Inspiration # 5 – Kindness All Around Us!

To inspire you this week to consider ways to be kind to strangers, I offer the website Year of Giving. The person behind it lost his job and decided to defy the conventional wisdom of needing to save his money since he was out of work. Kindness Opportunities!Instead, he started giving it away, $10 to a random person each day! The website is his record of his experience. My link takes you his overview page which helps the reader better understand his rationale for taking on the project. To see what has happened since, read this link. It’s touching reading and, I hope, inspiring.

On that note, in a prior Practice of Kindness class a student was inspired by this week’s theme to do something similar. She connected the theme to a book she had recently read in which the author tells the story of undoing his life’s top 20 regrets. She was inspired by the author talking about a man who over the last 25 years has given away $100,000. She posted, “Okay, I’m not secretly wealthy — but my plan is to send out $10 in cash via US Mail to five random people (via the phone book) with a note that they’ve been the recipient of a random act of kindness.”

I love this! Try to imagine how you’d feel if you randomly received $10 in the mail. What would you do with the money? How could you not be inspired to be more aware of the kindnesses going on around us at all times?

If you haven’t jumped in regarding this week’s theme, I encourage you to do so. Maybe the above stories will generate some ideas for you. Remember, EVERY time you see someone provides you an opportunity to be kind. Make the most of it!


  1. I have been grinning at people and being nice all week but… I am now living in a big city and Monday the girl at the desk of the pool didn’t even look up from her computer screen as I was leaving the building wanting to complement her on her looks, her clothes, her helfulness, whatever I could do to say something nice to her.

    And then when I was waiting at a stop light (two different times) a car stopped opposite me in the turn lane. I was planning to let them turn in front of me when the light changed, but by the time it did, there were three cars cued up to turn and several cars behind me, so…. I was afraid to hold up traffic too long and did not wave the cars through. Defeated….

    Yesterday, at the grocery I put on my best charm for the bagger, who I had asked to give me paper bags and not pack them too heavily, but she just did not respond to my telling her how much I appreciated it. No smile, hardly an acknowledgement of my obvious praise for her work.

    So I have been going around trying and trying to do something nice for someone and not feeling like it was working.

    My only success was a brief encounter at a drive-thru coffee kiosks, where I walked up for a cup of coffee. I observed that there were no seats for the two girls working. I asked “Why are there no chairs for you to sit on?” They said the boss does not want us to be sitting down – he wants us to work! BUT I complained “there must be long time periods where there is no one coming by – he may be reponsible for you having varicose veins when you get older!!!” They responded with smiles to my obvious playful comments about their plight. As I was leaving I asked what does your boss look like and then after they told me, I said “If I stop by and get him, I will chastize him for not providing chairs for his employees.” They were were friendly, but maybe they just thought I was a weird old lady!!

    1. Linda, you never know. Maybe the girl at the pool reception or the bagger at the grocery store or others whom you smiled at reacted to your kindness after you were out of sight. I think sometimes it is hard to directly acknowledge others’ kindness to us for many reasons, but your friendliness could have been a bright spot in their day. Each night before bed I write down 3 things I am thankful for that day and they may be as simple as someone being kind in traffic or acknowledging my impending varicose veins! 🙂

      It has been a hard week to concentrate on kindness to strangers when those closest to me are suffering and our family is overcome with sadness. My husband’s sister’s teenage son died on Monday from a lifelong heart condition. While we were at the hospital saying our goodbyes, consumed in our own family’s sadness, I heard a nurse sniffle behind me and thought how difficult her job must me. Later I thanked the ICU for doing their jobs well. I am trying to remember what Andy said about every encounter being an opportunity for kindness. It also feels like a way to acknowledge our common humanity. Everyone has lost someone they love or known sadness.

      1. I want to add in a suggestion that you focus on doing your kind acts for yourself and not for any reaction you may (or may not) get. That someone does not acknowledge our acts of kindness does not diminish the kindness. That is, unless WE let it.

      2. Dear “working on happy,”

        My deepest condolences to you and your family. You are correct that everyone has lost someone they love. Last year we lost my sister’s only child and that has been a very difficult death to face. His death was unexpected and also he was only 44, which compared to the long life of my parents, both dying at 90, seemed much too young.

        You reached out to the staff which I am sure is greatly appreciated, especially in the face of the families grief. You have great wisdon already. I have many, many reasons for being thankful at the end of each day, but I have never taken the time to focus on them. I will try writing them down, following your example.

