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The Gift of Kindness

in Give Back, Joan's Posts

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

A blessing is love. It can be many things – faith, despair, or a kind greeting. A blessing is an act where you show another that you care. So put out your hand, because a blessing can give faith, love and support for those around you.

- Stephen Owen 

This is not a post about your money, or about selling your crap, or about finding your passion.

And although the timing is certainly appropriate, it wasn’t originally intended as a response the gut-wrenching tragedy of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, or as a reflection on the death of a close friend of mind, whose memorial service was Saturday.

Actually, the idea for this post came from something very simple – some angry emails I’d had to field as part of one of my jobs.

I was having a crummy day, and I wanted to write a post reminding people to be kind to those in the customer-service field, especially as the holidays draw near.

I shared the following on the Man Vs. Debt Facebook page:

What’s the most unexpectedly kind thing someone has done for you this week? I was having a miserable day yesterday and a friend who was working at a store I stopped at went and found me a snack. That seemingly small act turned everything around. I wonder how many of those little moments we miss – and how many chances we DON’T take to “be the kindness” to someone else. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And you guys blew me away. I heard story after story of real kindnesses.

Just a few:

  • The car in front of me at the Starbucks drive-thru bought my coffee order! So, I bought the woman’s behind me. I was car #12 in the Pay It Forward chain, the barista said.
  • My daughter’s boyfriend brought me some flowers as he wanted to make me smile after a hard week. That was lovely.
  • The guy behind me in the line to pay for coffee let me get two slots (one mine, and one that would have belonged to him) on my coffee card scratched because that would allow me to get my next coffee for free.
  • Friend of mine went to Toys R Us… and the guy behind her stepped up and paid for everything… no questions asked.
  • Was visiting a brewery last week when I noticed the local sitting next to me at the bar tipped with all $2 bills. I asked her about it and she gave me 5 of them refusing to let me turn them down. So in turn I told her I’d pay it forward, sharing them with others.

My friend who passed away recently is the author of the quote with which I started today’s post. In the months before his death, he’d started writing – short meditations on any number of topics, whatever he was thinking about, and if you sent him a word or phrase, he’d write something for you. Three months to the day before his memorial service, I sent him the word “blessed,” and that’s what he sent back.

A blessing is an act where you show another that you care.

Kindnesses. Blessings. Good deeds. Acts of love. It doesn’t matter what you call them.

In the wake of tragedies like the Newtown shootings, or other events like 9/11 or even natural disasters like the recent Hurricane Sandy, we often see outpourings of “big kindnesses.” These are the national and international drives to raise money, to increase blood donations, to create new charitable foundations, and so on. These big kindnesses are hugely important.

But when I look around my day-to-day life, thankfully I don’t have the opportunity to be part of those “big kindnesses” all the time. Every day, though, I have a chance to show I care about the people I interact with.

Maybe it’s leaving a ridiculously high tip on a diner meal for a waitress who looks like she’s had a long day but smiles at you anyway.

Maybe it’s giving $30 for gas to a stranger who approaches you in the parking lot of a rest stop.

Maybe it’s counting to 10 before you make that phone call or send that email or argue with that cashier.

Maybe it’s simply making eye contact and smiling warmly to the person at the counter taking your order.

There is no one in the world who cannot give the gift of kindness. I hear from people who wonder, “Can I really make a difference?” or “What can I do that matters?”

Every time you interact with another human, you have a chance to change their day. To make a difference. To show love. To be a blessing.

