One of my little pet projects has been to do an act of kindness every day. I started 9 November 2016 and I've continued on for over 500 days now. Sometimes I worry what people who know me might think. Maybe they'll think I'm a really cold, bitchy person so how dare I? Maybe they think I'm being disingenuous. But those fears only exist to keep me from continuing the project, and I don't want them to win. I'll be the first to admit that I can be very cold, I can be a total bitch. But there is nothing wrong with bringing more kindness and love into the world. We all need it. Even me.
So today, I've compiled a list of 25 ways that you can give kindness in your own life with gestures of all sizes. Kindness is kindness and it doesn't matter how big it is, you never know the effect you may have on someone's life. And what I've learned over the last 500+ days, you never know what effect you may have on your own life. It feels really good to be kind and loving to people and sometimes it snaps me out of my foul mood or my funk and makes me realise that life isn't so bad, really.
Pay it forward. This is what kicked off my whole project. I paid for the car behind me in the line at Chick-Fil-A. It's one of my favourite ways to spread a little joy and kindness to someone. Pay for their coffee. (Have you ever been in a chain of paying it forward at Starbucks?) Pay for their lunch. Pick up a bar tab. The real trick is not even asking how much they spent and doing it blindly, regardless of cost.
Donate blood. I had given blood once in the States through a Bonfils drive at my high school, but Luke gives blood regularly through the NHS and invited me to come along with him. We're able to give blood four times a year and you may be able to as well! So find a donation centre near you and find out how often you can donate. You could save a life!
Take someone out for coffee. Buy a coffee or tea for your friend! Sit down and catch up! Whether it's someone you see often or someone you haven't seen in a while, set aside 30 uninterrupted minutes to talk with them and you might find that that 30 minutes gets away from you quite quickly.
Have someone over for dinner. It's no secret around here that I love cooking and having friends over for dinner makes it all the more special. Something magical happens when you invite people to your table and spend time preparing a meal for them. It's a wonderful thing and I'm so glad it's such a part of the culture here for us because I enjoy cooking for our friends so much more than meeting up at a restaurant for dinner.
Donate to a charity. This is definitely an obvious one. There are so many fantastic charities out there, you're sure to find one that aligns with your values and spends money responsibly. Don't forget to do your research to ensure that your money truly goes to further a cause you support and isn't getting lost in a corporation or in the hands of a CEO.
Support a political candidate. Look, I don't care what party you're in, support the candidates you believe in. Give money. Campaign door-to-door. Spread the word. People hate politics right now, but the representatives we send to Washington are our voice. Don't you want someone speaking on your behalf who has the same values and goals that you do? Help those people get into office, even if they're not in your district or even your state. If you believe in a candidate, send them to Washington. If we haven't learned anything else in the last 2 years of politics, we should at least know by now that every vote counts and that rings true on the Senate floor as well.
Write an encouraging note. No one ever sends snail mail anymore! I love getting notes and cards from friends and family, near or far. I'm trying to be more conscious of calling my friends as I think of them, especially with the distance overseas. I have a pack of blank notecards that I got in the dollar section at Target on hand to send to someone, so it's so much easier to do on the spot.
Actually call someone. I get it, no one wants to talk on the phone these days. But one thing I've learned in moving abroad is how much easier it is to connect with someone on the phone or how much easier it is to communicate with someone when you can hear their voice. Maybe it's just to catch up with a friend who lives somewhere else. Or maybe it's making the choice to have a serious conversation with someone not on text when things can get misunderstood and misconstrued.
Invest in a reusable water bottle and travel mug. Imagine all the plastic water bottles and "recyclable" coffee cups you'll save. Did you know Starbucks will even give you a small discount if you bring in your own mug? I'll be honest, you may end up losing one or two along the way, but once you get in the habit of having a water bottle with you, it'll be easier to remember. I always keep my own mug and water bottle at work and used to keep another water bottle in my car.
Smile at a stranger on the street. If you're walking down the street, why not practice not having resting bitch face and smile at people you pass. You may never see them again and you definitely have no idea what their day or their life is like, but you can certainly make a difference for someone just by smiling. I mean, it's really hard not smile back at someone who's smiling at you.
