So I'm sitting on a bench in my hometown's downtown on Halloween dressed in my full witch regalia, trying to keep the wind from blowing off my large pointy hat while simultaneously trying to prevent pulling a Britney in my too-short witch's dress (see last week's column about inability to buy non-sexy costumes for females).
I've been hired to interview the costumed kiddos on camera, and I'm waiting on the crew to show. I'm chronically early as usual. Behind me, there is an antique store. There's a woman working on the window display, so she is coming in and out of the store looking at it, and since I'm plopped down in front of it, she's also looking at me. She's come and gone a couple of times, checking out her window from the outside. We smile. And then she says to me: You know, you're much too pretty to be a witch.
Fast forward to yesterday. I'm shopping on the same downtown square area. One merchant compliments my shirt. The other stops to compliment my hair, saying she might copy my style for her own. And I'm grinning from ear to ear. Yes, I'm a bit vain. I can own it. But my point is this: my day was made.
Yep, I'm here today to talk about random acts of kindness and the impact they have. I didn't know those people who were so generous with their compliments. And yet they had a huge impact on my spirit because when they thought something good about me, they told me. Thanks, guys. It's hard out here for those who think and feel. And I had already bought something, so no cynicism allowed, dear reader. These were just kind women.
And I'm here to encourage the rest of us to indulge in random acts of kindness, too. If the impact for others is anything like how I felt after being complimented by strangers, we can do a whole lot of healing in this divided land. And of course, I have ideas.
So here's some ways for you to build your karma up and commit a random act of kindness:
Make eye contact and smile. Some of us have gone awhile since seeing a friendly face. Instead of ignoring the people around you, send a little prayer or good wish towards someone as you smile at them. I believe in the impact of the energy.
Speak. Now, I grew up in the South. Civilized people simply didn't not say something to someone you're sharing space with. It doesn't have to be a monologue. Try: Hi there. Or: How are you? Even: Good morning! can be a game changer considering what you've been through since your feet hit the floor this morning.
Compliment. If you see something about someone you like, say so. Whether the person is wearing killer shoes, has a great manicure, or a welcoming attitude, say something to them about it. It's amazing how much "I like your sweater" can actually mean. Related:
Praise work well done. Good service experiences can be few and far between. Incompetence seems to run rampant these days. If the service is good, make some noise! Thank your waitress as well as tipping her. Speak up about the experience of a positive attitude or going the extra mile. Be grateful for people who clean up after you or check you out at Target.
Express gratitude. Phone someone today who made or is making a positive difference in your life and express your thanks for their care and help. Write a letter to an important relative or mentor about what their presence has meant in your life. If possible, read it to them. You have no idea the great feelings this exercise can bring for you and others.
Acts of service. Let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. If you're liquid enough, it's always fun to pay for the food for the guy behind you in line anonymously. It's easy and fun to do at drive in windows or Starbucks. I like to pick someone about three people behind me in line who's already ordered. Keep it a secret for extra fun and giggles.
Help someone out with their groceries or return their cart for them. Throw someone's newspaper closer to their front door while you're out walking. Find ways to give secret gifts. Leave a five under somebody's mouse at work who might be hurting financially. Buy flowers for no reason for someone. Remember, though: the best acts of service are free.
Yep, color me egotistical if you must. But when that woman got on the elevator in Atlanta with me a few years ago, looked at me dressed for a banquet and said to me, "Oh my! You're just so beautiful!" I did. I swooned a little bit. Look past my self-esteem issues if you will, however, with me, to see the beauty of a stranger boosting up another person.
I will never forget you even though I will never know your name. Your kindness will never be forgotten. Spread some around today! I'm here to tell you, it feels great on either end.