This Is Why Random Acts Of Kindness Matter

It doesn’t take a lot to turn someone’s day around or make someone feel special.

Little did I know that shaving three-quarters of my head wouldn’t be the most shocking thing that happened to me on a random day this summer.

It was a bold move, and one I had been planning for months. I was ready to shed the weight of my thick, unmanageable hair, and the metaphor that came with it. A new hair cut to go with my new lease on life.

But when I went to pay for my fabulous new do, the lady at the cash told me to put my card away—I didn’t need it. My haircut had been paid for, twice in fact, by two of my friends who had come in independently of each other. Then she handed me a box of my favourite wine that had also been left for me by one of them. I don’t know for sure who they were because they won’t tell me and the salon has been sworn to secrecy, but I have a pretty good idea.

I was surprised, but not that surprised. You see, this grand gesture is very impressive, but not out of character for my amazing and generous friends. When I went through an incredibly rough period last year, several times I opened my door to find some sort of pick me up on my porch. Sometimes it was a mug I had mentioned I liked in passing. Sometimes it was a treat for my kids. Sometimes it was wine. And always anonymous.

Being the super sleuth that I am, I was usually able to at least narrow down the culprit, but it always pissed them off when I did. You see, my friends give just for the sake of doing something nice for someone. They never expect, nor desire, accolades. I am forever grateful for everything they have done for me, and they know it, but they don’t want to see their names in lights over it (even though they deserve it).

The concept of “Paying It Forward” can be tricky. Frequently, I see people mentioning that someone bought their coffee in the drive through and so they bought for the person behind them, and so on. That has never made sense to me. If I do something for someone, I want to do so without them feeling obligated to immediately do something back. If I buy someone’s coffee, and they buy it for the person behind them, etc., then the only person who benefits is the person who breaks the chain. I’d much rather that person just enjoys their good fortune that morning, and if the spirit moves them, do something kind for someone another time.

There is a Facebook group in our community that began as a way to brighten someone’s day by putting an item or a service up and having people choose numbers, with the winner getting the prize. It was great, at first. As the group has evolved, though, a rule has been implemented (and enforced to the point of public shaming) that if you win, you must post something new within a couple of days. To me, this is more like a trade group than a group for giving freely and brightening someone’s day. Often times, people won’t choose a number because they can’t afford to offer something back immediately, and I think that is a shame.

My friends and I discussed it at length and decided to start our own group where people could offer anything they like and receive it with no strings attached. Sometimes it’s tangible, sometimes it’s kind words or an uplifting story, but it’s never forced or coerced. The group is less active than the group where reciprocation is mandatory, but every post is genuine and made with love, and that makes it feel that much warmer.

We sometimes underestimate how a kind word or gesture can affect someone. We often think that acts of kindness must mean buying something for someone. Doing good needn't mean paying for expensive hair cuts or buying coffee for a stranger. Sometimes just complimenting someone on how nice they look in that shirt will change that person’s day. A stranger once said to me, “That really is your colour” and I walked on air the rest of the day. Words mean a lot.

Even get your children involved. Once in a while, we'll buy a gift card at Tim’s and I let my son choose someone to give it to. Or we pick up a bouquet of flowers and walk around the neighbourhood handing single blooms to strangers. The reaction is universal: surprise and then a genuine smile.

It doesn’t take a lot to turn someone’s day around or make someone feel special. The difference you make may be greater than you realize. A kind word from a total stranger right when I needed it changed my life once, and I never forgot it.

The next time you think something nice about someone, say it to them instead. If you feel like your friend could use some cheering up, leave them a little something on their doorstep. These little moments add up. You never know, you could be the one who makes all the difference to that person.

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