Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

26 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Commit

Ann Curry has spearheaded a movement to honor the 20 kids and six adults killed in last week’s horrific school shooting. She’s encouraging the nation — each of us — to commit to doing 26 acts of kindness in the coming days and weeks. I know many of us are feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, strapped for cash, and unable to get into the spirit. I’ve always felt that doing something good for someone else is one of the best ways to feel better and improve your own mood. To help inspire us to join Curry’s kindness movement, here are 26 different acts of kindness you might be able to commit (and only a handful involve spending money).

1. Send a card to a soldier overseas.

2. Send a card to a terminally ill child.

3. Send a snowflake to Sandy Hook Students.

4. Let the person behind you have the parking spot you’re both driving around looking for.

5. Bake some cookies and drop them off at places where people have to work on Christmas — hospitals, fire houses, police stations, subway stops, etc.

6. Know someone going out of town for a few days? Offer to water plants or feed the cats.

7. Offer to shovel snow for a neighbor.

8. Give a homeless person a gift certificate to a sandwich chain.

9. Help a neighbor carry groceries or packages to her door.

10. Leave some tissue in the stall that’s run out of toilet paper.

11. Donate something to a Sandy victim.

12. Send your favorite blogger or newspaper columnist or local radio DJ a fan letter.

13. If you see a single parent in the airport this holiday season juggling a million things plus a kid or two, ask if you can help with anything (thank you!).

14. Trade your aisle seat for a very tall person’s (or old person’s, and a person with a baby) middle seat.

15. Share your umbrella if it’s raining (back when Jackson was a newborn, we got caught in the rain without an umbrella one afternoon and a woman saw us from across the street, ran over and actually gave us her umbrella. It was so kind and really boosted my spirits!).

16. Tip a street musician, look him or her in the eye and say “thank you.”

17. Offer to take someone’s shopping cart back inside.

18. Tell your co-workers you appreciate them.

19. If you know someone with small kids, offer to babysit (for free) for an hour or two so she can do last minute Christmas shopping, or wrap gifts, or just take a nap (we have a friend who lives on our block who babysits Jackson once a month (while he’s sleeping), when her husband plays poker, so we can enjoy a dinner out. This is so kind and so appreciated!).

20. Offer to give someone a ride home from work/class/ a holiday party.

21. Give up your taxi to the person waiting behind you.

22. Give blood.

23. Pay for someone’s coffee.

24. Overtip the waitress.

25. Help a mother carry a stroller up a flight of subway stairs.

26. Compliment a stranger.

As I wrote this, I realized how often I’ve been the recipient of a random — or not so random — act of kindness and it made me feel so grateful. Also, I realize there are countless wonderful charities and organizations people can donate their money to, but I deliberately kept this list short on money-centered ideas because for people who are struggling financially right now, I think it’s helpful to be reminded of the many ways they, too, can make a difference in people’s lives without spending any money.

Any other ideas?

71 comments… add one
  • Addie Pray December 20, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I do No. 8 a lot. (By a “lot” I mean 3-4 times a year.) I almost did it yesterday. There was a homeless guy asking for $ outside a Starbucks for coffee. I bulldozed right by him but felt bad once I got inside. The Christmas spirit moved me so I got him a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks. But by the time I got out, he was gone.

    Confession: I ended up using the $10 gift certificate to buy a stocking stuffer for my boyfriend.

    Fail. I can do better.

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    • Addie Pray December 20, 2012, 1:07 pm

      Fuck me, I only do a couple of the items on this list. And not very often. I gotta do better.

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    • QaraKoz December 20, 2012, 1:55 pm

      Alternative to #8 that I started doing once when an event had leftover bagels that here going to be thrown out. You can usually get a couple dozen bagels and individual packets of cream cheese from Costco for under $20 and just put them in individual sandwich bags for anyone who might be hungry. I’ve ended up sharing half with random people at bus stops, homeless people etc.

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      • ktfran December 20, 2012, 2:13 pm

        oh my god, I love that. what a great idea, and so affordable for someone who doesn’t have a lot of extra to spend.

    • lemongrass December 20, 2012, 2:10 pm

      Whenever I go out to eat there is always tons of leftover food on my plate. I get them to wrap it up and I give it to the homeless. Might be a little germ-y but they are pretty happy to get some yummy pasta! I’m sure it beats the baloney sandwiches from the soup kitchen.

