I don’t know if anyone remembers the “random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” movement created by Anne Herbert of the Whole Earth Review in America in the early 80s. It was a nice idea- but after all of the bumper stickers faded and the sunflowers sown in highway medians were mown down it kind of petered out.
What things do you do that benefit others but take little time or effort?
When time permits I let others go before me in queue, pick up dropped objects, and hold doors for strangers. Most seem to appreciate it, but now and then someone takes offense or looks at me like I am nuts.
What other opportunities for small favors am I missing?
Always make sure that I’m not in anyone else’s way more than absolutely necessary. This means always looking over your shoulder before coming to an abrupt halt at the supermarket, always checking for bicyclists before crossing a bike path, walking faster than a snail’s pace when crossing the street while cars are waiting for me to pass, and so forth. So many people never do this and it drives me nuts.
-If there’s a special offer on where you get vouchers for purchasing something or using a service, I’ll claim the vouchers and leave them with the cashier for the next customer. I earn slightly over the average wage in this country and figure I don’t need vouchers anymore and someone else might get more good out of them.
-I’m a manager and I make sure each day that I ask individally how everyone’s day is going, and that I praise everyone for something every day. It’s not so much that it’s good management but more that I spend a lot of time with a great team and would like to make their working lives a little easier or more fun if possible. I tend to let people go home early if possible too, at least once or twice a week. No skin off my nose and it cheers people up in a stressful job.
-I empty my purse of loose change every time I see a charity box, regardless of how much change is in there. It’s a personal rule that started through convenience as it was nice to be free of loose change, but now even if I have £15 in there in pound coins, it’s going to charity, even if that’s 2 or 3 times a week.
I donate stuff that I could sell on eBay to charity shops instead. Some pocket money would be nice but, again, I don’t really need it. I have a nice house, a nice car, and get to go somewhere sunny once a year, which is enough for me.
-We grow our own vegetables and have a glut this time of year. Rather than freezing them all, we share the wealth and give them away to people we know, plus put a box of random veg at the bottom of the road with a sign saying ‘free to a good home, please only take what you need.’
-I freecyle: http://www.freecycle.org/
I’m all in favor of doing small kindnesses, but there are limits.
For example, I’ll hold or open the door for someone who obviously needs it; they’re disabled, or their hands are full or they’ve got deliveries. I may pick up small objects under similar circumstances. I don’t usually let people cut into line if there are people waiting behind me; it may be a kindness to one person, but it’s at the expense of others who also deserve consideration.
One of the problems of “small kindnesses”, though, is that it’s easy to embarrass the recipient of these gestures, which is one of the reasons people take offense. It’s also patronizing unless it’s done tactfully. I’m an independent adult; I can do this stuff myself, thankyouverymuch.
One habit I’ve developed from teaching kindergarten: I always have hand sanitizer, tissue, band-aids, a red marker* and lollipops** in my backpack. I can chill out the average cranky/bored/misbehaving little kid with a runny nose, dirty hands, crying snotnose slob and skinned knees in about two minutes flat.
for drawing goofy tatoos on their hands or arms. This is also good for collecting phone numbers from their hottie moms.
** they don’t get the lollipop from me. After they’ve chilled out, I give it to their parents to give to them-- if they continue behaving. Then I walk off.
I agree loudly. I have a cell phone and use it quite a bit; but never in public. I really dislike having to navigate around those zombie like arcs created by someone engrossed in conversation in a public place. I also feel uncomfortable when someone is having a casual phone conversation while a checker is trying to process their order. Seems disrespectful.
I jog across streets and drive in the right lane unless I am also in a hurry or on the way to work or an appointment.
Sounds like amijane is really proactive about sharing- lots of good ideas. I will box up some unused items to donate this week-end.
Parking is tight in my neighborhood and some of my neighbors are very touchy about people parking in front of their houses. I am too. So if I have people coming over to visit me I park my own car out on the street a couple blocks away so that the spaces directly in front of my house are available to my guests.
I open doors for folks any time they’re within reasonable closing distance of me.
When I’m in an elevator I move towards the door when the doors open on my floor instead of dithering like an idiot like so many people do because they don’t know who should go first. I’m a woman, so most men are going to let me get off the elevator first anyway, and why should I keep them in suspense?
When someone holds a door open for me I say, “Thank you” audibly. If someone holds a door open for me and I’m still ten feet or more away, I wave and say, “No thank you, I’ve got it,” so they can be on their way without feeling they haven’t made their kind gesture.
