Good deeds are frosting on the cake

One of my oldest friends, Susie, celebrated her birthday last week. When her husband asked her what she wanted as a gift, she said she didn’t need anything but  would love to initiate 45 random acts of kindness.

Her husband dutifully sent an email to friends and family asking everyone to do a good deed for a stranger to help her celebrate. I loved the idea and got my kids brainstorming about what we could do to make someone’s day.

We happened to be in town for lunch so on our way home we stopped at our local theater and gave the ticket sales gal $20. We told her to tell the next two moviegoers that a benevolent stranger had already paid for their tickets. We suggested she tell the lucky recipients that it was a random act of kindness and encourage them to pay it forward.

random acts of kindness for birthday

The woman in the booth got a big smile on her face and eagerly agreed. Our gesture had made her happy too. Her excitement about participating  in our good deed showed my kids how easy it is to spread cheer with one small act.

Riding our altruistic high, we talked the whole way home about what other things we could do to help people. It was snowing pretty hard and many people were out-of-town for the holiday. We decided it would be nice to shovel the sidewalks and driveways of our two closest neighbors.

Random acts of kindness for birthday

Once my boys–  ages 7 and 9– (my 12-year-old was sick) started shoveling, they were having so much fun, they kept going all the way down the block. When we were finished, we had shoveled the sidewalks and driveways of 8 houses!

Birthday acts of kindness

We proudly sent an email to Susie with photos of our Samaritan adventures. Many of her friends had already replied with their own acts of kindness, which included:

–Buying a bunch of candy bars and handing them out to many delighted strangers.

–Buying lunch for a soldier and his wife and kids.

–Driving clothes and toys to Good Will

–Delivering Dunkin Donuts to all the employees at a bank

–Playing with dogs and making a donation in Susie’s name to an animal shelter

–Buying a drink for a stranger at a bar, leading to a nice chat

–Bringing cookies to an assisted care facility

The birthday girl herself bought 45 roses and handed them out to random people on the street who were thrilled.

I’m not sure if the list added up to 45, but all Susie’s friends and relatives who participated seemed as enthusiastic and rewarded by their tasks as we were. We all thanked her for the excuse to do something nice for others, just because.

As an adult, I don’t get a lot of presents anymore. Even people close to us don’t always have the time or money to spend on gifts. This was a gift that could fit any budget, with long-lasting effects.

Thanks Susie, for using your birthday to create a ripple of joy for the people who love you, and some you don’t even know.



9 responses to “Good deeds are frosting on the cake

  1. Jeanne Wilding

    I just love stories like this.
    A few years back I stuck £50 in an envelope and gave it to a rough sleeper who I’d spoken to a few times. I put a note in asking him to do something similar if he was ever fortunate enough to have cash to spare. I didn’t wait for him to open the envelope so I’ll never know whether it helped or harmed him, but I like to think, he got a room for the night, fell in love with the chambermaid, stopped drinking and founded Big Issue2. Maybe he’s given out lots of £50 since and got as much pleasure from doing so as I did.
    And it doesn’t have to be money. Another rough sleeper I housed, who needed a ‘fixed abode’ to avoid prison, now goes around finding other rough sleepers and befriending them, giving them gloves and sleeping bags he gets from charity shops.
    I suspect he gets more benefit from his acts of kindness than his recipients. This is a guy who has faced unspeakable abuse and acts of cruelty. His acts of kindness help heal his pain and transform his life.

  2. What an inspiration! Try your own random act of kindness today!

  3. Passing it forward, maybe we can continue the concept of gifting random acts of kindness to our families, friends, business associates….
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. This is so great!!!

  5. Was feeling so blah today till I read this. The world is good 🙂

  6. Erica Schon Pollak

    Awesome work Lefferts !! Great idea and a great way to start the year !!

  7. What a terrific way to start the new year.

  8. Greta idea!

  9. Love that! Wonderful on so many levels!