How Did People React to My 26 Random Acts of Kindness?

These Christmas stockings still remain in honor of the 26 lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. My son reminded me that many parents had probably already brought holiday gifts for their children.
These Christmas stockings still remain in honor of the 26 lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. My son reminded me that many parents had probably already brought holiday gifts for their children. | Source
I was eager to surprise a customer with this gift card.
I was eager to surprise a customer with this gift card. | Source

My desire to perform 26 random acts of kindness in honor of those lost during the Sandy Hook tragedy led me to various locations in Connecticut and even once to New York City. My plan was to give out $10 Starbucks gift certificates in various locations, and was driven by the primary intent to remind people of the victims of this event, and hopefully to inspire them to help carry on their memory.

I was somewhat surprised at the reaction I received in New York City. Most people avoided all eye contact, and only reluctantly accepted my free gift. In hindsight I realize I should have expected this response since New Yorkers are taught to be cynical by all the panhandlers and scam artists they are confronted with on a daily basis. However, I like to imagine that after I left they realized it wasn't a scam and were inspired to pay it forward.

This thought sparked my curiosity, and I came up with and implemented a plan to find out how people really reacted after I left. I drafted my husband to go undercover, and sent him in anonymously to monitor their responses. This is what happened:

Starbucks in Connecticut

On this day my husband was working at home, which was a nice reprieve from his typical long commute to New York City. I suggested that we take a break and go to a local Starbuck's in the hopes of getting real feedback. My husband walked in first while I waited in the car for him to give me the go-ahead. Since this wasn't my first time performing these random acts of kindness, I was much less nervous than before, and felt very excited to get this covert operation underway.

After finding a table within earshot of several convenient groups of customers, my husband sent me a text that said simply, "come in now". I have to admit that I still felt a little nervous when it came time to again approach complete strangers and convince them to take a gift card from me.

Unfortunately, when I walked in I realized that all the customers were alone, with no groups of people sitting together. I hadn't considered this scenario, but even though it wasn't optimal I decided to proceed anyway since everything was already set up.

The Kindness Chain in Action...Beautiful!!

Something else was different about this attempt. Since I was no longer quite as nervous, I didn't just throw the cards at people and race out. This allowed me to get more feedback, and also gave me more time to observe reactions.

When I handed people the cards, I briefly told them what it was for and told them it was a $10 gift card. I received the usual initial confused looks, but unlike the people in New York City, the Connecticut recipients were not afraid to make eye contact. In fact, most of them smiled at me and gave a polite 'thank you', even though they still didn't quite understand what it was about. However, since I lingered a bit longer, a few of the people had time to read the card and process what it was about. As I turned to leave, a young man in his early 20's thanked me sincerely, and looked directly at me with a mixture of sadness and gratitude in his eyes. I was so surprised at making a real connection that I couldn't think of anything to say, so I just smiled back before making a hasty exit. As I slipped out the door, an older man dressed like a construction worker shouted out a heartfelt 'Thanks!' just before the door closed.

Did you receive a positive response to your random act of kindness?

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Now for the post-visit reactions as observed by my stealthy husband. He reported that a woman in her early 30's kept reading the card over and over, and blew her nose and wiped her eyes before making a quick exit of her own. The construction worker carefully tucked the card in his coat, and I hope that he later shared it with others. The 20-something young man looked at the card several more times, and then he appeared to google the name of the small child listed on it. I felt that my mission to help keep the memory of these 26 victims alive by spreading more kindness in the world was accomplished.

Last Starbucks Adventure for the Year

I decided to try to check for recipients' responses again during this trip to distribute the last of my 26 random acts of kindness. Not only was it the last chance I would have, but it added a little excitement to the project. After my somewhat less productive prior visit, I made sure to visit Starbucks on a weekend, assuming that there would be more groups of people, and that more groups would mean more discussion.

My husband and I now felt like experts based upon our previous success. Once again he went in first to get situated while I waited for his text. Within minutes I saw "come in now" on my phone. I walked in and saw mostly individuals at tables and only two groups. My husband later told me that a third group left immediately before I walked in, which was disappointing (hopefully he didn't scare them away). I gave one gift card to a young couple at one table and another to a group of three older women at another table. Based upon their unique hairstyles, I guessed that they were hairdressers. Finally I gave the last three to two men and one woman. The woman that was there with her husband said "how sweet!" in a surprised voice, and then I turned to leave. A man that looked like he was in his early 30's yelled "thank you" really loudly just as I got to the door. I smiled at him before I bolted out.

