I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’m a sensitive soul.
My friends often joke about how few movies I’ve seen, but my little heart just can’t handle most of them. If it’s gory, I’m out, if it’s tragic, no way. I have to screen what I watch carefully so I don’t end up in a pile of tissues, crying about how sad the world is, and not knowing what to do about it.
My heart makes me a terrible movie watcher, and even worse at trivia or recognizing pop culture references, but it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes I feel bowled over by the bad news in the world, by the terrible things going on, all the people hurting. I feel the weight of the world sometimes, and in the face of such bad news, it’s tempting to feel hopeless.
There are things in the world I cannot do a damn thing to fix. I have no idea what to do about ISIS, not the first clue.
But what I do know is how much intentional kindness can do.
I think of it like a scale. Every bit of kindness we pump into the world tips the scale just the littlest bit toward hope.
And while these things I’m about to list will do nothing to cure Ebola, for example, it’s what I can do in my little corner of the world while smart scientists and doctors and experts are working on the whole Ebola thing. So in the meantime…
7 things we can do to make the world (or our corner of it) a better place:
1. Pay for the person’s Starbucks behind you in line
I love doing this because it’s like giving a stranger a present, and it’s always so happy and surprising when it happens to you. Next time you’re in line somewhere, pay for the person behind you. I guarantee it’ll make their day.
2. Compliment someone you don’t know
It is the nicest thing to be complimented by a stranger. See someone with a great pair of shoes, or fantastic haircut? Tell them! You never know how timely your compliment might be, how much they might need some encouragement in that very moment.
3. Say the things you notice, but sometimes forget to share
So often we notice wonderful things about our friends, our spouses, our coworkers, yet we forget to tell them. I want to be more intentional in my life about telling people things that are great about them. Have a coworker that’s always positive and friendly? Recognize them for it. Have a spouse that takes care of all your bills and insurance thingies (I clearly don’t do that in our house), recognize them for it and tell them how loved it makes you feel.
4. Show up with a treat
If you have a coworker who is working extra hard one day, sneak out and bring them back a treat. If your roommate is pulling an all-nighter, slip out to Starbucks and bring back their favorite drink. This simple act of kindness says not only says, “I’m thinking about you, and I care about you,” it’s also a great way of saying, “I see you working so hard, and I am in this with you.”
5. Follow up on conversations
This is a part of friendship I think we could all improve on. We’re great at asking each other how we are, and even listening attentively, but we’re not always great at following up. If your friend has an interview coming up, remember to ask them about it later. If your co-worker’s son is sick, or had a big math test coming up, ask how he’s feeling, or how the test went.
It’s shocking to have someone remember the details we share with them, and remember them enough to follow up and ask for an update. With just a bit more intentionality, I think we could all show each other we’re really listening.
6. Remember, even the tiny things matter
I think we often overlook how much tiny acts of kindness matter. Yesterday Carl and I were heading home from a trip, and I woke up in the morning to a fully packed suitcase. He had packed up all my things so I could have a few extra minutes to sleep. It’s a small thing but it made me feel so loved.
7. Be extra nice to the people you see every day
A few weeks ago, Carl and I grabbed lunch at one of my favorite sandwich places near our office. The line was long, and the small restaurant was packed, but when we got up to the counter, the guy at the register completely took me by surprise.
I expected him to be short with us, hurrying before the customers in line started to grumble. Or I just expected him to mostly ignore us, asking us only the necessary questions, and swiping our credit card without a smile.
But instead, he smiled…a lot! He asked us questions, and talked to us about our day. He was still efficient, but he was kind, and bubbly, and friendly.
I couldn’t stop smiling as we walked away. His friendliness reminded me that we’re all in this life thing together and that with just a little bit of kindness, we can bring the mood up a notch.
This list is small, and maybe insignificant, but I just don’t think so. I think if we intentionally sought to be kind and generous with each other, we really could make the world a better place.
No, buying Starbucks for the car in line behind me won’t stop ISIS or cure Ebola, but with that small act I can make that person’s day a little bit better, and maybe they’ll pass on the favor. You never know how far kindness can spread.
What are some small ways you make the world a better place?