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