My undercover husband then listened in on the three women (he worked hard to avoid seeming creepy). They talked loudly about how horrible the tragedy was and about displays they had seen in storefronts in honor of those lost at Sandy Hook. They also talked about another person that performed random acts of kindness by giving out flowers. Unfortunately, the other three people just glanced at their cards and then put them aside and continued to focus on their computers. At least no one simply threw the card out, and I like to believe they will later think about the children mentioned and be inspired to pay it forward.

H.O.W. Did these Random Acts of Kindness Affect Me?

Humanity One World
Humanity One World | Source

The H.O.W. movement is the brainchild of Billybuc. The goal of H.O.W. is. to inspire people all over the world to help others and ultimately make the world a better place.

Being nice feels very natural to me but performing random acts of kindness in a calculated way was a completely new experience.I became increasingly more brave with each subsequent trip to Starbuck's. The feeling of making total strangers happy lifted my spirits and made me forget my own stress. The experience also helped change my perspective because I was able to create a positive environment, which actually had the effect of making me feel more positive about the human race.

I also decided that over the next few months I would perform only free random acts of kindness since this is a challenging year for me financially. The very next day I saw a woman drop one of her canned goods in the parking lot as she was loading her groceries into the car. When someone drops something I would always pick it up without a pause. However the woman dropped it right next to her and was close to her car. Many people don't like others to invade their personal space so I debated about walking over to pick it up when it was right next to her. Three other people walked right past her in the parking lot without thinking twice. With my new confidence I decided to walk over and just pick it up. She said thank you and smiled. Before my Starbuck's experience I would probably have been too nervous to walk over and help. I discovered that performing daily random acts of kindness can become very addictive and makes me feel amazing for the entire day.

What act of kindness did you perform today? You will be amazed at how being kind to others will feed your soul and change your entire perspective. If you don't believe me, just try performing at least one random act of kindness every day for a week and then let me know how you feel.

Comments 32 comments

innerspin profile image

innerspin 3 years ago from uk

Firstly, bravo for your acts of rememberance. A lot of thought and effort on your part. This was very interesting on a number of levels. I can see how big city people would, sadly, be suspicious. Having your husband watch reactions was inspired. Then I was struck by the scenario of you picking up someone's shopping - that's an entirely normal, everyday thing as far as I can see. I wouldn't even consider it a random act of kindness. But I guess, in reality, it is. You've got me thinking. Thank you.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Hi innerspin! Although I never did this to receive recognition it was so interesting to see people's reactions. One person in my earlier Starbuck's adventures asked if I wanted $10 for the gift card and just couldn't believe I was handing them out with no strings attached. In New York City it is important to be cautious but I hope this makes them a little less cynical. I agree that picking up someone's groceries should be an automatic response but the item fell right next to the woman and three people in front of me just walked right by. I didn't want to seem to intrusive but glad I helped. The reality is that many of us perform at least one random act of kindness daily without even thinking about it. I hope this article inspires those that don't and encourages the others to do even more. Thanks so much for your insightful comment!!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

This is just a lovely thought and gesture on your part and I applaud you. I love your initiative, and even though the New Yorkers might have been rude, you planted a positive seed in them. Every single kind act counts.

Thank you for doing this and for posting the H.O.W. logo on this hub.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Hi Bill! My New York experience was a little intimidating and I walked out of that Starbuck's deciding that New York City would never again be the site of my random acts of kindness. After some time had passed I realized they needed it the most and will always include them once a year. It is so fulfilling to spread kindness in the world and I am so grateful you began this movement. I will continue to post the H.O.W. logo and link to the website on any articles in this category. Your support and continued inspiration means more than you know!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

What a great idea. You have a wonderful heart and will be blessed by the random acts of kindness you do on behalf of these children. Don't worry about what you see, it does make a difference! I agree, giving freely from the heart always feels great. Voted way up!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Thanks so much for your kind words teaches12345! I was curious about the response but will continue to give regardless. I plan to make the 26 random acts of kindness a yearly tradition. Thanks so much for the comment and vote. I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

JimTxMiller profile image

JimTxMiller 3 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

What does it say about our society when we feel anxious about approaching strangers in public place to do good? Your well-written hub almost reads like a scene from a Tom Clancy black ops novel .