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    • bethany December 20, 2012, 2:11 pm

      I did that at Thanksgiving a few years ago for my favorite homeless man in the train station (he always says Have a Nice Night), and then right before Thanksgiving he went missing for a few weeks! He eventually came back and I gave him the gift card. He was really happy. He went missing because his blood sugar was acting up so he went to the shelter until he got it under control.

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  • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Those little things do make such a big difference! I thought of when people helped me carry things upstairs at airports this year (when I wasn’t even traveling with a baby!) and how it made me feel very grateful. Great list!

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  • katie December 20, 2012, 1:24 pm

    ive heard about this drive for acts of kindness, but this is the best list of stuff to do for sure!

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  • FireStar December 20, 2012, 1:27 pm

    I know some one us are business owners so giving extra time off over the holidays is something I know my staff appreciates. Giving the 24th and the 31st off gives everyone a nice long weekend. And we buy $5 coffee cards and hand them out to all the delivery people coming to the office for the two weeks leading up to Christmas… who wouldn’t like a nice gingerbread spice coffee?

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  • Rangerchick December 20, 2012, 1:36 pm

    In the grocery store, if I am in line with a ton of groceries but someone behind me has only 2-3 things I always ask if they want to go ahead of me. This has happened to be before as well and I’m always grateful so I try to return the favor!

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    • lemongrass December 20, 2012, 2:16 pm

      I used to work as a cashier and seeing acts of kindness would really warm my heart. I saw people let others ahead only a daily basis but I also saw people pay the rest of another’s order when they came up short. Sometimes someone would ask me to call a taxi for them and the next person in line would say “I’ll drive you!” People have asked me to put $50-$100 for a single mom’s order in advance of her coming to the checkout. Almost every time I had to take my 15 min break and needed to buy a snack the customers would let me to the front. I had really good customers there, a lot of seniors. One had tears in his eyes telling me congrats when I got married. It’s been 4 months (I think) since I stopped working and customers still ask me how my pregnancy is going and how they’ve noticed I’m gone when I’m out and about.

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    • Anna December 21, 2012, 12:21 am

      A few times, I’ve been behind someone at the grocery store who is counting out change to the cashier and still comes up short. Before they can take something off their order, I would give them the $2 or whatever they need to get their groceries. Or if they forgot their advantage card to get the good sales I offer to let them use mine.

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  • SallyS December 20, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I just did #3. Well, sort of. Can’t make snowflakes for crap, so I sent a card of a snowflake and a note.

    Also it made me want to send Christmas cards to all my extended family – people I haven’t seen or heard from in years! It made me happy. Thanks for the great suggestions, Wendy!

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  • Annie December 20, 2012, 1:57 pm

    Twelve years ago, my Mom and I were sitting up New Years Eve. Dad and my SO were both crashed on couches and we were just sitting, drinking and gossiping. The subject of resolutions came up and somehow we decided that for the next year, we would do one good deed every day. Seemed like a better idea than giving up something, losing weight, or whatever.

    Whether it was letting someone ahead of us in traffic, being nice to a telemarketer, showing someone in the grocery where the mustard was, we would try to do one nice thing every day. Sometimes, if there was no one to interact with all day, than I would at least hold a kind thought for someone.

    She passed away the following year. I have, without fail, done one good deed daily ever since for almost thirteen years. Every time I do, I think of her.

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    • bethany December 20, 2012, 2:13 pm

      Wow… I think I’m going to try that, too. Starting today 🙂 Thank you.

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    • lemongrass December 20, 2012, 2:17 pm

      That’s really sweet. It shows what a good mother she was, for sure!

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    • Classic December 20, 2012, 2:34 pm

      I love this so much, Annie. I am going to try doing this, too.

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    • FireStar December 20, 2012, 2:43 pm

      What a beautiful tribute to your mom.

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    • Addie Pray December 20, 2012, 3:55 pm

      That’s really sweet.

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    • theattack December 20, 2012, 4:14 pm

      This might have made me cry at work… I love this so much!

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  • csp December 20, 2012, 2:03 pm

    My husband had a fraternity brother who committed suicide leaving two kids. The guys set up a college savings account for the guy’s kids. We put $25 in each kid’s account every year and so do most of these guys. It doesn’t bring thier dad back but will help them when they get old enough to go to school. I think people remember tragedy victems right when it happens. It is remembering people years later that can really help.

