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.
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.
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!
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.