Relationships

What’s One Nice Thing Someone Has Done For You Recently?

Random Acts of Kindness

The other day, I was walking down the sidewalk minding my own business…

When a gust of wind blew my beloved cheetah-print baseball cap right off my head. It flew into the street, where it landed in the path of oncoming traffic. I stood on the curb, watching the scene play out, ultimately expecting to watch my hat get run over.

Instead, the approaching car rolled to a stop, as did the car behind it, and the car behind that one. A woman darted into the street where she retrieved my cap and handed it to me with a smile.

Honestly, the whole thing felt like a scene from a movie musical. I half expected someone to break into a spirited soft-shoe. Instead, I thanked her profusely and went on with my day, my faith in all things feeling somewhat restored.

In my neighborhood coffee shop, there is a tiny sign perched on the countertop alongside the wooden stir sticks and assorted pitchers of milk. “Remember kindness. It only takes a moment to make someone else’s day a little brighter.”

I often wondered what inspired someone to put it there. Did they witness a particularly sweet moment? Or rather, did they grow tired of watching one too many patrons not hold the door for the person behind them? (Maybe a little of both.) Either way, its point is a good one. You never know what the people around you are secretly grappling with. Sometimes, all it takes is a tiny thoughtful act to turn someone’s entire day (or week or month) around.

To that end, what’s one nice thing someone has done for you recently? It doesn’t have to cost anything or even require planning. Let’s give each other ideas so we can spread some kindness!

P.S. The strangers you see everywhere and a surprise I’m still thinking of two decades later.

  1. Kelsey S. says...

    My husband and I recently traveled to Park City, UT to spend a week skiing with my family. A few years back, we purchased a GoPro for exactly this kind of trip. It was a big purchase for us and we always took great care of it. On our first day on the mountain, my husband hit a particularly large mogul, flew into the air and landed hard on his back. He was totally fine after that epic spill, but we realized — at the bottom of the slope — that the GoPro had come off of his helmet in the fall! We raced back up the chairlift and retraced our path down the mountain, but the GoPro was gone… We checked with the chairlift operator at the base of the slope and asked around inside of the nearby slopeside restaurant. No one had returned it to those locations. We thought it was lost for good. I wanted to believe that it had just ended up in the woods on the side of the mountain instead of in the pocket of someone who took advantage of our unfortunate situation. A few hours later, we got a call from my mom. She had stopped at the Lost & Found at the base of the mountain – right near the entrance to the resort. Our GoPro had been turned in by a friendly couple!!! When we got home, we watched the tape back. My husband’s fall was indeed epic – the GoPro rolled for a solid two minutes after he crashed. At the end of the video, we saw someone pick up the GoPro and immediately say “Let’s take it to Lost & Found.” It was early in the day when this happened and the base was quite far from where we had been skiing. I believe they went out of their way to drop off our camera. It was such a lovely reminder that people DO watch out for each other without expecting anything in return.

  2. MNR says...

    My husband was stationed overseas and after a whirlwind few weeks and lots of life changes (quitting a job I loved, moving everything into storage, preparing to backpack solo and eventually move to a new country) I was on a plane prepared for the next adventure. I was sleep deprived, anxious, and really missing him but proud of myself for the changes I had put into place and full of the special excitement that precedes an adventure. I don’t cry very often, and honestly didn’t really feel like I needed to, but while waiting for the restroom I was lightly scolded by a stewardess for being in the way while they were trying to get service started. I was a stuck in the back corner by the kitchen and had nowhere to go since my route back to my seat was blocked. After a few minutes the same stewardess came back and apologized to me for her harsh words, which hadn’t offended me in the slightest (I *was* in the way!), but for some reason that tiny human interaction was enough to open the floodgates and I started full-on *sobbing*. The poor woman thought it was in response to her, and, mortified I tried to explain I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and it had nothing to do with them. By this point there were about 4 airline employees crowded into the back of the plane + me with tears streaming down my face trying to disappear into the wall. One discreetly came over, handed me a tissue, and with a tight hug whispered to me “Is there anything I can do for you?”. I silently shook my head, then mercifully escaped to the bathroom. I felt so betrayed by my emotions and tears, and after cleaning myself up in the bathroom spent the rest of the flight feeling the mix of embarrassment and relief a dramatic public display of emotion can bring ;)
    While disembarking, one of the sweet stewardesses handed me a little baggie of goodies with a kind note, a big smile, and her best wishes. I’ll never forget the kindness each of those women showed me during an overwhelming time of transition, while helping me learn to be a little kinder and more empathetic to both myself and others.