I tend to smile sympathetically at people who look like they’re stressed out. I say “excuse me” to children when I pass in front of them in the store, just as I would to an adult. I stay alert when I drive and I let people merge in front of me when they’re getting on the freeway. I go when the light turns green. I don’t use the cellphone when driving. I don’t wear fragrances of any kind. When I’m at work I wear pants or long skirts so that my coworkers don’t have to see the hair on my legs, though I wear shorts on the weekends and people who see me then just have to deal with it. If I’m in a store and I see someone shorter than me looking up at a product that I can reach but they can’t, I ask if they’d like me to get it down for them. If they say no, I smile and move on.
The building where I work is also the mailing address of our many building-ed organization. I am on the first floor, so I get lots of lost people. I go out of my way to help those lost visitors to the right place, even calling other offices when I don’t know where something is. Lots of people would act like they didn’t even see the person looking at the map.
Actually, one of the things I try to do is to give a serious answer after I’ve given a goofball answer to sincere questions.
Another thing I try to do is to actively seek out tourists in NYC (people with shorts and cameras staring up at tall buildings and holding maps) and ask them if I can help them find something (I conduct walking tours of lower Manhattan, so I pretty much know Manhattan below 14th street, river to river, fairly thoroughly, dating back to the Dutch). Last week I helped out a couple who spoke only Italian (I don’t) find the path to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
I pick up trash that I didn’t drop.
When in a queue, I stop before blocking a side street to allow lefts in and cars to exit.
I hold doors for all sorts of people.
I occasionally pay the toll for the vehicle behind me.
I let someone with only a couple items in front of me in a grocery line.
I go the speed limit in neighborhoods.
I signal my turns when there is someone that would be effected by my turn.
I get the hell out of the fast lane after overtaking someone in the right lane.
Last week, my wife and I were leaving the movies and saw an elderly woman that seemed unsteady. After asking if she was all right (Ms.Nic is an RN), I offered her my arm to steady herself and walked with her out through the parking lot to her car.
In general, I try to be aware of those around me and don’t do things to cause unnecessary delay or inconvenience.
I try to hold doors for people as well.
I try to be a nice as possible to anyone working behind a counter. I look them in the eye when I talk to them and thank them, and perhaps a bit of small talk (“What a lovely day, glad the heat broke” etc) while waiting.
I always makre sure my kids thank people that help them, including the tasters at Costco that hand out samples and wait staff.
I agree with Priceguy- one of the kindest things that one person can do for others is to be aware of their presence. Like he stated- try to stay out of the way. Take up less room when possible. Don’t encroach on someone’s personal space.
MsRobyn, I wouldn’t let someone go in front of me at the expense of those behind me. I meant to say that if I am the only one in queue, I will let someone go ahead of me when time permits. But I won’t favor just one over the masses.
And I appreciate your observation about the risk of embarrassing the recipient of intended kindness- that does happen occasionally. I have had to backtrack and apologize a couple of times. That one can be hard to predict.
Askia, I love the idea about a lollipop or other trinket on hand- especially the point about letting the parent choose when and if to hand it over.
bluethree’s idea of equality when doling out respectful behavior is terrific. Children should be treated respectfully- how else will they learn?
pseudotriton ruber ruber: I hate stumbling across a stinking corpse unexpectedly- though it doesn’t happen often. And until now, I haven’t known who to thank.
Seriously, anyone working to be an ambassador for a city not known for kindness to strangers is cool. It isn’t the responsibility of the individual US citizen to improve the country’s reputation; but it sure doesn’t hurt at the present time.
Nic2004, thank you for picking up trash. I do it as well but it makes me angry and disgusted. Glad to know I am not doing it alone.
IvoryTowerDenizen, you caught me. I am not rude to those people who hand out samples and pamphlets and such but I tend to steer clear of them. I will make an effort to be respectful and cordial next opportunity.
Something hubby does that I can’t stomach doing: picks up the poop left behind by other people’s dogs that they didn’t bother to pick up themselves. He’s often come back with an entire carrier bag of the stuff, bless him. Bless him less for holding it up to me for inspection and cries of admiration every damn time.
I don’t think people realize how truly horrible loneliness is, especially with the elderly. I think even in social settings they are often treated as almost invisible.
When I’m shopping I try to strike up a small conversation with an elderly person even if it’s just a couple words. There face just seems to light up that someone actually acknowledges them.
I go to the dog park every day and there are a couple of elderly men that come there alone that I usually try to talk with.
One of the men recently told me that since he’s alone and has no family that his biggest worry is what will happen to his dog when he dies. He said his dog isn’t as cute as some of the other dogs and he was afraid they would put her to sleep. It seriously broke my heart.
I try to stop at 7-ll and get a couple coffees and chat with them for awhile. Truthfully, sometimes I think I’m going to go a little nuts if I hear the same story again, but I can live with that.
Wow. That doesn’t qualify as small kindness. That is quite a lot of time out of your day, and requires forethought and planning. I will add “spend a little more time with the elderly” and “adopt the ugly dog next time” to my list. You are very sweet.