Since you asked, my main avenue for acts of kindness is picking up trash in public green spaces when I'm out walking. Others respond positively when I'm seen doing this, but most are surprised to learn I am not employed by the city.

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

This was a clever, as well as a caring, way to make a difference … and I’m sure that even those who just tucked away your token and went back to their computers will have thought of you … and those you represented … later on.

I think it is important to remember that such an action is always remembered on some level of consciousness.

And you received payment for your action in the extra confidence given to you to do what would be a simple unthinking act for most of us, picking up something someone else had dropped.

Thank you for this most interesting and heartening hub.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

@JimTxMiller...Good point. People really just don't expect to receive something with no strings attached. They always assume people are selling something or giving out religious literature and unfortunately they are usually right. They find it hard to believe people are doing things just to be kind as you discovered during your kind acts of picking up trash.I think it's awesome that you take the time to pick up trash and make the world look more beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing that and for taking your time to read and comment. I hope to see you again!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Hi Angie! It felt so good to spread kindness in honor of those lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. I felt so sad and helpless being so close to the area and wanted to do something. I guess I wasn't very clear about my action picking up the groceries and might edit that. I always pick things up for people without a thought but this required me to go right up to the car and invade someone's personal space so I was a bit hesitant but happy I helped. I agree that people respond in their own way to kindness even if it isn't obvious immediately. Thanks so much for your kind comment.!!

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Healthylife2, very, very well done indeed. Hopefully, these little gifts will encourage others to pay it forward. lacking in our society! Thanks for sharing!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Thank you Michelle! I do hope they will pay it forward and keep the kindness chain going. We can never have too much kindness in this world. Thanks for reading and your continued support!

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

I know how it feels when one does a kind act. It gives me a surge of energy and keeps me buoyed up for the entire day. And I can see how good you've felt by doing these kind acts. I hope more and more people perform acts of kindness. Then it would be a totally different world to live in.

Voted up, useful.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

It's awesome that you perform acts of kindness Rajan although I'm not surprised. It does set the tone for the whole day in such a positive way. I share your hope that more people will try this and it will improve our outlook of the world and the human race. Thanks so much for the vote and comment!

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 3 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Up and awesome. I'm really glad that you reported your results and completed such a wonderful personal challenge. Helping others gives you a great feeling and often makes their day/week/month. It doesn't need to cost anything either.

Sharing, pinning, and tweeting.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Hi Brett! Although I would have completed these acts anyway it was fun to discover some of the reactions. I agree that helping others is an amazing feeling that hopefully inspires others to do the same one day.Yes..there are so many free ways to help others like volunteering or just offering a sincere compliment. Thanks so much for the share,pin, and tweet. It is very much appreciated:)

Lastheart profile image

Lastheart 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

I do not know if it is because I am aging, the thing is that everything makes me feel, and you have made a day of tears. This is such a wonderful testimony, my dear friend. I love to read not only words. Faith is not about deeds, but faith without deeds is empty and unfruitful. Voted up, across, sharing, pinning and all that jazz. This is too lovely to let it die.

Kbdare profile image

Kbdare 3 years ago from Western US.

What a beautiful inspiring story, thank you for sharing it! It is great to hear that even a small gesture can brighten an person's day.

howtolearnmore profile image

howtolearnmore 3 years ago from Tartu

Great story.

I think being kind should be a year-round thing :)

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Strong emotional response is a good thing Lastheart because it means you are feeling life. I so much appreciate you and the votes,sharing etc.!!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Thanks so much for the kind words Kbdare! Even a smile or a joke can make someone's day so much better! It takes a minimal effort. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I hope to see you again!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

I completely agree howtolearnmore and just being kind every day doesn't require this level of planning. Usually there is no reason not to show kindness toward others.This was fun but it is just as fulfilling to help people out without preparation. Hope to see you again and hope you are having a great weekend!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois

I instantly recognized the location of the stocking photo. I grew up in New Fairfield and my husband (boyfriend at the time) and his family lived in Newtown. I cannot imagine the emotion of seeing that in person with all its meaning, because just seeing the photo moved me to tears. How wonderful for it to inspire you to do random acts of kindness. I love the covert operation you and your husband set up, true partners you are. Personally, this last year has had a lot of heartbreak for me, so now you've got me wondering if doing random acts of kindness may help me deal with a situation in my life which I am powerless to control. If I come up with a plan I will let you know. I have to admit one of my favorite things to do is to let someone go ahead of me in the grocery store line, especially an elderly person or mother with young children. They seem so appreciative.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

