The Impact and Power of Random Acts of Kindness

by Debra Englander

Students at Carmel High School in Indiana recently carried out a day of “random acts of kindness.” One class wrote and posted more than 5,000 uplifting and positive messages on student lockers.

The teacher whose class was involved said she was surprised at both the response and how supportive her students were.

Power of a Positive Post-It Note

The image of a student getting to his or her locker and seeing a post-it with a positive message has stayed with me.

In today’s fast paced world, it’s all too easy to keep moving ahead and not stop to express gratitude, send a positive message or just make a small gesture. In fact, when we do it, it may be viewed as forced and artificial as if there is some ulterior motive.

It only takes a few seconds to text someone or find a GIF expressing good luck, affection or sympathy. The students had to be more creative: they had to think of an uplifting comment and then post the message. And there was no obvious benefit to doing so other than completing the assignment.

But, isn’t that the point? A random act of kindness should be done because you want to do it and you have no expectation of getting anything in return.

Easy Neighborly Random Acts of Kindness

Fortunately, many people do help out neighbors, but think about taking that extra step.

One thing you can do is ask your neighbor or someone in your building if he or she wants you to be a “buddy.” This means you have keys to the individual’s apartment for emergencies or you have phone numbers you can use to call the person’s relatives.

You can also set up a share or swap area in your building or community center. My building’s laundry room has a magazine rack where residents regularly leave and take magazines. There’s also an extensive library filled with donations from tenants.

You can also offer to share something with a neighbor. I almost always read The New York Times on Sunday. Recently, while away, someone mentioned she wasn’t getting the newspaper.

I volunteered to give her my newspaper when I finished it. Handing over a bag of newspaper sections took the same effort as putting them in the recycling bin!

And don’t forget building or community employees. When one of my doormen has to work a double shift, I ask if he needs any coffee or a sandwich. If I unexpectedly get a food basket, I try to share some goodies with the building staff.

Ideas for Professional Random Acts of Kindness

Managers know that employees want raises or promotions. Usually, that’s spelled out in HR procedures and policies. But the random acts are the nice, unexpected things that you do for employees. Regardless of the industry, size of company or number of employees, I bet you can always do something creative.

For instance, you can order in breakfast or lunch, especially during bad weather or when your staff is on deadline to complete a project.

Another great surprise could come on the day before a long weekend or holiday. Don’t wait until upper management says that employees only need to work a half-day.

Some people have long commutes so tell staffers they can either work from home for half a day or leave by 1 p.m. Tell people ahead of time so they can make appropriate childcare or other arrangements.

If your department or division has a stellar year and is recognized for this achievement, share the praise with your staff, ideally in a meeting with employees from other divisions.

It’s always a good idea to nominate different staffers for company awards. Some awards may include a monetary prize while others may simply be a token statue. Just remember, it’s disappointing when the same employees win these awards year after year.

You may also consider sharing your bonus. This may be a radical idea, but one year, I received a bonus of several thousand dollars. My assistant was a real go-getter and my success was directly attributable to her hard work.

She was not bonus eligible so I wrote her a check, explaining that I felt she deserved some of my bonus. She was very appreciative, and we ended up having an excellent working relationship for several more years.

Ways to Deliver Random Acts of Kindness to Anyone

A great way to deliver love, is to leave notes or cards for loved ones and friends for no occasion. When I’m away from home and my daughter will be stopping at the apartment, I usually leave sticky notes with messages for her to find around the apartment. You can do the same for a spouse, friends or other relatives.

People hire me for editing or coaching help. But I will usually talk with anyone for 15 to 30 minutes for free. That’s enough time for someone to decide whether to hire me. And it’s also enough time for me to provide valuable advice to someone and nudge the person toward writing a book or finishing a proposal.

Recently, I talked with a person who had reached out online; she hadn’t been referred to me. We chatted and I offered concrete suggestions about her book. She was grateful for the advice and when I hung up, I knew that I had really helped her. My day was made!

If you happen to be stuck in line, and the person in front of you suddenly realizes they’re short on change, offer to pay a small amount – if you can. We’ve all been in this situation. The person will be grateful and maybe will go on to “pay it forward.”

When you’re on the treadmill or bike at the gym and someone turns on the fan and you hate it, don’t start grumbling. Tell the person to get comfortable and move to another piece of equipment. Sometimes it’s easier to be slightly inconvenienced and get on with more important things!

Do you think of random ways of helping others? What acts of kindness has someone shown you? Please share your latest experiences below! Let’s give some praise to the people who deserve it!

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