Apparently tiny acts of kindness are contagious. Studies have shown that a single good act, like spontaneously giving someone a flower, can influence dozens more.
So I thought I would experiment with that idea. I took a “Kindness Day” off from work, pledging secretly to commit at least 10 acts of kindness. The goal was to generate 100 more. I have to admit that I was also in it for the personal feel good.
My first small act was to place a short note of appreciation on the car seats of my wife and kids. Other activities included leaving a handful of change at a payphone, contacting a high school teacher to thank him for his influence on my life, and some time spent chatting with a couple of solitary homeless folks I came across down the street.
One attempt didn’t work out exactly as planned. I placed a flower and a small note on the doorsteps of seven of my surrounding neighbors. The anonymous note read “Thanks for being such a great neighbor.” While apparently it did spur some appreciative and long overdue conversations between neighbors, one neighbor caused a stir by speculating the flowers and notes might be the doings of a stalker.
My favorite that day happened at my local library. I stopped off to thank the librarians for all their great work. I handed each of the librarians a rose and did my best to express my thanks. Most of them stood shocked and just smiled, but one actually teared up.
There is no way that these and other small acts could ever compare with the great acts of kindness like those of the Mother Theresas of the world. They don’t match the commitments of people working in nonprofits and as caregivers — people who have made kindness a full time job.
While not everyone can do or be those things, we all have unlimited opportunities to commit spontaneous and amazing acts of kindness. Can we pay forward each of those acts to spawn a dozen more – or in my case 100? No one can never really know for sure. But even a single act of kindness attempted, no matter how small or big, has a better chance of growing goodness than none at all.
With a Perspective, I’m Paul Lamb.