  3. pb says...

    When I was pregnant (at an older age), I was on twitter and saw a writer (someone I admired) who was also pregnant with her third child. I started interacting with her more and more, especially after we had our babies. Eventually we swapped phone numbers and started texting. No one else I knew had babies, and I wasn’t on facebook (where all the support groups seem to be), and she was my lifeline during the mid-night feedings and long, lonely days–and during the happy, euphoria, as well. When I went back to work, it was especially hard for me to leave my baby at daycare all day. The writer-friend sent me a pin that read “The Mutual Admiration Society of Mothers.” I can’t tell you how much that gesture meant to me. It came at a time that I felt like I was failing my baby by leaving him, failing my job by being so distracted at work, failing my husband by…well, being obsessed with the baby. Her support–normalizing my fears, normalizing how hard it can be, and reminding me that I’m not alone–helped me so much.

  4. Stefanie says...

    I was pregnant with my 2nd kiddo, and went into labor early while my husband was out of town for work. We had recently moved to a new state and had no family nearby for thousands of miles. So what does this mama do? Calls the retired next door neighbor couple to see if one could watch my son and the other take me to the hospital. Not only do they rush to my help, but the wife ends up staying with me throughout the entire labor, helps deliver the baby and spends the night on the awful sleeper couch in the room. As soon as my husband walked through the door the next morning, she smiles, picks up her purse, says congratulations and leaves, knowing we would want to spend our first minutes reunited as a family alone.
    I tear up just thinking about how wonderful they were in such a crazy and quick situation. I will never forget their kindness and neither will my daughter. A picture of my daughter with my neighbor in the hospital is the second picture in her baby book! We have since moved away, but still send a Holiday card to send updates on the family.

    • Katha says...

      This is such a beautiful and heartwarming story. Lucky for you to have had such amazing neighbors.

    • Amy says...

      I absolutely loved this story. So lovely that you had such kind neighbors! x

  5. Sandy says...

    After hiring carpenters to do some exterior work on my old house (built in 1929), I was unhappy with their “off the shelf” solution to replace my crawlspace access door. I asked them to cease working on that project until I could figure out a better solution in keeping with the architecture of my house. I desperately called my brother who is a master cabinetmaker, and within three hours he custom made an exact replica of the door that was originally on my house. He affixed shiny new hinges and latch and refused to be reimbursed for materials or his time. He’s so talented and in high demand, so I never take his kindness for granted.

  6. Danielle says...

    This experience touched me so much during a fragile and vulnerable time that I feel compelled to comment, I have never left a comment here before.

    I had a two month old baby and a just turned 3 year old. We were having a difficult transition after baby was born and I was determined to do something fun and normal with my 3 year old like we used to before baby was born. I took him to an aquatic center that had a kiddie pool; he could play while I sat close by with the baby watching him jump in the water and splash around.

    He was having a difficult time regulating himself despite reminders about not splashing other kids, etc. Eventually he threw a toy at another child and I decided we needed to call it day because he was continuing to escalate.

    I told him to please get out of the pool and that it was time to go, and he refused to listen (big surprise) and started melting down in the pool. I had been nursing baby and I got into the pool (with baby still latched) and tried to get kiddo out of the pool with my free hand. I was barefoot but in jeans that were now soaking wet up to my knees.

