You’re in line at the drive-thru, fumbling with your wallet to find your debit card as you creep up to the window. When you throw your card (and whatever tissues and gum wrappers are stuck to it) at the cashier, he says, “The car ahead of you already paid.”
Known as a Random Act of Kindness or RAK, this generosity of a stranger makes your day, and you vow to pay it forward.
The holidays can bring out the worst in people. Stress to find the perfect gift can make people unkind to retailers and fellow shoppers; time constraints sometimes lead to road (and parking lot!) rage. And then there are folks who feel alone, and the holidays are anything but happy.
Those of us who celebrate Chanukah talk a lot about light during this time of year. One of my favorite quotes is from Rabbi David Wolfe, which he said in reference to the Chanukah menorah: “The Shamash is the candle that lights the others. Be a Shamash.” No matter what you celebrate (or don’t), this is a great time of year to spread light and holiday cheer through Random Acts of Kindness.
Buying coffee for the person in the car behind you is a lovely gesture, but what if you’re on a tight budget (like me)? Fortunately, there are a number of things you and your kids can do to spread kindness without spending a penny.
Use Your Words
Send/leave notes of gratitude for your neighbor, co-worker, child’s teacher, mail carrier, trash collector, or babysitter.
Look at your receipts and find a store or restaurant where you received exceptional service. Call to let the manager know how satisfied you were with the cashier, salesperson, or server. You can also go online and leave a positive business review, which is especially meaningful to small, local businesses.
Write messages of positive self-image and encouragement on sticky notes and put them on mirrors in public bathrooms.
Moms (and dads!), compliment a parent. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this RAK, you know how much it means.
Leave an encouraging comment online for a blogger, writer, photographer, etc. whose work you enjoy.
Use Your Hands
Weed or rake a neighbor’s yard. Kids love collecting leaves and putting them in bags!
Pick up trash around your neighborhood, school, or local park.
Have your kids draw happy pictures or make cards and bring them to a hospital, leave them in your neighbors’ mailboxes, mail them to members of the military, or share them with a nursing home.
If you’re already making cookies with the kids, make an extra batch to give to first responders, a senior citizen, or a new mom.
Have extra fabric on hand from your last project? Make no-sew blankets and bring them to a homeless shelter. Or knit scarves and tie them to trees downtown for homeless people to grab when they’re cold.
Use What You Have
Leave a book you’ve been meaning to donate on a bus or park bench with a note or bookmark.
Round up unopened travel-size soaps, shampoos, etc. (you know, the ones that made their way into your suitcase during your last hotel stay) and make blessing bags with a note of encouragement/prayer that you scatter around town for homeless people.
Teach someone a skill of yours. A friend gave me one of the best presents when she used her mad skills to teach me how to knit.
Help your kids go through their clothes, toys, and books to donate to a local charity.
Continue Spreading the Light
Kindness is contagious. Once you start practicing Random Acts of Kindness, you won’t want to stop! The Central Carolina Community Foundation recommends setting Acts of Kindness goals as a family and/or incorporating Acts of Kindness into your family’s New Year’s resolutions to keep spreading kindness throughout the year. If the idea of practicing RAKs for an entire year is too daunting, consider participating in Random Acts of Kindness Week, which takes place February 11-17 in 2018.
As Aesop so brilliantly said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”