The 40-Day Random Act Of Kindness Experiment


Photo courtesy joesflickr

The world in which we live is often an isolated existence. Days can go by and no real meaningful contact with another human happens. If we choose, even in our densely populated cities, we can live life alone.

Even neighborhoods in the suburbs allow for individual existence. In the part of Texas where I live, in order to make the houses look better from the street, the trend is to have alley entry homes. While this may take the eye-sore of the garage door out of the picture, it takes the coming and going of people out as well. You can now leave your house, get in your car, leave and return without ever having interacted with the people you live amongst. And when you get to work, you can disappear into an office or cubicle, thus continuing an anonymous existence.

If you have times when you feel isolated and alone, I’d like to offer a possible solution. For 40 days, complete a random act of kindness each day for someone other than family members. If you’d like to take this experiment to another level, see if you can go 40 days in a row. Similar to the Complaint Free Marriage Experiment, if you miss a day of kindness, you start over at day one again.

What’s the point of performing acts of kindness for others?

Glad you asked.

It makes the world a better place. At the core, people are good. This part of us often seems to get covered up by our fast paced, “make it on our own” lifestyles. When you perform a kind act for someone, while you may help them feel better, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll also connect with another person for a brief moment, if not for longer. And if the other person passes on the kindness, it can multiply exponentially.

A Starbucks recently experienced a version of this. One morning, a person in the drive-thru kindly paid for the next driver’s coffee along with their own order. The next driver continued the gesture and so on. Over two and half hours this process was repeated.

Giving of ourselves is infectious.

When we give from the heart, we do so out of a joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and receiver. The receiver enjoys the gift without worrying about the consequences that accompany gifts given out of fear, guilt, shame, or desire for gain. The giver benefits from the enhanced self-esteem that results when we see our efforts contributing to someone’s well being. ~ Marshall Rosenberg

There is a great anecdote about Gandhi: While boarding a moving train one day, one of Gandhi’s shoes slipped off and fell upon the track. As he was unable to retrieve it, Gandhi – to the astonishment of his fellow travelers – calmly removed his other shoe and threw it down the track to where the first had landed. “The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track,” Gandhi explained, “will now have a pair he can use.”

My wife and I have already started. I hope you’ll join us and let us know how it’s going in the comments section below.

Unsure how to get started? Here are a few ideas to help:

  1. Write a note of appreciation to your mailman
  2. Compliment a stranger sincerely
  3. Write a thank you note to someone
  4. Look for something around you that can be fixed up, picked up, or attended ie, put shopping carts up, pick up some trash laying around, pick up something that has fallen over
  5. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger
  6. Send handmade cards or a letter to someone you care for
  7. Write a note to management or someone who has treated you nice while doing their job (waiter, clerk, sales person…etc.)
  8. When you go somewhere to get or do something, ask someone around you if you can pick up, drop off or do something for them while you do
  9. Cut coupons out and leave them at the grocer register for others
  10. Cut an article out of the newspaper that would interest a friend and mail it to them.
  11. Leave have a nice day stickers at a front desk
  12. Put together a writing kit with stationery, envelopes and stamps, pen and give to hospital/nursing home
  13. Put a comment on someone’s webpage that you really like…… let them know you enjoy it
  14. Send a card to someone in the military overseas
  15. Start a conversation up with a co-worker that you don’t know
  16. Leave something cheery or nice for all your co-workers (in spring bag of seeds, fun post its, fun office supplies)
  17. Put change in a row of vending machines
  18. Visit a nursing home. Spend time visiting with someone who doesn’t get visitors
  19. Put something you no longer need on Craig’s list free spot for your area
  20. Leave something for someone at an area where it most might be used, (lighter near smoking area, book in reading area, umbrella near door on rainy day)
  21. Leave a book you have already finished somewhere for someone else to read.
  22. Drop off a toy or game at a hospital
  23. Drop off a toy or game at a homeless shelter.
  24. At post office leave some extra stamps at the stamp machine.
  25. Send a picture you have taken which includes a friend and send it to them with a note remembering when it was taken
  26. Buy a phone card and give to a homeless shelter for them to give to someone.
  27. Open the phone book, pick a name, and send them something (movie tickets, thank you card, you are appreciated card, book, etc.) anonymously.
  28. Take flowers to a hospital ward and give them to someone who hasn’t had any visitors.
  29. Take some cake, chocolates, flowers etc. to the neighbors, or a senior citizen nearby
  30. Send someone a small gift anonymously
  31. Make a cd of your favorite songs and give to a friend>
  32. Donate one hour of your time if you offer a service for a living, or one product, or one seminar, or one class, or just one of whatever it is that you do as a gift to someone else.
  33. Invite someone who is alone over for dinner.
  34. Share a comic strip or something funny with someone else.
  35. Leave a chocolate for a co-worker.
  36. Write a note, send a e-greeting “just to say hello” to someone who might need a pick me up
  37. Visit hospitals with smiles, treats and friendly conversation for patients.
  38. Send a thank you to the employees at a hospital, or anywhere else that a cheerful thank might add a smile
  39. Put a quarter in a parking meter that has expired
  40. Write a thank-you note to a person from your past who has made a difference in your life.
  41. Drop off a plant, flowers or apple pie at a public service organization or your neighbors house.
  42. Send someone an animated greeting card on the internet.
  43. Write a note to the boss of someone who has helped you, praising the employee.
  44. Drop off teddy bear to police department to give to traumatized children
  45. Copy a favorite recipe and give it to someone
  46. Buy a copy of your favorite book and donate it to your local library or hospital
  47. Write letters of appreciation to groups who are helping the community, the environment, etc.
  48. Send a card to a friend or relative you haven’t seen for some time. Include a photo of yourself and/or your family.
  49. Make a point of introducing yourself to someone you see all of the time but never say hello to.
  50. Send an anonymous scratch card, lottery or theater ticket to someone you know – or a gift voucher, a funny card, a chocolate bar, or whatever you feel they would enjoy
  51. If you know someone who is having a hard time financially, drop a $5, $10 or $20 note in an envelope, disguise your writing or type the envelope, and mail it to them.
  52. Offer to baby sit
  53. Donate clothes to goodwill
  54. Put change in a charity change bottle
  55. Bring cookies or some snack to work for office
  56. Drop off cookies at a random establishment
  57. Tape some change to a payphone with a card saying it is for whoever needs it
  58. Write anonymous, loving post-its for strangers to find.
  59. Donate blood
  60. Pay for the toll for the car behind you
  61. Help a neighbor, family member weed or plant a garden.
  62. Mow someone’s lawn, rake their leaves or shovel their snow
  63. Leave a book at airport for someone waiting to read
  64. Cook a family dish for a busy mom/father so she/he can take a break for a night
  65. Pay for the meal of a person sitting by themself when you are eating out
  66. Buy coffee for the person behind you
  67. Volunteer time at a charitable organization
  68. When you fill a click card for free coffee, free gift, etc… give the card to someone
  69. If someone behind you in line at the store has fewer items let them go ahead of you
  70. Help tutor a child
  71. Volunteer to read to children at the library
  72. Offer to change oil, change filter or such for a “non car” person
  73. Walk around a park or public area picking up trash
  74. Get some groceries for a financially struggling family
  75. When you go out to dinner order a dessert to go and drop it off at a neighbors
  76. Clean up gravestones at a local cemetery
  77. Buy something for a stranger from their Amazon.com wishlist

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