    Another mom nearby rushed to our aid and cheerfully helped 3 year old get his sandals on so I could load up baby in the stroller and we could leave. I don’t even remember her talking to me, just her friendly confident voice chatting with my son about getting his shoes on and being a good helper for mom and walking with the stroller as we headed to the locker room. I was so overwhelmed with parenting a newborn and a 3 year old and trying to “do life” as normal, I was so touched by this other mom rushing in to help when I felt like I was drowning. I think about that incident a lot and try to keep it in mind if I ever see an opportunity to be an extra set of hands for a struggling parent.

    • pb says...

      This is beautiful.

  7. Casie L says...

    Traveling alone with a two year old and a two month old! I wouldn’t have survived it had it not been for acts of kindness by strangers. The most memorable was after a four hour delay, we finally board the plane and my two year old pooped in her diaper. A young girl who was in the aisle seat next to me overheard and tapped on my shoulder and offered to hold my baby so I could change her diaper. Another girl in the airport started pushing the baby’s stroller back and forth and singing to her when she was crying and I was busy washing my toddlers hands in the bathroom. People helping me fold and unfold the stroller while trying to hold a baby, etc. It made my heart feel full on such a long hard day!

  8. Ashley Praytor says...

    We took our kids to the beach, my hometown. It’s been gloomy where we live and so we headed to an outdoor restaurant, but instead of making the kids sit down at a table we ordered our food to go and placed our towel near the restaurant and ate picnic style. We’d left our tab open to order another drink and when we went to pay the server told us someone had already covered our bill. Turns out an older gentleman had been watching us play with our kids. He told my husband he paid for us because we have a beautiful family. And then he lovingly mentioned that he had a son who had 8 kids! It made our entire trip!

    • A says...

      Gasp!

  9. S says...

    I have been dealing with depression for a couple of years. For me, it occasionally comes out as bouts of anger during which I have little to no patience for my 2 kiddos. I rush them more, I play less, on really bad days I yell at them. I try to be as open as I can about it (they’re very young), especially what I am doing to get better, and I am quick to apologize to them whenever I’m less than kind. But I always, invariably feel like the worst mom ever. A few mornings ago, my 5 y/o climbed onto my bed to snuggle, and she said: “mom, I love you with all my heart, even when you are cranky. You’re the best mom for me.” That is honestly the biggest kindness I have ever, ever, ever received.

    • M says...

      This melted my heart. Sending you strength to work through your depression. <3

  10. Leah says...

    Our laundry got stolen (we use a laundry service and they left the laundry bag on the front steps, where it was stolen). The next day I was in an uber pool on the way to work, and lamented to my co-passenger that I was most upset about losing my son’s favorite sports jersey in the stolen laundry bag because jerseys are so expensive. The man said, does he like the 76ers? Because at work yesterday, they gave us a bunch of these jerseys, and then he gave me a brand new basketball jersey for my son. I cried in the uber.

  11. Megan says...

    My friend and I are doing a medical school rotation in the middle of nowhere. It is just the two of us and we essentially have no other friends in a three-hour radius.

    Among the one million reasons why I am grateful I’m with her in this tiny town is that sometimes when I’m working a twelve-hour emerge shift she brings me a coffee. It’s such a simple gesture but it always brightens my day! The last time she did that, she wrote a little note on it that said “To my Dear Colleague Megan”, which made me giggle and turned a very stressed out and busy day around.

  12. Steph says...

    While flying home recently, my boyfriend and I sat next to a nice woman who we chatted with. They came around with ice cream, and the woman ate half and fell asleep – while the rest melted on her tray. I saw it start to come close to the edge of her tray, and thought I should do something when I returned from the bathroom So it didn’t get all over her. When I got back, it was all cleaned up, and she was still sleeping. I leaned over and asked my boyfriend if he did it and he said yes. Such a random thing but made me love him even more for being so considerate of a stranger.

  13. A few weeks ago I was having a rough time- bummer news about our taxes, life changes, plus February is a month of death anniversaries in our house, so grief and anxiety were high. One of my oldest friends sent an email out of the blue, with a picture of us when we were about 8. He wrote “oh how I loved you then!” and it meant so much- we say “I love you” every time we talk now and have for years, but we definitely weren’t in the habit when we were kids. That solid reassurance, that we have loved one another for over 20 years, really bolstered me! and made it possible for me to turn and do a small kindness for my sister.

