The other day, I looked out my window and saw my neighbor with a bucket of soapy water and a garden hose. I did a double-take when I realized he was out on our busy urban street, scrubbing my car to a soapy shine. Yep, my neighbor was washing my car. Was the car so filthy he couldn’t take it any more? Was he so bored he was willing to wash anyone’s car?
A few days later I approached him and mentioned I had seen him putting my car through the wash. “Darn it, you caught me,” Dennis said, “I try to do one nice thing for someone else every day—but it’s important that they never know I did it.”
Yes, Dennis commits a random, anonymous act of kindness everyday. And, he’s much happier it for it.
A few days later—early on Valentine’s Day morning, I was pulling out a grocery cart from a stack at Trader Joe’s. I pulled out the cart, and gave it to a woman standing next to me. She looked shocked. Then she smiled. Then she said thank you. Then she looked at me deep in my face and said with deep sincerity, “You have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.”
I thought it was a simple gesture—the polite thing to do, to let the woman have a grocery cart rather than selfishly grab one only for me. After all, we were in t his together—both of us wanted to get in and do our grocery shopping. Why not work together towards the goal?
It reminded me of the time I was walking down a street in SoHo (New York City) and my subway card fell out of my pocket. A businessman—perhaps a Wall Streeter of the “1 percent” ilk, grabbed the card and chased my down the street to return it. It was another random, unexpected, shocking, but appreciated act of kindness on his part.
I’ll never see the Wall Streeter again, I’ll probably never run into my “Valentine” again, but I and they both had a moment of kindness that we shared, and are all better for it.
Yes, random acts of kindness can be the ultimate in mutual satisfaction.
It got me to thinking, what if I adopted Dennis’ habit of intentionally doing one random act of kindness a day? Would it make me feel good? Yes. Would it make someone else feel good? Yes. Would it hurt me, stop me, or take anything away from me? Well, no.
So why doesn’t everyone conduct random acts of kindness more often? There are probably a few reasons—all of which should be systematically discarded IMHO.
1). Doing something nice for someone can be a sign of “weakness.”
Wrong. Holding a door open for someone, paying for the person’s coffee behind you in line, or simply smiling at someone actually gives you strength from within.
2). I don’t have time.
Really? A random act of kindness can take but a minute—or even a couple of seconds. But the reward—for both you and the recipient, can hang with you throughout the day. I say that’s good ROI (return on investment).
3). Other people never do anything nice for me. Why should I be the only one?
Wrong. If you take the time to examine other’s behavior, random acts are happening all around you—from a smile on the street, to a “have a nice day” from the woman behind the cash register—kindness is spread all around us. And besides, just because other’s aren’t nice, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice. If someone else steals from a bank, does that mean you should? Come, on.
4). Haven’t you ever heard the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished?”
Well, yes. But it is still wrong. If you expect every good deed to be directly rewarded by the person you bestowed it on, yes of course you will be disappointed. You need to embrace and love yourself for doing something nice, not expect others will always respond in kind.
5). I'm just mean. I don't like doing anything nice for anyone.
Well, I doubt that. I've never met anyone who felt that way...sincerely.
A random act of kindness need not be complex or thought out. In fact the spontaneous acts—like grabbing a subway card to return it to a stranger, can be as rewarding as a freshly washed car. A smile, or holding a door open, can be as fulfilling as spending an evening assisting a good friend prepare for a job interview the next morning.
Yes, a simple, random act of kindness as a daily occurrence is bound to be a good thing. You should try it.
Image is kindly provided by Shutterstock