I am always impressed of those people who just seem to have a “sense” of the needs of other people. I don’t mean to be self-absorbed, but sometimes, my thoughts get so consumed by the things I need to do that I am unconsciously oblivious to the people around me and their needs. Over the years, I’ve taken steps to try to be more aware — offering to take meals to families when one of them is ill or has surgery, babysitting for friends who need a date night, or mowing a neighbor’s lawn while she is out of town. But those are obvious things. I think it takes a real gift to think of creative and unique ways to genuinely bless other people. So I brainstormed some ways to bless others — sometimes anonymously.
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~Mark Twain
It’s almost like giving away money! It takes time to clip coupons and I end up disposing of many coupons for products we just don’t use. We are well beyond the diaper years, but I have many friends who still have babies and toddlers and diapers are expensive! Instead of tossing them, I share them with friends and family. And sometimes, I tape coupons to the corresponding products in stores. I got that idea from being blessed by another anonymous coupon-taper. With social media, it’s easy now to post the coupons you have and ask who might be interested.
This is a practice of days gone by, but one we should bring back. I have a box of hand-written cards and notes from friends and loved ones (including my much-loved grandparents). Some of them were sent to me while I was at church camp, others, just because. When I was growing up, long-distance phone calls were reserved for weekends when the rates were lower, so hand-written letters and notes were more common.
I have made a commitment to sending hand made notes — thank you notes, get well notes, congratulatory notes, encouragement notes, and “just because” notes. Facebook posts don’t fit as easily in a hope chest.
Every year, our community has an historic home tour — 10 to 12 historic homes are opened to ticket-buyers by the homeowners. It’s like Christmas to me. A few years ago, I started sending “Thank You” cards to the residents of the homes on the tour. I thanked them for their hospitality and told them what I especially loved about their home.
Then, I started sending notes to people when I noticed significant improvements being made to a home — especially restorations of historic properties. I express how thrilled I am to see the home being restored, how beautiful it looks, and how wonderful it is to see people taking such pride in their property. Can you just imagine being in the midst of a huge home improvement project, enjoying all the headaches that come with, to get a note of encouragement like that?
Pick up the Tab
This one is pretty common (recently made famous by the Starbucks drive-thru “pay it backward” thing), but it’s a great one! Pick up someone’s tab at a restaurant. You could have a “standing rule” that any time you see someone in a military or police uniform, you pick up the tab, or it could be more random and spirit led.
For example, my family often meets at a location central to all of our homes for a meal. One such day, we met at a little family diner in New Castle, Indiana. Next to our party of 10, there was an elderly man sitting alone. He seemed to enjoy watching my 18-month-old nieces toddle about and my sister struck up a conversation with him.
He told her, “Yeah, I have 8 kids myself and 2 ex-wives. Now, I have a chihuahua and a parrot. When I get home, the parrot asks, ‘Where ya been?’ and I tell the parrot, if I wanted someone to ask me that, I’d still have a wife!”
My mom picked up his tab without him even knowing it. He made our day and we wanted to make his.
Or maybe you can easily pick out a young couple in a restaurant and remember what it was like to be young, married, and broke. Pick up their tab! Chances are, some day, they will remember it and do the same for someone else.
I make it a habit to tip a minimum of 20%, even if the service is so-so, and I only go up from there. I believe if I can’t afford to tip well, then I can’t afford to eat out and I stay home.
But once in a while, either because I can tell my waiter or waitress is having a rough day or just because something about him or her strikes me, I will tip above and beyond what is customary. 100% or more? Imagine how someone might be blessed by that!
Be a Quarter Fairy
When I was in grade school, we had “school skates” once a month at the local roller rink. That was during the 80’s, when arcade games were big! One time, I was at the skate but didn’t have any money to play arcade games. Somehow, I noticed that someone had left a quarter by the slot for Mrs. Pac-Man. Maybe it was an accident, I don’t know, but at the time, I took it as a generous benefactor offering me a free play and play I did!
I never forgot that, and after that, I started saving my quarters. I would take them to the skate and I would play some, but then, I would go around and leave a quarter on a few machines. I felt so sneaky — like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
As an adult, I play a similar game, but with a grown-up twist. I shop Aldi almost weekly for groceries. If you are also an Aldi shopper, then you are familiar with the shopping card corral. At Aldi, to get a shopping cart, you have to release it from the corral by inserting a quarter. When you return your cart, your quarter is returned. But I have taken to just leaving my quarter for the next shopper. More than once, I’ve found myself “quarter-less,” so I would just like to bless another person.
I also take extra shopping bags with me when I go to Aldi. Another way they keep their prices down is by not giving away shopping bags. You bring your own or buy them. So, I always take extra in case another shopper runs short or forgets.
Show Genuine Concern for Others
Every day, we lock eyes with other people — people who might be hurting, lonely, or just looking for a reason to keep going. We never know what burdens other people are carrying because most of us are pretty good at hiding our pain behind a brave face. We assume nobody really cares about our problems so we should keep them to ourselves.
But what if someone did care?
I honestly had this conversation yesterday. I was walking out of a coffee shop to my car and as I passed a young man on the sidewalk, I said, “Hi. How are you today?”
He answered and I replied, “Great! Have a nice day.”
As I continued to my car, I realized, he had answered, “Awful.”
I hadn’t even really listened. I had readied my response before he even spoke. Convicted immediately, I went back and said, “I’m sorry. I am not sure I heard you right. Did you say, ‘awful?'”
From there, I learned he was having car trouble and his phone was dead. I asked him if he’d like to use my phone, which seemed to really brighten his day. I also realized that all too often, my conversations with other people routine and scripted.
Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: Fine, how are you?
Person 1: Fine, thank you. Have a nice day.
Never ad lib! Stick to the script! Dare to stray from the script and show genuine concern for others. Make actual conversation with other people and listen attentively. When you pay attention and listen, you may be surprised how opportunities to practice kindness will just present themselves to you.
How do YOU practice kindness?
When you give another person a reason to smile, it does incredible things for your own spirits. Give a blessing and you are blessed back.
I would love to hear from you in the comments how you have shown or plan to show kindness to others!