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  • ktfran December 20, 2012, 2:12 pm

    I have been doing 25 and 26 a lot lately. I always tip my cab drivers and food delivery men generously, but more so during the holidays. And living in Chicago and walking a lot, I get tons of compliments from strangers on the street. It makes me so happy, I’ve started doing it and I love that I might have just made someone’s day a little brighter. Especially in dreary, overcast Chicago.

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    • bethany December 20, 2012, 2:14 pm

      I LOVE it when I get a compliment from a stranger. Something as simple as “I love your coat” just makes you feel good!

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    • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 2:23 pm

      I’ve made it somewhat of a personal rule to tell someone when I’m thinking of something complimentary of them.

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      • ktfran December 20, 2012, 2:40 pm

        I use to be so afraid to open my mouth in fear of what someone would think of me. I was shy to my very core. I’ve overcome that and so I’m getting better and better about doing the same thing LBH.

        I also always tell the bus driver good morning or hello and thank you when I exit. Lately, I’ve added in have a good day. I also tell nearly every cashier who checks me out “Thank you so much, I appreciate it, have a good day/evening.” Because really, I think a lot of times those are thankless jobs and I really do appreciate their help.

    • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 3:00 pm

      I might be a total weird-o, but I think it’s weird when someone super randomly compliments me. And I always get caught off gaurd and say something stupid back. Like “huh?” or “what?” I can never remember to just say thank you!

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      • ktfran December 20, 2012, 3:39 pm

        It’s ususally when I’m at a stop light waiting to cross the street. And it’s almost always my hair (super short and blonde), or sometimes my shoes. I really think it’s only because I live in a place where I’m always walking somewhere.

      • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 3:57 pm

        That makes more sense, being in a walking town. One time a random girl walking by me said she liked my shirt or something when she was half way past me and I was like “Huh? What? Me?” and I felt bad that I didn’t say thanks.

      • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 3:58 pm

        I was at the grocery store in my super overrun with 18-21 year old college kids town so I was really confused. We definitely do not live in a walking town.

      • Lili December 20, 2012, 4:27 pm

        I also think people don’t talk or exchange pleasantries lately given that everyone has headphones on while commuting. random survey of my bus and like 75% of people–who are well dressed professionals–have headphones on. Its super awkward when I get asked the time or a random question and I yell WHAT and take one headphone out of my ear and realize I yelled the what.

      • ktfran December 20, 2012, 4:45 pm

        Oh, it also happens when I’m riding in the elevator or on public transporation. So, I would say, walking around town, the bus or El and elevators.

        Yesterday this girl had on a gorgeous coat in the elevator. I told her I loved the color.

      • theattack December 20, 2012, 4:17 pm

        Wow, I’m surprised you’re not used to that yet in the South! I have random conversations and exchanges of compliments with strangers about 50% of the time I’m in public. But Tennessee is more traditionally Southern in culture than Florida is, so maybe that’s the difference.

      • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 4:32 pm

        When I’m up in the Carolina’s visiting family it happens often but down here in FL, not so much. FL is a weird weird part of the South. We have sooooo many people from South Florida/Maimi that the Southern charm is lost for the most part.

        And growing up in the North there were a lot less random pleasentries. More head-down-shuffle-past kind of people up there.

      • SpaceySteph December 21, 2012, 12:36 pm

        Florida is not the south. We are this weird annex of Manhattan taxi drivers BELOW the south.

  • QaraKoz December 20, 2012, 2:18 pm

    Reading a book with a little kid. I know a lot of kids who will get toys and clothes for Christmas but no books. Letting them read a book to you is usually an awesome present in itself.

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    • QaraKoz December 20, 2012, 2:23 pm

      And for other times of the year, if you know any college students care packages with food are ALWAYS appreciated.

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  • SGMcG December 20, 2012, 2:24 pm

    It’s similiar to Act #24, but only takes up a minimal amount of time – 5 minutes at worst: If you’re on the phone with a customer representative who’s name you obtained, and you are happy with the service they provided, ask to speak to their supervisor. Upon being connected to them (or their voicemail) proceed to give a glowing review of how the representative helped you. Those kudos go on their record and can potentially help them keep their jobs in this rough economy.

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    • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 2:38 pm

      Great suggestion. My boyfriend always does that and I think its so nice. We once had a waiter send over free drinks because he remembered that my boyfriend told his boss how great he was once.

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      • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 2:56 pm

        We got a free round of beers the other day because we remembered the bartenders name! I need to go e-mail his work and tell them how great he is.

      • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 3:12 pm

        It really is a great suggestion. I’m glad sgmcg thought of it. Peter’s gotten emails back from like CEOS (not really, some higher up tho) from Ihop, for instance, because he wrote a nice note about the service and the reply was something like ‘thank you, we only ever hear complaints.’

    • ktfran December 20, 2012, 2:42 pm

      I want to do this sometime too. I need to be better about these things and just do it. I don’t deal with phone representatives much, but I could certainly do it whenever there is exceptional customer service.

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    • FireStar December 20, 2012, 2:46 pm

      I do this one all the time. I ask for their manager’s contact info and I write a letter telling how excellent their employee is. People complain all the time – it’s is nice to reward good behaviour too.

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    • Fabelle December 20, 2012, 3:11 pm

      yes! This is such a good suggestion— I answer phones at my job & it’s great when customers are even a little nice to you. Even if you don’t go to their boss (which is definitely helpful), enthusiastically saying thank you, or “you were really helpful” or “you’re a lifesaver” (<–got that one time, which was awesome) is always good.

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    • Anna December 21, 2012, 12:23 am

      YES! This is the best. I am a customer service rep in a call center and I love when customers do this. We usually get a great performance review and a gift card.

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    • Othy December 21, 2012, 11:09 am

      It definitely makes my husband’s day when he hears a customer has spoken highly of him to his boss. It never happens often enough for all the crap he has to put up with.

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  • Classic December 20, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Wow, Wendy, what a wonderful list. I think I have about 18 left to do, so I’d better get going. Thanks for being such a kindhearted and generous person.

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  • Fabelle December 20, 2012, 2:48 pm

    Eek, the only thing I do regularly is over-tip my waiter/waitress (or bartender). I just feel like they deserve it & are probably getting shorted on a daily basis, so maybe my extra dollars will help.

    The rest are all great ideas though—definitely going to try! And Wendy, since you’re leaving us, have a great holiday, new year, & week off (I forgot to say this yesterday when everybody else was doing it…)

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  • GatorGirl December 20, 2012, 2:59 pm

    My fiance and I decided the other night we were going to make it a tradition with our (yet to be born) children that each year we would each take some of our own Christmas gift budget (like the budget for gifts given to us) and buy a toy or book or something and donate it.

    This year we bought some socks and undies for a domestic violence shelter.

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    • Kristen December 20, 2012, 5:05 pm

      I want to do something like that too, except with groceries. I like going to the grocery store and picking out things I think people might really enjoy eating around the holidays and then donating it. It would be even more fun to take our daughter with me!

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      • lemongrass December 20, 2012, 5:53 pm

        My sister does that with her kids and I definitely plan on doing so as well. I plan on having my kids go through their old toys at the end of the year and donating what they don’t use anymore.

      • bethany December 21, 2012, 9:53 am

        WAIT- It’s a girl??!

      • lemongrass December 21, 2012, 11:02 am

        I missed that!!!! Is it really, Kristen? If so- awesome!!! I mean, awesome either way but I’m kinda hoping mines a girl because I can’t come up with a boys name. Yay! Little girls are sweet.

  • MaterialsGirl December 20, 2012, 3:26 pm

    I try to do a this during the year too but when I see a homeless person outside Starbucks or whatever, I usually pick them up a sandwich. I don’t feel comfortable giving money ( or I don’t have any) so I figure feed the tummy!

    Also.. Can I just say there were 27 victims… The first was his mother. For that good deed, I’m going to tell my
    Mom I love her.

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    • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 3:34 pm

      I saw that too, but if you read how it was written, it says ‘killed in the school shooting’ so I guess technically, she wasn’t in the school.
      I think it is or will be a bit of a controversial issue to name her or not because I think some will place a bit of the blame on her.

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      • MaterialsGirl December 20, 2012, 3:42 pm

        Which is a shame, really. I have a lot more empathy for those caregivers of the mentally ill after reading ‘we need to talk about Kevin.’ It’s easy to look back and see some of the signs that Adam was going to snap, but from everything that’s coming out, his mother was realizing that she could no longer handle him. Since he was over the age of 20, he’s treated as an adult and cannot be institutionalized or hospitalized on her order. Obviously there are flaws in our mental health system, but the media or whomever saying she wasn’t a victim is wrong, she didn’t deserve to die either.

      • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 3:47 pm

        I agree. I didn’t read Kevin, but I read the I am Adam Lanza’s Mother article, and it made me more compassionate to her.

