How many days did the Pilgrims sail on the Mayflower?
I don’t know either.
A 7-year-old asked me this the other day, and despite my 22+ years of education under my belt, I couldn’t recall this “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” style question for the life of me.
“Uhhh….” I replied.
According to a quick Google search however, I was able to answer with authority:
“The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod on 9 November 1620, after a 66 day voyage,” I said with confidence.
While you may or may not know your Pilgrims’ and Indians’ history, the day of giving thanks is upon us, and amidst the buzz of festivities with friends, family and food, it can be EASY to forget about what today is all about.
Hint: Not necessarily just the Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal together in the fall of 1961, but giving thanks for what we have; and sharing our blessings and our ‘thankfulness’ with others.
In other words: Paying it forward.
One of my absolute favorite things to do, particularly on Thanksgiving, is feed the homeless and go visit my elderly friends at a local nursing home or assisted living.
This year, my ‘pay it forward’ adventure led me to Mission Possible Austin, where I put on some latex gloves alongside 20 other volunteers, and served a traditional Thanksgiving feast to about 60 homeless individuals living in town (Trivia fact: On any given night there are more than 2,300 Austinites living on the streets of Austin, in shelters or in other places not meant for human habitation, like cars).
There’s something particularly special about Thanksgiving day wherein a bit more receptivity and holiday cheer is in the air, and while acts of service and ‘random acts of kindness’ are not just confined to Thanksgiving Day alone, today can be a good reminder of the POWERFUL difference you, yourself, can make when you seek to live a life of INTENTION for others.
While today may be filled with plans already, your THRIVE project for this week is to pay it forward with a random act of kindness.
You’ll be amazed at, not only, what the power of a ‘touch’ can do in someone else’s life, but in YOUR life as well.
(One more fun fact: One of the best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy. In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer).
In addition, random acts of kindness inspire a positive feedback loop, wherein you (or someone else) creates momentum for others around you to “pay it forward” themselves.
According to one study conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia (published in the Journal of Happiness Studies), researchers found that participants who recalled a random act of kindness performed for them, they in turn performed a random act of kindness.
In this study, the researchers instructed half of the 51 participants to recall, as vividly as they could, the last time they spent $20 or $100 on themselves. The other participants had to recall the last time they spent the same amounts on someone else. All participants also completed a scale that measured how happy they currently were.
Next, researchers gave the participants small sums of money and two choices:
- They could spend it on themselves (by covering a bill, another expense, or a gift for themselves) or;
- They could spend it on someone else (through a donation to charity or a gift).
“Choose whatever will make you happiest,” the researchers told them, adding that their choice would remain anonymous (in case participants felt pressure to appear more altruistic).
The conclusion? Two big findings.
First, people in general felt happier when they were asked to remember a time they bought something for someone else—even happier than when they remembered buying something for themselves (This happiness boost was the same regardless of whether the gift cost $20 or $100).
And, secondly: The happier participants felt about their past generosity, the more likely they were in the present to choose to spend on someone else instead of themselves. Not all participants who remembered their past kindness felt happy. But the ones who did feel happy were overwhelmingly more likely to desire to pay it forward.
Need some inspiration?
Try one of these:
Find a soup kitchen, breakfast, dinner or other regular gathering in town to serve the homeless.
Host your own homeless meal through a local church or community center
Make sandwiches, chili, or some other meal or snack and hand out to the homeless standing on the street corners in town
Send a snail mail letter in the mail to a friend or family member, letting them know you are simply thinking about them and/or thankful for them in your life.
Invite a younger kid or teen for a ‘hot chocolate’ hangout and mentor them
Treat a friend to a pedicure.
Hold the elevator.
Buy the coffee, meal or groceries for the person standing in line behind you
Drop in to a nursing home or assisted living and simply listen and connect with the people—ask them their stories. (Sixty percent of them will never have a visitor during their stay).
Say yes at the store when the cashier asks if you want to donate $1 to whichever cause.
Leave a random note of kindness or inspiration in a book at a book store or library.
Do the dishes even if it’s your roommate’s turn.
Send appetizers or dessert to another table.
Say thank you to a janitor.
Bring a security guard a hot cup of coffee.
Tip your waiter or waitress REALLLLLLY good and leave a note of thankfulness behind
Simply smile at someone
Donate unwanted or unused clothes/items to a shelter, non-profit, or your 10-year-old next door neighbor
Send a text message or email to let someone know you’re thinking of them
Give someone else the parking spot closest to the door
Give a random compliment up to a stranger…or your best friend
Cook dinner for a stressed friend
Wash someone’s car (or pay for their car wash)
Return emails promptly
Bring in your neighbor’s trash can
Leave a surprise goodie on your neighbor’s front porch
Clean your friend’s house
Write a person a special birthday card/note on their birthday
On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, remember any friends who have lost a parent the previous year, and check in with them. Those will be tough days.
Make little gift baskets for the kids in your neighborhood.
On hot summer days, give out cold bottled waters or La Croix to your mail carrier and garbage men. When it’s freezing outside offer hot chocolate to crossing guards, police officers and others.
Take flowers to the nursing station at a hospital — for the nurses.
Write letters to strangers who need them. More Love Letters has a list of people who could benefit from letters of encouragement. Each person has been added to the web site by a friend or family member. Read the stories and take five minutes to make someone’s day.
Put sticky notes with positive slogans on the mirrors in restrooms.
When you’re throwing something away on the street, pick up any litter around you and put that in the trash too.
Volunteer to read to kids at an after-school program.
Keep an extra umbrella at work, so you can lend it out when it rains.
Put a surprise note or sketch in with your spouse’s or kid’s lunch.
Ask: “Want me to pick something up for you?” If you know someone is overwhelmed – perhaps by a new baby, family health issues, or something else – give them a call when you’re going out to the store. Ask if they’d like you to pick something up. We’ve been the beneficiaries of this random act of kindness, and it’s great.
When you get great service tell the person who helped you. Then, tell a manager.
Go to the corporate web site and submit an email.
Write a positive online review of a business you like. It makes a difference.
Bring healthy treats to work.
Put your phone away.
Buy a lottery ticket for a stranger.
Give up your seat for someone.
Encourage someone to pursue his or her dreams.
Give away stuff for free on Craigslist.
Leave a copy of an interesting book or your newspaper/magazine on a plane, bus, in a coffee shop, etc.
Make a “breakup playlist” on Spotify for your friend who’s going through heartbreak.
Buy an inspirational book for a friend or family member-give it to them.
Make plans with that person you’ve been putting off seeing.
Let someone jump the queue at the bank.
Carry around a $5 gift card so you can give it to someone who does something awesome. Or, create and carry “thanks for making my day” cards that you can give to people.
Buy a small gift for someone. Just because.
Call your parents.
Pay for someone’s dinner.
Listen. Don’t interrupt.
Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading groceries in their car.
When you hear that negative, discouraging, inner-critic voice in your head, remember to leave yourself alone — you deserve kindness too!
Do you have any ideas?
I’m all ears!
Share to comments and let’s pay it forward…