Random Acts of Kindness – more meaningful than you may know

FREEHUGS

I will never forget the first time I was the lucky recipient of a “RAK” – a “Random Act of Kindness.”  It was a couple of years ago.

The day unfolded almost like a scene from a gritty TV drama: it was rainy, dreary and miserably cold, and I was in a rotten mood.

I was in pain, I was angry, frightened, and sad – you name it.  I had just received some awful news at the doctor, and I was crying like a three-year -old – the kind of cry where you just scream and rant and don’t bother wiping your tears away.

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Really dignified scene, if you can imagine. I was just letting it all out with the music cranked up in my car.

I remember I had on some angry music like AC/DC – it went very well with my mood. I didn’t even compose myself at stoplights, like I usually do if I’m screeching along with the music. I really didn’t care if anyone saw me.

I was in 100% full self-pity mode. WOE. IS. ME. I think we’ve all been there, right?

Anyway, so I decided to treat myself to a yummy Starbucks Latte to warm up and make myself feel better (shhh, don’t tell me how many calories are in them – I don’t care).

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I made my order, and coasted up to the drive-through window. As I rolled down my window, the pretty blonde barista (with bright red lipstick – I remember these things) said

 “the customer in front of you paid for your order, you’re good to go!”

…with a big smile, as she handed me my latte.

I was stunned. It took me a second to process what she was saying, and when it hit – I felt an amazing sense of joy and gratefulness just wash over me. My cheeks actually started warming up!

I took the latte from her hand, and said something dorky like

 “OH! Okay, that’s um – how cool is that?! Thank you for doing…well, I mean thanks!”

I felt a unique mixture of surprise, slight awkward embarrassment, and just a dash of that feeling you get as a kid when you first see the gifts Santa left you under the Christmas tree.

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That sounds quite dramatic, I know – but that is precisely what I felt in that moment. A stranger just….randomly…..decided to buy my latte! I had heard of “RAKs” – but had never been the recipient of one.

It really does restore your faith in humanity, as the saying goes.

My rotten day was transformed – SNAP – just like that. I was in the best mood. So much so, that when I got home, the first thing I told my husband was about the RAK, not about the doctor visit. That had become secondary in my mind, just a pesky irritation.

What had loomed so monstrously in my mind had been hit with a shrink-ray gun, just because some random stranger decided to buy my latte.

There are a couple of takeaways from this, from where I’m sitting.

  • Doing something kind for a stranger, even just a small gesture, can completely make their day. It can change the course of their entire day – think about that for a moment!
  • Our minds are weird. Really weird. They can be our best friend, and our worst enemy. That’s not news to you, I know that. But I don’t know that I’ve ever actually felt that, in real time – until that moment.

I am at a total loss as to explain how I could go from complete and utter misery, to be filled with profound joy and gratefulness – in an instant.

In an instant.

So that RAK didn’t just change my day, it changed my outlook. I have always “known” that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life (hat tip, Norman Vincent Peale).

But I didn’t “know know.” And now I do. It affects everything I do now. That very day, I took out my journal and made a list of RAKs I could start doing, immediately.

I wish so much that I could find that stranger in the light grey Honda CRV (again, I remember these odd things), and give them a big hug of gratefulness.

If you want in on this, and need some ideas – check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The ideas are endless!

Who knows? You could end up making a tremendous positive change in someone’s life.

Even if it’s just a latte on a rainy day.

Happy RAK-ing!

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