  14. Michelle says...

    I was walking my dogs, carrying their poop bags. A man raking his yard said, “Thanks so much for picking up after your dogs.” This was probably 3-4 years ago. I think about it almost every time I walk them now!

  15. Joelle Lester says...

    I am going through a divorce. While this has been a brutally painful experience, it has also been infused with so many acts of kindness, large and small, from my family, friends, and colleagues. It has been the strangest sensation to feel so lucky and beloved at the same time as so much sadness.

    Of all of the acts of love I have been so lucky to receive, one from my sister stands out. My sister is my best person and lives far away (she in Brooklyn, me in Saint Paul). A week after my husband and I told the kids that we were splitting up, my sister called. She knew what was happening, but we hadn’t spoken since the Big Talk with the kids. I apologized for not being in touch and said I just couldn’t talk about it yet, meaning it was too much to speak about, I could only weep. She said, of course that’s okay, but you can always just call me and cry and I will sit here and listen to you cry.

    So much love, I am the luckiest to have this sister.

    • Maggie Pearson says...

      This is profound. She really loves you. Deeply . Wishing you healing and strength as you navigate stormy then new waters.

  16. VP says...

    My coworkers whom I have only known for 6 months there my a surprise baby shower! It was so sweet and kind, and very unnecessary on their part to go through all that trouble as this is my 3rd girl. I was so touched because sometimes friends are more thoughtful than family.

  17. Melissa says...

    I had just arrived at the hospital about to deliver my second baby without pain medication, and I needed to move from my bed to the birthing tub quickly. I stood up and became overwhelmed by pain. My husband was nearby, but I couldn’t spare the energy to ask him to come to my side, so I threw my arms around the nurse and buried my face in her shoulder until the contraction passed. My baby is 4 now, but I often think about that nurse, and all of the other amazing nurses who care for people in extraordinary ways every day.

  18. Joanne says...

    A couple of years ago when I was cycling to work one of my ballet pumps came off in the middle of the road! Imagine me ending up in work with 1 shoe, the stuff of bad weird dreams. Lucky for me a guy ran out into the street and rescued my shoe for me. Thanks kind stranger!

  19. Susan says...

    My daughter fell out of a tree and had to spend a couple days in the hospital. We had to have multiple CT scans and xrays to rule out major internal trauma – she fell about 12 feet, hitting her head and torso on the way down. She was in pain, confused and nauseated from a concussion. On the way to the the last xray we were in the elevator going from floor 6 to floor 1. She was crying because her stomach hurt. I was stressed because of all of the above. A flight medic got on the elevator at the same time as us, quietly checked us out and proceded to stop anyone else from getting on with us, saying we need to get this little girl down right away. It was all hospital staff, big groups of doctors and nurses and it would have taken us forever stopping on every floor letting people on and off. The big group of doctors looked a little surprised when he held up his hand and told them no, but they listened. Eveyone was kind to us while we were there. But his action, not knowing who we were, but advocating for an obviously stressed mom and child was so kind, I’ll never forget it.

  20. Anna says...

    After I mentioned a patch of uncertainty in my life, a friend invited me warmly to stay with her for the weekend (in another European city). We had a great time exploring the city and discussing our lives over wine. A reminder to reach out to a friend who is going through a challenging period — and repeat your invitation if necessary.

  21. Laurie L McCall says...

    A real-life story of the kindness of strangers, happening right now: fans of @AnneLouiseAvery’s microfiction tweets are making their own, in her style, to send love & support to Anne and her very ill son in hospital. There’s no hashtag: search her name or browse her timeline to see fierce kindness and hope. (Cut and pasted from tweet of Margaret Ruwoldt)

  22. Chantsy says...

    For all the bad in the world I have had so many instances of loving kindness from strangers. When I was in my teens and scrounging for change for my lunch at the mall (which I clearly didn’t have!) a kind lady behind me payed for my lunch. I’ve had strangers compliment me when I was pregnant and felt as big as a house, give up their place in the washroom line and let me go ahead of them at the grocery store when they saw that I had small children. A lady just recently gifted my daughter a free muffin in line bc she had a coupon. Small acts but every.single.one makes my heart sparkle and gives me an extra skip in my step! A reminder that there is LOTS of good in the world and, more importantly, to pay it forward!