Be extra nice to people in the service industry. Have you ever worked as a cashier or waitress or something like that? People can be mean. I know! I'm one of them. But I've realised that we are 100% in control of how we behave, even towards other people. If they're being rude to you, be nice. If they're having a hard day, be nice. If someone just shouted at them because they can't return something without a receipt and outside of the return window, be nice to them. If you're having a bad day, it will make a difference for you too. And if you're having a bad day and they had nothing to do with it, why are you being mean to them?!
Leave a generous tip. If you have a server who really goes above and beyond, why not tip them more than your usual percentage? You don't need to leave thousands (unless you want to), but if someone made an impression while serving you a $15 meal, why not leave a few extra bucks?
Find somewhere to volunteer. My church in Colorado always spoke about how what we have to give is our time, talents, and treasure (money) and through volunteering, you can give both your time and your talents. Take something you'e passionate about or good at and find an organisation that will allow you to do those things. For example, I really love kittens (who doesn't), so I volunteered at the local Humane Society in facility and later as a foster mom.
Drown out the haters with a kind comment. Since we're now online basically all the time, you've probably at least seen what people have the audacity to say while hiding behind a screen, if not been the victim to trolling yourself. So drown out those haters by leaving a nice, thoughtful comment instead. Or even if someone isn't getting trolled, still leave a nice comment to brighten someone's day.
Send someone a care package. It doesn't even matter how far away they are, anyone who shops online knows that mail days are the best days. So give them something unexpected to open, big or small.
Send someone flowers. It's probably safe to say most women like getting flowers, no matter who they're from. The best is when your partner does a quick grocery store run and picks them up while at the store. It's a really great way to show someone you're thinking about them throughout the day.
Talk to a senior citizen. We've all heard the sad stories about how lonely some seniors are. So whether it's your grandparent, a family friend, someone at church, or a stranger, talk to them. If you know them personally, ask them about their lives and listen to the stories they have to tell.
Give to a homeless person. If you're not comfortable giving money to a homeless person, give money to a homeless shelter. Or consider putting together some bags to keep in your car with necessities to give to people. Items like warm socks, hand sanitiser, tampons or pads (for women), granola bars or other snacks, bottled water, toothbrush & toothpaste, sunscreen, gift card to McDonald's, etc.
Plant a tree. You'll need to do some research on what to plant and where you can plant one and it's only a small way to combat our damage to the environment, but every step counts toward saving our planet.
Pick up trash. We've all seen trash just about everywhere from people littering or bins blowing over in the wind. Instead of ignoring it, pick it up. Yes, you'll probably want gloves to pick trash up off the street, but there's also less gross ways to clean up, like grabbing the soda cup left in the seat next to you at the cinema or bussing someone else's tray at a fast casual dining restaurant.
Compliment someone. It doesn't even have to be a new haircut or a new outfit, tell someone something you like about them. It might even be more meaningful to dig a little deeper and tell someone a quality they possess that you admire like their authenticity, generosity, kindness, determination, etc.
Take baked goods to your neighbours. I love baking, but I don't really love the idea of having cupcakes or cookies around the house all the time, so I often take them around to our neighbours (or into work). We live nextdoor or across the street from these people and often don't even know their names. Wouldn't it be nice to build a little bit of a more meaningful relationship with people who you see on your street every day? And if baked goods aren't your style, there's plenty of other things you can give them instead.
Eat vegetarian once a week. If you're anything like me, it might be pretty hard to give up meat altogether, but reducing the amount of meat you buy saves literally thousands of gallons of water. Luke and I eat vegetarian on Thursdays and we have found some amazing recipes.
Complain less. Nobody likes a complainer, let's be honest, but we all complain. Try to be more conscious of the words you say to others, especially if it's tearing down someone else. There's something positive in nearly everything, even if we have to dig really deep to find it. Talk about that instead because complaining can turn into a bottomless pit of negativity if you're not careful.
Tell yourself something you like about yourself. Yes, be kind to the world, but don't forget to be kind to yourself as well. We need kindness too and we're often the hardest on ourselves. Instead of tearing yourself down about your appearance or something embarrassing you did in sixth grade, give yourself a compliment. Look in the mirror and say it out loud because you deserve to hear kind words.