I texted Kathryn yesterday afternoon about a sweet elderly woman who was getting her first pedicure where I was getting a manicure. She was tentative and nervous; she was also apologetic about her lack of experience, her brittle nails, her difficulty hearing. And so when she mentioned that she was 80 and has five children, still lives independently, and is taking care of her ill husband, I was in awe — this woman, with so much life experience and strength, was apologizing for not knowing how a pedicure proceeds.
As I paid for my manicure I gestured to my vacated chair where she was now getting a manicure, her back to me, and quietly asked to pay for her services as well. The shop owner nodded agreeably and wrote down my new total for me. She ran my debit card, I handed her enough cash to cover both tips, and then I slipped out quietly.
And that’s what my entire month of Random Acts of Kindness was — finding joy and opportunity in moments that exist. I rarely had to go out of my way to make a Random Act of Kindness happen — and most didn’t involve substantial amounts of money (or any money). They were all opportunities that presented themselves through my daily interactions with friends, family, and strangers.
So what surprised me most throughout the 31 Days?
I was surprised by the people who doubted my intentions, who questioned whether it was self-promotion to share the acts of kindness via social media. I understand their perspective (as I truly believe the most meaningful charity happens anonymously), but I simply wanted to inspire others that little things can make a big difference. I appreciate the dialog on the topic and hope that there was a mutual place of understanding reached on the topic.
I was surprised by how easy it was to find accomplices — my husband, baristas, colleagues, friends. No one said no when I asked if they would help; no one laughed at the idea. In fact, more people got into the spirit of it and asked how they could help.
I was surprised by the random acts of kindness shown to me. They were easier to see when I saw them through the lens of doing them for others — a surprise $5 Starbucks gift card in my email, my favorite candy delivered from a vendor-turned-friend, coffee brought to me on a difficult afternoon, hugs when I needed them.
After 31 Days — and 31 acts — I’ve learned that I will continue look for opportunities to surprise others, to help them, to show them that there’s unexpected kindness in the world. And I’ve learned to keep looking for that same kindness in my own life.