  23. Lina Q says...

    Just today actually– I was in my weekend class for my MBA course and my colleague saw me unwell yet I couldn’t miss this class. I was having a migraine and one of the spotlights outside the room was shining directly in my eyes, making the headache worse. The spotlight wouldn’t turn off and had to be manually moved into another direction.
    My colleague leaves the room for 5 minutes, in what I assumed was a bathroom break. All of a sudden I see her coming back with the superintendent and his ladder. She had gone and asked him to come and change the spotlight direction away from me. Literally made my entire day :’)

  24. patricia blaettler says...

    My 21 yr old daughter had a low blood pressure incident when she was at the local deli down the shore. She called mom and dad but we were at the beach and didn’t hear our phones. The staff was ready to call an ambulance. Some nice man and his wife took her back to our house; when they saw we weren’t in the house they walked her onto the crowded beach to find us down by the water. They delivered her to us, shook our hands and left.

  25. Berenice says...

    It was raining quite heavily and I had no umbrella, walking in the street on my way to catching my tram. A lady came to my side and walked with me and shared her umbrella, asking me how far I was going. it was so nice and unexpected.
    I often find that most people are genuinely nice, but you can have 100 nice interactions, you will always remember the one mean one.

  26. Penny says...

    I was on the verge of tears one day at school ( I am a teacher at a high school), worried about my son who just got the diagnosis of a special needs kid. My students (18 year olds) brought a shoebox full of presents and a nice card for me the next day. How wonderful and considerate! Won’t it be a wonderful time when these kids rule the world….

  27. Ser says...

    Here’s one I did for someone else . Once in Italy my friend and I were walking back to our Airbnb and we came across a distraught young English guy. His mates had abandoned him and he was lost , and had somehow lost his wallet and details of where he was staying. I bought him back to our host who was bilingual and together they worked out where he was staying. I gave him 20 euros for an Uber. He was about my daughters age and I would hope that if she was lost in another country, a mother would help her. A few years later my daughter called me from London. She had found herself without accommodation but her boss at a yoga studio , who had a teen daughter travelling in Australia had offered her a room in her own house for the duration of her trip. Thanks, fellow mum of lost and distraught teens!

  28. Ann says...

    When I was eight months pregnant with my daughter I was driving to work early in the morning and late for a meeting. I thought I could make it without stopping for gas but I ran out on a very busy street in Los Angeles. I left the car and played frogger crossing the street to a gas station. Two off-duty fireman were getting snacks in the gas station and offered to help and pushed my car across four lanes in traffic. One of the fireman told me he had a pregnant wife and was so kind. My now six year old daughter, who I was pregnant with when this happened, often requests this as a bedtime story.

  29. Anna says...

    My 3-year-old daughter takes my face in her hands and gives me a kiss on each cheek when she says goodbye, sees me after we’ve been apart and sometimes for no reason at all.

    I have no idea where she learned it, and those two pecks are like a blessing.

    • A says...

      Gasp – this is the sweetest. Bless you.

  30. Hannah says...

    these are all so beautiful and inspiring to read :)
    I attended a very performance-oriented high school, and was often overwhelmed by all the work and pressure. A bright spot of those years was my ceramics class, where I could take a deep breath in the middle of each day and be creative. We also had the very best teacher, Mr. P.

    One day I broke down in tears over a project in ceramics class that I kept messing up and having to re-start — of course it really had nothing to do with that project, but more with all of the other stress I was putting on myself to excel and perform in all areas of school and life. It was 10 years ago and I still remembered I cried a LOT, but stayed during my lunch period to keep working on the project. Mr. P took time to help me with the project and gave me space to breathe and calm down from all the anxiety.