  2. I have been intrigued by Andy’s suggestion and as usual he hits the nail on the head. I realize that after taking Kindness classes for three years, I never have to think about being kind to strangers or acquaintances anymore. Ii s just something that happens on its own. But given an “assignement” I felt a certain amount of pressure to have somenthing interesting, fun or exciting to report for the class!!! I was trying too hard to do something that actually comes quite naturally to me. And of course the key is NOT to expect any particular response!!

    In thinking about my life for this winter in the big city, Salt Lake, I realized I am the recipient of many, many kind actions on the part of strangers and new acquaintances, especially those in the service industry – such as those young people at the reception desk at the pool, or the ski area works – greeters, lift attendants, patrollers, and of course the other skiers on the lifts or trails with me and even the bus drivers in town who help me figure out when my transfer ends or what the best stop to get off is. It caused me to wonder if I am treated kindly now because I am older, a “senior citizen,” but I came to the conclusion that people here in Salt Lake are just very fiendly open people.

    1. Here’s another suggestion for Linda (and others) to consider. Linda mentions that she realizes she is the recipient of many kind actions in Salt Lake City and has concluded that this may be because people in SLC are friendly and open. My suggestion is to consider that as we become more outwardly kind that the response we get from people is more outwardly kind. In other words, the shift is in Linda and not specific to the city in which she is living right now.

      I tell my teenaged students that they have the power to create the quality of their teachers. When they show up to class on time, prepared, well-rested, and excited to be there, they change the response they get from their teachers. It’s an ongoing feedback loop of excitement and, in the subject of our class, kindness.

      It all begins with how we, as individuals, look at and engage the world.

      1. You made my day Andy! But I must point out you are a very very good teacher and a very caring person!

      2. I have been noticing more kindness in others too. Neat to think that it goes on like that. For example, the receptionist who I had a longer conversation with last week, engaged with me at a coworker’s baby shower today. Another teacher at my work reacted with kindness to a conversation we had had earlier too. It is fun to see the waves expand from our actions!

        And thank you for the condolences, Linda. You are very kind!
        Brooke (working on happy)

  3. I am pleased to conclude this week’s class with two good experiences. One I chose to do something totally anonomous. I bought some used books from the library, ones I really enjoyed reading myself, and left them in stalls in the bathroom at the airport. I once found a book someone had left behind and I really enjoyed it, so I am hopng that some strangers take them home and have a great time reading.

    The second thing happened tonight when I went to a concert of a band my husband plays in. Our guests went to the car early and cleared the car of snow for us. When I started to get it, the elderly man beside us was trying to wipe ice and snow off his windshield with a cloth used for wiping his instrument. Totally useless. So I grabbed our long handled scrapper and in no time had the front window scrapped. His neighbor on the other side offered to let him use his hand scrapper. I continued on around the car until we met and the snow was removed!

    When I got back in our car, my friend in the back seat said you did you kind deed today and I said, I know, but I didn’t think about that, I just saw he needed help! That IS what this is all about!

    1. Linda,
      I am also very sorry about your family’s loss in your nephew’s death last year. It is heartbreaking to lose someone so young.

      I love your books in the airport stall idea! I would LOVE to come upon something like that. Out of curiosity, which books did you leave?

      Your other kindness story teminded me of a coworker of mine. We have lots of snow clearing opportunities where I live too (MN). Whenever it snows on a workday afternoon, a coworker of mine routinely goes out to the parking lot 10-15 early and clears snow off of others’ cars. He is definitely one who inspires kindness in others.

      Happy day to you.

  4. I bought about seven books, some of which I planned to read before leaving them at a later time. The three I left were Liar’s Club, My Sister’s Keeper, and Three Cups of Tea. IF you would like a few other good reads, try Interpreter of Maladies, Cutting for Sone (long), The Book Thief, and !Yo! by Julia Alvarez.

  5. Hi Andy, I’m glad that our paths cross again. I enjoyed our exchange back in 2010. I continue to be in awe fo the good work that you do. Hopefully my Year of Giving journey can help inspire students of your Kindness Class. Giving something away every day for a year changed my life dramatically and I definitely found myself being more kind and generous in other facets of my life as a result. Keep up your good work! You and your Kindness Classes inspire me!

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