Be kind.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan Lingg December 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Hi Joan,
I wrote this on my facebook page…
Dear Facebook Family and Friends, I certainly don’t have the words to express what I feel regarding yesterdays tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with all involved and our nation as a whole. I, like a lot of others, have searched
for something, anything to make sense of it all. IMO in light of this terrible senseless tragedy lets NOT point the finger BUT become part of the solution. Unfortunately I wish I knew what that solution was. What I think is needed is to tear away the layers of hardened scales life has built up over the many years and not be afraid to tell or show someone we care. Do something for no reason for someone. Help a stranger! Hell just smile at someone! Families turn off the TV and play a game together… NOT a video game! A true board game or cards or Charades..whatever. People my age don’t you remember when we were kids and went on long trips by car you played the license plate game or the guess what I see game. Silly sure, memorable you bet!! Yesterday, It was my turn to bring something to work during the Christmas holiday. I chose to brings doughnuts…while I was placing my order a beautiful little girl probably around the age of those dear children at the Sandy Hook School shooting was so exciting to get a doughnut. Her smile was just beaming as she looked at all the colors and window shopped till it was her turn. The young mother told me that Hannah loves it when we have our “doughnut” time. I asked if she would not mind if I could buy Hannah a doughnut today. The Mom looked at me strangely, awkwardly like I had the plague or something. Not that she did not appreciate it no way…it was like she has never seen it. Someone doing something just because. This was all done before I ever knew of the school shooting. On the way to work I actually teared up. Maybe deep down I was saddened by moms reaction to my request. This isn’t about me..this is about us. As a nation and society we have differences and opinions and will continue to have them but that doesn’t mean we can’t come together each day and make a difference to someone. Smile at someone, buy a doughnut, tell someone they are awesome. WHATEVER it is it will make a difference!!
So in closing lets not let life get in the way of life. Yes hug your kids and tell them you love them but lets not forget each other. We seem to come close this time of year but even that is getting out of control. Black Friday this, …blah blah blah. We may never return to a time when things were simpler or people were more respectful of each other. Again, IMO that seems to be what is missing..

Thanks for listening.
Merry Christmas!!
God Bless,
Bryan

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Bryan, what a wonderful tribute! I will join you in doing just that – BEING KIND! Have a blessed Christmas!

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Christian L. December 17, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Joan,
This was a nice way to start my Monday and my week. Thanks for the positive energy. Spread the love!

-Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Christian, thank you so much. I hope you will pass some good Monday energy on to those you come in contact with today too! :)

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Sapna December 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Joan,

Thanks for that. I truly believe that showing kindness without expectations is really the sign of a great personality.

We all believe in give and take and expect some favor for whatever we have invested.

Thanks for sharing this info/

Sapna

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Thanks, Sapna – that is a great point, too, about giving WITHOUT expectations!

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OC Budget Living December 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM

I’ve had a similar thing happen to me recently where I was the third in the Pay It Forward Chain at the Local Starbucks!

It feels good to do something small and yet it could possibly make someone’s day!

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Nice!

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Jacko December 17, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Yeah kindness is something aint it.

Today I was rude at a guy walking out in front of cars holding up traffic.

I yelled at him,

“Hey You’re not carrying a bumper”

He was carrying two camera tri pods.

He replied and simple said.

“I’m sorry”

I immediately stopped feeling annoyed.

As I kept driving I started to feel like somehow he had been more KIND to me than I had been to him.

I went out of my way to YELL at him and he went out of his way to make SURE I heard him say that he was sorry.

I expected he would yell something back at me. He tricked me, he was kind instead.

Moral of the story, Be kind.

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Jacko, good for you for recognizing that – and for choosing to change your own attitude! Some people wouldn’t – and that in itself is a kindness!

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Leah December 17, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Thank you Joan. I love this. Being kind is so important and it truly is a gift. Being kind can start a chain reaction of kindness. I was at a school event yesterday and I hugged everyone I saw. It was a beautiful concert the kids participated in, and it was so poignant. I’ve been the recipient of some kindness too. Our budget has been very very tight, and my friend heard this and refused to take no for an answer and insisted she take me out shopping for Christmas presents for the kids. Now both kids have 4 or 5 presents each, instead of the one present with a stocking. That was a blessing and a giant surprise.

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Leah, that’s AWESOME – both the giving and the receiving! Being a “good recipient” is a gift too, it allows someone else to feel good about helping :)

Sooo glad to hear your holiday will be a bit more plentiful!!