    After my lunch period I went along to my next class in the computer lab, and about 20 minutes into the class, Mr. P came in with a bag from 7-11. Since I missed lunch to stay in his class, he knew I must have been hungry, so he went out of his way to go buy me food (including a Cinnamon toast crunch cereal bar — anyone remember those?!) and found out where my next class period was and brought it to me. It was so touching and I will never forget his kindness to an overwhelmed, anxious 16 year old girl. Whenever I have to set a security question & the prompt is “who was your favorite teacher?” I still always put Mr. P.

  31. Le says...

    Ten-something years ago, I got a call out of the blue on my office line from a bookstore in Minnesota (I worked in Oklahoma) and it turned out to be an acquaintance from 10 years earlier, high school, calling about a book (I worked at a press and he needed the book for his store and saw me on the staff listing online). There must have been a catch in my voice because he asked if something was wrong. This unsuspecting guy from a lifetime earlier had happened to call out of the blue moments after I’d found out I was being laid off! I spilled, and he was so nice and encouraging about it. We lost touch again until a few years later and, well, that time I married him. :o)

    • mindi says...

      Oh my gosh, I love this!

    • silly lily says...

      Almost spooky — but exceptionally cool. Best wishes!

  32. Amber Leigh says...

    A few months ago I was walking our dog while wearing my baby in a carrier. Something I didn’t do too often as it was quite a struggle. My dog did his business and I was struggling to bend down to pick it up in such a way so as not to wake up the baby (not easy!) when this angel on earth appeared and offered to pick up my dog’s ? for me! Before I could protest, she’d already done it. I was so touched by her kindness and awesomeness and I’ll never forget it.

  33. I am about to get divorced and my husband ended up in a psych ward last weekend. At the same time, my stepfather went into the ICU, fighting for his life and my dear grandmother also went into the ICU (both of them in different states…neither are ones that I live in!). Life was CRAZY. My sister came the next day for a few days. She stayed with our daughter so I could go to the hospital, take a nap and she made dinner. Another friend brought dinner and “listened” to my texts. All of my sisters have been so supportive…letting me know that it’s okay even if he is a good guy, I can still want to be divorced from him and that it’s going to be okay.
    Second example…….I was in France a couple of years ago for a summer singing program. I was living with a group of singers for two weeks. It was kind of dorm style living. I ended up getting the worse bed…..nobody knew it but me. It was okay. One day one of the girls laid on the bed and realized how bad it was. Immediately, the three girls in the room took another mattress and put in top of the other one, put on new clean sheets and went to their beds to find the best pillows for me. They made the bed and tucked me in! We were all adults! The kindness they showed me went straight into my heart. It had been a tough trip. I was missing my daughter and was the start of realizing that I needed to end my marriage….this small gesture made me feel loved and cared for in a way I hadn’t felt for a while. Swoon.

  34. Mimi says...

    My mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 36, I was 12. She underwent a complicated surgery which required wound care 2 times a day by a home care nurse. There was a very big snow storm one day and the nurse manager called to tell us that they couldn’t find a home care nurse to come that day. Long story short-A retired home care nurse drove with her husband (I think they were both in their 70s) to come to our house to do my mother’s wound care. I still think about that nurse to this day….She really touched our lives.

  35. Summer says...

    Maybe 10 years ago I was in line at Target, having a stressed out/overwhelmed/cranky kind of day. I noticed the cashier was singing as he was checking his customers out and thought, ‘this guy’s nuts’.

    He sang through my purchases, then looked at me and asked, ‘why don’t seagulls live by the bay?’ – I looked at him blankly but felt seen… ‘because then they would be called bagels!’ He stated :)

    I couldn’t help but laugh, and with a simple joke and a momentary connect that cashier turned my whole day around.

    It made such a huge impression that I still carry 10 years later. Plus, after hearing the story, all my husband has to say to me is ‘bagels!’ To make me smile.