We’ve all heard inspiring stories where a friend, family member, or even a complete stranger does something to help someone else out. Oftentimes we only hear about grand gestures, but I find that the smallest of acts of kindness have the biggest impact. This is something I can certainly attest to.

When I was in college, I was like any other student - FRUGAL! Ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner made up most of my lunches and dinners for two years (I’m not much a breakfast person, but if I were, they probably would have been my go-to for that as well). But once in a while I would treat myself, kind of a like a random act of kindness to myself. On one of these “treat” days, I went to the grocery store and picked up all makings for spaghetti and meatballs, and some dessert (Oreo ice cream sandwiches – please note this is an acceptable gift if you’re looking to treat me to something special…).

Well, as I placed everything on the belt to be rung through, the gentleman in front me of asked the cashier to ring up my groceries along with his so he could foot the bill. I was completely taken aback; I had never experienced this kind of kindness and generosity from a stranger. That was 15 years ago and, like the quote goes, “they may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel”.

I will always remember how that made me feel. Now, I love nothing more than paying it forward with random acts of kindness. Not only does it brighten somebody else’s day, but it brightens mine as well, especially these days.

It’s no secret that the last 12 months have been a challenge and struggle for many. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruptions to our social fabric, and the toll this situation has taken on our mental health, we could all use a little more kindness. Whether you’re looking to show kindness to friends and family, or a stranger, here are a few small ideas with a big impact:

Random Acts of Kindness for People You Know

  • Bake Someone Treats: Baking is a therapeutic hobby for me. I love to bake cupcakes and cookies and surprise my friends, family, and colleagues with a special treat from the heart.
  • Put Down Your Phone: There is no worse feeling than spending time with loved ones only to have their eyes glued to their phone screen. Put away your phone and respect the valuable time that people have chosen to give to you.
  • Help a Neighbour: In the summer, mow your neighbour’s lawn after you’re finished yours. In the winter, shovel your neighbour’s driveway when you’ve finished yours. I have the best neighbour – always willing to lend me a hand in the yard. In return, he gets some of those cupcakes and cookies!
  • Send a Care Package: A friend of mine was going through a very difficult time this year. To cheer her up, I put together an epic care package – pyjamas and slippers, candles, a spa kit, books, and food (including a box of Kraft Dinner). When she opened the package, she called me in tears because she so desperately needed to experience that kindness.
  • Positive Affirmations: Write something positive on a sticky note or in a card and leave it on someone’s desk, put it in your kids’ lunch box, or put it in a common area for everyone to see. I used to write simple sentiments such as “You Are Awesome” or “The World Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You” and leave them on people’s desks to guarantee they would have a positive experience that day. It’s an easy way to spread some love!

Random Acts of Kindness for Strangers

  • Give Someone a Compliment: Everyone needs a confidence boost once in a while! If you pass by a stranger and like their hair or outfit, let them know! If you’re at a restaurant and your food is delicious, pass your compliments on to the chef! A compliment is a small gesture that can go a long way.
  • Buy Someone’s Coffee: If you’re in the drive-thru getting your morning coffee, pay for the person behind you. I have paid for someone’s coffee and have had my coffee paid for by a stranger, and there is no better way to start your day!
  • Smile at Someone, Just Because: Studies show that smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match! Scientists also say it’s contagious. So, smile and pass it on!
  • Put Change in an Expired Meter: A few years ago Aquatera celebrated our 15 Year Milestone with 15 Days of Giving. One way we gave back was by topping up expired meters. This was such a positive experience and made people’s day.
  • Let Someone in Front of You at the Grocery Store: We’ve all been there – you’re standing in the grocery store line with two items while the person in front of you has a full cart, and then some. Then they turn to you and say, “why don’t you go ahead of me?”. This display of kindness is simple, sweet, and easy to practice.

As Random Acts of Kindness Week comes to a close, I want to remind you that there is room for Kindness each and every day. There are so many easy ways we can spread the kindness bug! Starting small allows us to work these things into our daily life, which in turn will help make the world a kinder and happier place.