I still cry so easily when I see a reminder of those lost in the tragedy ktrapp. I love that you recognize the area and it's so nice to meet someone from Connecticut. It may be difficult to see in the photo but each stocking has the name of all 26 lost in the horrible tragedy. There are still reminders everywhere.I had to convince my husband to participate but happy he finally agreed. So sorry you had to deal with a difficult situation. Even if they are situations that we can't do anything about it doesn't make it any easier. I found it to be very therapeutic and it certainly doesn't have to be something requiring this level of preparation. It is worth a try because it definitely won't make you any more upset and has the chance of lifting your spirits. Your ideas are great to let someone go ahead of you in line. I hope you give it a try to would love to hear about your random acts of kindness.

DIYmommy profile image

DIYmommy 3 years ago

Just before reading this hub, I read a fairly long article about different ways to pay it forward on a different website. While not Starbucks, this article spoke about how, one time, a simple act of kindness by a Tim Horton's patron in Canada (I've never actually been there, but it's supposed to be a coffee shop like Starbucks...) spawned a massive domino effect resulting in over 200 people paying for a cup of coffee for the person behind them. It's always pretty neat to see a pre-meditated, or otherwise spur of the moment, random act of kindness spread like that. Despite all the murder and atrocities in the news, its those acts that really restore my faith in the human race. Great hub! Off to follow you... :)

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

What a great idea to pay for the cup of coffee behind you DIYmommy! Maybe I will try that one next. I still believe there is more good than evil in the world but it would be nice to see a little less evil. Thanks for your great comment and soon I'll be stopping by to check out your hubs.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Am hoping this will be highlighted more often throughout the rest of the year. It is so important to reach out to other people in a wise and caring way. Because self-importance is the rule of the day, seeing this concept worked out in daily life is a big surprise to some people. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I suspect that it's difficult for people to respond to your hub (it was for me the first time I saw it) because the murders were so heartrending, but I hope more people will help highlight what you are encouraging through comments to your post. Because this happened on my birthday I continue to think about the preciousness of the gift of life and its fragility in relation to the tragedy, but I am not yet prepared to write about this massacre.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

You are so right RTalloni that self-importance prevails and people seemed so shocked to be a recipient of a random act of kindness. Every time I hear a new detail regarding the Newtown tragedy I cry so I understand that many people need to give their mind a break from the horror and may have a difficult time reading or writing anything on the topic. Because I live close there are reminders everywhere. Many businesses in Newtown have a sign in the window that says "we are Newtown...We choose love!" so I will continue to spread kindness in the world. I hope others will also be inspired to do so to keep the memory alive of the 26 lives that were lost. I always tell my children to look for the heroes in a tragedy and there were so many. So sorry it happened on your birthday but that day will always remain a celebration of your life and maybe you can do one random act of kindness on that day as a way to celebrate. Thanks so much for reading this despite the difficult subject matter.

Esther  Strong profile image

Esther Strong 3 years ago from UK

You are a fine example to us all. Thank you for doing this and sharing it with us all. Voted up and more.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 3 years ago from Connecticut, USA Author

It was such a positive experience despite being nervous initially Esther. Many fundraisers and other activities continue in my area to keep the memory alive of those lost in Newtown. I think performing random acts of kindness is a great way to keep the memories alive and a way to make the world a better place. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and leave a comment. Have a great weekend!

gerimcclym profile image

gerimcclym 9 months ago from Colorado

Another beautiful article about an important subject. As a northeasterner, I can understand why people in NYC would have been skeptical when you gave them the gift cards, but I'm glad you did it anyway. And I'm glad you helped the lady in the parking lot by picking up her can. It's important that we go out of our comfort zones sometimes in order to help others. It's something I'm trying to do a little more of each day.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 9 months ago from Connecticut, USA Author

Hi gerimcclym,

I understand people being skeptical too but I hope I restored a little faith in humanity and helped keep the memory alive of those that were lost in the Newtown tragedy. Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone to help others. Giving gift cards to strangers was way out of mine but I'm glad I did it. Thank you for your kind comment!

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