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Debtgirl December 17, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

we can only try!

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Joan December 17, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Exactly!

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Nani G December 17, 2012 at 11:57 PM

Mahalo Joan for such a heartfelt post! Here in the islands we call being a blessing or showing respect and kindness living aloha. Things have been a bit tight to do this for awhile but our family loves to pick another family or single person we are sitting near at a restaurant, someone that looks stressed or lonely and anonymously pick up their dinner tab, it always seems to bless the waiter or waitress as well. It’s doing little things like that that help us remember its not all about us. Thanks again for sharing and I hope your friend’s family is surrounded by many friends like you, sorry for your loss! Be blessed this Christmas and the year ahead, aloha!

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Joan December 18, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Nani, that is such a wonderful gift to give! Many thanks to you for sharing – and for your kind words. Have a merry and blessed Christmas yourself! :)

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Kathleen, Frugal Portland December 18, 2012 at 6:17 PM

I’ve read your stuff for a long time, Joan, and this was the best — so heartfelt, so lovely, so honest. Keep reaching down deep for writing like this! Absolutely lovely.

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Joan December 18, 2012 at 11:10 PM

Wow, thanks, Kathleen!!

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Vicky December 22, 2012 at 7:14 PM

I have been on this site in the past, today’s visit was purely accidental. This post is perfect. I have an entire mission and website devoted to paying it forward. My goal is to spread “kindness currency”, and show the real benefits of smiling and serving others. I am a survivor and my journey is dedicated to the 28 million people currently living with cancer and the countless survivors of domestic violence, rape, and molestation. I have survived them all and I like to say–I am not just a survivor, I am a champion. Feel free to add your stories to my community as well. I don’t think there can ever be too much inspiration, love, kindness, or smiles in the world. You will also find stories from others that will bring a smile to your face. Look for us at unlimited-smileage.org. I’m going to post a link to this from our community!

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BillGuard Blog December 24, 2012 at 4:43 PM

The story of the pay-it-forward chain at Starbucks made me smile. I’m so pleased that 12 cars in a row all had the same idea: instead of just accepting generosity and not giving anything back, they passed that on. Its amazing to think that just one person started this chain reaction. It makes you wonder: What other pay-it-forward chain reactions can other people start? How big can they get? How can they change the world?

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Cheryl December 26, 2012 at 1:53 PM

I’ve been involved in the starbuck chain before and on a whim did something like that at whataburger. I just knew the lady taking the order would think I was nuts, but when I asked how much the person’s meal behind me was, I just handed her my card and said – tell them merry christmas!
The lady at the register actually wanted to hug me through the drive-thru.
I giggled as I drove off, I wished I could have seen their faces as I drove out, but I realized, I was more excited just to do it than anything.

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Cassi December 30, 2012 at 4:34 PM

When I was 11 I was with my Aunt in a paying line at a Starbucks drive-thru, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I love hearing stories like this, and I hope one day I can be involved or cause one of them to occur.

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Ian December 31, 2012 at 8:09 PM

awesome stories of kindness, I always believe that every kind thing you do always goes back around tenfold. : )

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Susan @ Travel Junkette January 15, 2013 at 7:12 PM

I LOVE this post. I completely agree. I think that smiling and being genuinely nice to the people that you meet every day is the easiest way to make the world a better place.

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Andrea Standin January 24, 2013 at 2:32 PM

I apologize if this has already been mentioned, because I didn’t read every single comment, but have you heard of the 26 Acts of Kindness Campaign? It was created in honor of Newtown, but of course can and should apply to everyday living. I hope it’s OK to share the link to their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/26acts?fref=ts

I used to work in insurance and the way people treat customer service representatives is ridiculous. A dear friend of mine once had an angry customer tell her that she “hoped her mother got cancer and died.” It hit a nerve, mostly because her mother had already died of cancer. But who says something like that?

We all need to learn to be kinder and gentler.

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