Doing Acts of Kindness…Anonymously

13 comments

There’s a really neat trend currently going around to honor the 26 victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School – I think Ann Curry proposed it shortly after the shootings occurred last year. As the first year anniversary of the horrible event approaches, this trend has regained some momentum and we are seeing (at least locally) Facebook pictures that show the capacity that our friends and neighbors have for kindness. I love it because it inspires people to consciously perform acts of generosity that they might not otherwise think to do.

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The acts are heartwarming and range from small to large – a cup of coffee purchased for the next person in line, a small gift to bring a smile to someone’s face, a donation to charity.  It has brought out the innate good in people and really restores our faith in the fact that our society is not really as self-absorbed as it sometimes appears to be.

Through it all, I’ve been most taken aback by the acts of kindness that have been done without the specific need for money; usually a donation of someone’s time or talent. Those gestures demonstrate that you don’t necessarily need to “buy” the different acts of kindness (although, obviously, acts that require monetary payment are appreciated by the recipient and are equally as thoughtful). I’ve also been impressed by acts that have been done anonymously because I truly believe that a genuine act of kindness is one that’s done where the giver expects nothing, including praise or recognition, in return. Those two types of acts are the most impactful and yet hardest ones to figure out because it is, after all, easy to just turn around and buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line.

The other day, I witnessed such an act of kindness at the post office. There’s a brightly decorated mailbox in the lobby that’s marked “Letters to Santa” and has an address on it; something to the effect of 1234 Candycane Lane; North Pole. There was a boy (~6 years old) standing in the lobby holding his letter to Santa while his mom was inside talking to the postman. The poor boy started to panic because he had simply addressed his letter to “Santa Claus at the North Pole” instead of with the address specified on the sign. An older gentleman standing nearby saw the impending meltdown, walked over to the little boy, leaned over, and started to talk to the boy. He quietly assured the boy that because there’s only one Santa at the North Pole, the letter will definitely get to Santa. He told the boy that he (the man) had addressed his letter in the exact same way, and (wouldn’t you know?!) he just received a response back saying that he was on the “MAYBE” list. He told the boy that he was going to try harder to listen to his wife, be nice to his kids, eat all of his veggies, and drink all of his milk so that he might make it onto Santa’s “NICE” list in time for Christmas. He then helped the boy put his letter into the mailbox, patted him on the back, and left the post office all before the boy’s mom had come back out to the lobby. When she came out, she was suspicious as to why a strange man was talking to her child, but her boy said, “Mom, we put the wrong address on the letter to Santa. That man told me that he did the same thing and it got there ok…” The look on the mom’s face pretty much said it all – that stranger had anonymously done a good deed for her.

As we strive to do the things in our everyday lives that can easily make a difference in someone else’s, remember that acts of kindness are not necessarily things we have to buy for each other. A small gesture and a few kind words can make a person’s day.

As a closing note: this post is obviously not directly parenting-related, but I do believe that our children shape their beliefs by watching our everyday actions – compassion, generosity and kindness are all traits that our kids learn from us over time.

13 comments on “Doing Acts of Kindness…Anonymously”

  1. Loved this story! It really made me smile – thanks so much for sharing it! This is just my opinion, but I don’t know when the idea of charity and kind gestures just starting rolling back into fashion. There are certainly worse trends to be had, but it would be so nice if it was just the norm instead of an internet meme. Thank you for the reminder such a small gesture can make such a huge impact. I guarantee that little boy will carry that memory around for a while.

    1. I think that these gestures have always been somewhat of a thing, but that facebook and social media allows us to “broadcast” our good deeds. This is precisely why I am impressed by ones that are anonymous – because a good deed that is done for the sake of just doing it is truly genuine gesture; not that the others are not, of course!

      1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since reading your post. I love to do nice things for other people simply because it makes me and them feel good. I do tend to share some of the stuff I do via my facebook page or the blog, but only because I hope it inspires other people to do kind things when they see someone else they know doing them. I don’t post to say, ‘see look what I did aren’t I awesome’, I do it because I hope that someone else might do something nice for someone after reading my adventures. Just my point of view!

      2. I totally agree – I tried to tread lightly on how I wrote it, and hoped that I could communicate effectively that ones that are done directly are equally as appreciated and absolutely as genuine. Perhaps the message regarding the anonymity is lost in both/either translation or in expression – that these strike a chord from the heart that they are done for no other true reason than to be giving, and that’s why they really impress me. You, Michelle, are a real and genuine person, but there are many people whose motivations are different. Whatever the motivation is, however, the reality is that end result is a good deed, and that’s really what matters because as you said, it DOES inspire others to do the same.

        (Did this response make any sense or am I sticking my foot into my mouth??)

      3. Oh I totally hear you! I hope you don’t think I was upset or anything? Not at all. I had just been thinking about this since you posted this piece. I have been so inspired by the acts of kindness you’ve been doing, I hope you know that. I went into Dunkin the day after being fortunate to receive an act of kindness from you and wanted to pay it forward so I decided ahead of time I was going to buy coffee for whoever was behind me. When I went in, it happened that the person behind me was a kind of intimidating construction worker and I almost second guessed myself. But I thought to myself, he’s a person just like everyone else and every person is deserving of an act of kindness so I looked right at him and told him to order whatever he wanted, that it was on me. You should have seen the look in his face! We went from being strangers and me being intimated by him to being equals in a second. I could tell it made his entire day and he even came up to me afterwards and gave me his card (he has a tree service). Sorry this is a way long comment but my favorite thing about acts of kindness, the kind where you interact with someone else, is that you are reminded of our shared humanity and the distance between two people is completely erased. Isn’t that beautiful? You are really inspiring to me and I love hearing about what you’re doing!

      4. I love ALL kinds of acts of kindness and have done both ~ the kind that are attached to a “My Everyday Magic” card and the anonymous kind. Both rock equally, I agree! And that Santa letter story brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing this, Vivian.

  2. Love this. I have printed out the 26 tags to give with each act of kindness, but I haven’t been keeping track and I didn’t feel like advertising every act of kindness. I want to live each and every day trying to find a way to do everything with kindness and go above and beyond when I can honoring the lives and legacies of the 26 angels from Sandy Hook and everyone else who I want to honor.

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