Last year, in the midst of doing my Christmas shopping, I stopped off at the McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat. When I finally pulled around to the drive-thru window to pay for the meal, I was informed by the cashier that the customer ahead of me had already paid for it. Stunned, I thanked her, collected my food and drove off. I had no idea how the person knew what I had ordered or how much it had cost, but I remember thinking to myself, well if that wasn’t just the nicest thing.
This was my very first experience with such a random act of kindness by a total stranger, but I soon discovered that, though random, the act was far from uncommon. Friends and coworkers regaled me with the many instances they had heard of, or witnessed themselves, of people going out of their way to be nice just because–especially at Christmastime. It seems that for some reason folks just seem to be brimming over with extra kindness and good cheer during the Holidays, giving back from what they’ve been blessed with, all in keeping with the spirit of the season.
Many charitable organizations also provide free Holiday assistance to thousands of children, seniors and unemployed or low-income families–providing free food, toys, meals and more. And it is our generous contributions around this time of year that make these services possible. Yet it’s oftentimes the smallest things we do, which cost us almost nothing, that make the greatest impact on someone else’s life.
So this year, even in the midst of your busy days of shopping and parties and travelling, keep a lookout for opportunities to show kindness everywhere you go. People become stressed and tired and irritable in the midst of their hectic Holiday schedules, and your kind word or deed at the right moment might be just what they need to set them on course again.
For some of us, it might take making a very conscious effort–but it can be done. You don’t have to adopt an entire family or give all your money away, but you can:
Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you.
Put change in the vending machine for the next person, or in the parking meter for someone whose time is about to expire.
Or, just smile at a stranger or two while you go about your day.
And the act doesn’t always have to be random or anonymous, you can also:
Give compliments away lavishly about someone’s holiday outfit, scarf, or cookie recipe. (Everyone loves compliments.)
Babysit for parents who need to get out for errands.
Add an extra plate at the dinner table for someone who might be spending the Holidays alone. (This is a lonely time of year for many.)
The list is endless of the giving and sharing opportunities I found while doing research for this post, but I particularly liked the website payitforwardday.com, which provides really awesome and creative ways to make a difference in someone else’s life. I mean, it will make you want to do so much more than you’re doing now. And who knows, maybe if we begin our random acts of kindness now, the ripple effect will continue well into the New Year.
A sample of books available at DCPL on the topic of kindness:
Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
Pay it Forward: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The Art of Being Kind by Stefan Einhorn