle of random acts of generosity — just because — with no obvious return other than the pleasure of giving freely, making someone happy, or making something better.

We recently took a walk in the park across the way and thought, ‘hmm, what would happen if we just started picking up trash?‘  We would be surprised if we saw an ordinary person doing it; wouldn’t it surprise others?  Could this become contagious? What kinds of little kindnesses can you imagine doing just for the hell of it?

It could be as small as a smile at a stranger, a door held open, or a couple of bucks given to a homeless person or a busker. As a birthday present to herself last year, The Improvised Life’s assistant Dese’Rae gave a homeless person a twenty, instead of the standard single. Maybe pay a toll for the car behind you, or give a lotto ticket to a stranger, improvise…

We once read a story about someone giving $5k to a homeless man she was familiar with, which then allowed him to find a home. That stuck with us. What if a random-act-of-kindness-a-day was at the top of everyone’s priority list? It feels just as good to help someone else as it does to help oneself: kindness as a habit.

via GOOD; photo courtesy of Magical and Otherwise

Related posts: neil gaiman’s benediction for new year’s (or any other time)
anne herbert’s wise + teeny meditations
a doctor’s improv rx: jive aces ‘bring me sunshine’
chuck close’s ‘note to self’ (eight perfect rules for living)

5 Responses to random acts of kindness

  1. diary of a tomato 10.26.2012 at 11:24am #

    I think of these karmic acts of kindness as a way of recognizing and acknowledging the humanity in others — I’m here, you’re here, we’re here together, same world.

  2. Lisa 10.26.2012 at 12:45pm #

    I love this article. Practicing kindness on a daily basis is key to my happiness.

  3. Beth 10.26.2012 at 2:36pm #

    Once or twice a week I pick up trash–usually in a park, but sometimes just along the street. Most people smile as though they appreciate it, but no one ever comments in a positive way, out loud. If they say something it’s that I’m “taking someone’s job.” It’s disheartening. I just don’t think I understand people.

  4. Joan 10.26.2012 at 8:02pm #

    I liberate trees and shrubs from plastic caught in their branches. Once a woman thanked me, said she had seen the plastic tangle but hadn’t thought to take the next step & do something about it.

  5. Sally 10.28.2012 at 9:37pm #

    We should have said that. Thanks!

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