      • EB December 20, 2012, 5:10 pm

        I do her consider her a victim and feel empathy for her plight of mothering an obviously disturbed child. However, I also feel tremendous anger towards her for what I view as blatant recklessness…
        You want to own multiple guns including an assault rifle? well I guess the 2nd amendment protects that choice.
        You want to have said guns in same house as troubled child? I find this decision VERY questionable but to each her own.
        You want to have said child in a shared house and not take appropriate measures to keep guns secure (i.e. locked gun safe)? Yeah, NOT ok. I find this decision to be unforgivably irresponsible

      • lets_be_honest December 20, 2012, 5:16 pm


      • MaterialsGirl December 20, 2012, 5:57 pm

        But he has never been violent to her or anyone(at least from most recent reports… We don’t know how their day to day was).

        Shortsighted yes but unforgivable to the point her death makes her less of a victim? I don’t agree with that. Adam was obviously mentally ill and EVIL.

      • lets_be_honest December 21, 2012, 9:51 am

        I love the last part. Very true.

    • Addie Pray December 20, 2012, 3:54 pm

      Right on, MG.

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  • Jen December 20, 2012, 8:03 pm

    Love this idea list. It’s inspired me to give more during the holidays and in general, every day.

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  • jlyfsh December 20, 2012, 8:25 pm

    Great list, Wendy! 🙂 Tomorrow I’m taking cookies to our doctor (and our dog’s vet!). They always get so excited, it makes me smile for hours after. Hopefully I can add a few from your list to do too. You never know when someone might just need someone to show they care a little to make their day/life more bearable.

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  • tbrucemom December 21, 2012, 7:34 am

    Mine’s probably a little cheesy, but I always have coupons for certain stores/restaurants that I frequent and give away the ones I don’t use. I know some people don’t like going to the trouble of cutting/carrying coupons but I’ve had good responses when they’re given to them. I recently gave a woman a 25% off coupon for Sports Authority. She was buying an $80 backpack so she really liked it.

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    • Taylor December 21, 2012, 9:13 am

      I love it when people give me coupons! Or let me use their supermarket discount card(I always forget mine).

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    • bethany December 21, 2012, 9:54 am

      If I have a few dollars left on a giftcard for a place I don’t’ normally shop at, I always give it to the person behind me to use. That makes people happy. 🙂

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  • Taylor December 21, 2012, 9:10 am

    Being patient with other drivers. Letting people merge, waving someone into your lane, etc. When someone’s being a spaz, assume they are new to the area or having a hard day, not that they are being an ass to you. People in big SUVs, remember little cars have less visibility when they’re parked between two of you, and thus have to inch out slowly. In general, assume everyone on the road just wants to get home safely, and that a stranger’s bad behavior isn’t personal.

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    • lemongrass December 21, 2012, 11:11 am

      I’m courteous with other drivers too. When they’re sitting on a side street trying to get out, I let them in. Obviously not stopping fast traffic but you know what I mean. Although if someone is a total prick (like coming up behind you from out of nowhere and gets right on your ass trying to get you to speed up immediately) I get road rage, but passive aggressively.

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  • Cara December 21, 2012, 1:00 pm

    I´m going to my hometown tomorrow and I´m going to hand out warm socks to homeless people on sunday. Can´t do it her, because we don´t have any. Which is weird for me, because ever city I´ve ever lived in had some. Here, we don´t even need a shelter.

    I always try to be nice in supermarkets, letting someone go in front or something. The best experience I had was when a two little boys in front of me wanted to buy two small toys, but only had enough money for one, so I bought the other one for them. They were so happy and the cashier was all smiles too!!!

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  • smileson December 22, 2012, 12:01 am

    Committing a Random Act of Kindness is not the same as common courtesy. Common courtesy is what we should practice at all times. Random Acts of Kindness expects better than the best of who we are and more than mere polite manners.

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  • Elle December 27, 2012, 6:19 pm

    Well, I tried to do #5 today. I baked some oatmeal cookies. I put in them, besides oatmeal, cloves, cardamom, almonds and banana. I walked down to the Fire station (there’s a pretty big snow storm here, upstate NY). I couldn’t get into the building (didn’t see that coming!), so I pressed a button. The guy that answered told me he’d send someone down. I waited for a good 5 minutes (texting on my phone), no one came down. I left the cookies by the door. Hope someone found them and ate them.

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