Remember the slogan “Practice random acts of kindness”? It’s been around for a long time—all the way back to 1982 or so. More often than not, it was dismissed by most folks as a cute New Age aphorism and has largely been forgotten in the years since. Certainly in our hurried, harried hyper-technological age, we hardly have enough time to accomplish our daily list, much less engage in random acts of kindness.
Yet, random acts of kindness are what nurture the humanity in us, prevent us from turning into mindless texters and tweeters, and remind us of the true nature of humankind—that we are all in this together.
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Take, for example, the story that has generated huge social media buzz, of Suzanne Fortier, the Panera Bread store manager who made clam chowder especially for a call-in customer’s cancer-ridden grandmother, on a day when the chowder isn’t usually available, and included with it a gift of cookies from the staff.
That was a classic “random act of kindness.” There was nothing in it for Ms. Fortier. If anything, she had to go to the effort of making chowder, and someone ended up paying for the cookies somewhere along the line. Yes, the story went viral, and no doubt Panera Bread will acquire some new customers because of it. But that isn’t why Ms. Fortier made the soup, nor is it what’s important here.
What Ms. Fortier did, was to be kind to someone who needed a little TLC. A stranger, yes, but a fellow human—and it’s reaching out to a fellow human in a caring way that says “we’re all in this together.”
Random acts of kindness are easier to practice than you may think: you can practice a whole host of them without it costing you a dime or any real effort.
For example, smile at people when they pass you on the street. Say “have a nice day” as you exit the elevator. Allow someone who’s in an obvious hurry, or trying to deal with a cranky child, to cut in before you at the supermarket check-out. Refrain from yelling at the customer service person on the phone, let them know “It’s not you, I’m frustrated with the situation.” Comment (appropriately please!) on someone’s cute hat or nice shoes or well-polished car when you’re filling up at the gas station. Tell the barrista how much you appreciate the care they took with your coffee.
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These random acts of kindness, and many more like them, are easy to do. And they restore a sense of caring and connection to each other as we go about our busy lives. All such acts will cost you is a moment of attention to the other human beings inhabiting the same planet as you do, trying as valiantly as you are to make it through another day.
Add a moment of unexpected kindness to their day, and you will experience a moment of unexpected joy in yours!