A Random Gift of Coffee Makes My Day: One Woman’s Story

It may be Valentine’s Day, but this morning still felt like most mornings do at my house — that is, like a fire drill.

So after hustling various family members to their respective destinations, I was looking forward to clearing my head with a second cup of coffee before sitting down at the computer to work. I ordered one at the drive-through at a nearby Einstein Brothers Bagels shop and pulled up to the payment window, still fumbling for change. “She paid for you,” the attendant said, nodding toward the driver of a white sport utility vehicle that had just pulled away. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Who was that caffeine angel who shelled out $1.95 to make my day? I don’t know. But her “random act of kindness” made me irrationally happy.

When I searched online for the phrase, I found that this is Random Acts of Kindness Week(Feb.9-15th), as promoted by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Who knew? Apparently, my anonymous coffee donor did.

The foundation, which says it is privately financed and doesn’t accept donations, has been advocating kindness since 1995, according to its Web site. Brooke Jones, manager of the foundation, said in an e-mail that it was started in California but was bought in 1999 by the Anschutz family and relocated to Denver. The family keeps a low profile about its role; its name is mentioned nowhere on the site.

But the “be nice” movement seems to be gaining some steam of late. A year or two ago, anonymous “layaway angels” started paying customers’ accounts at Kmart and other retailers. Now, there are many Web sites devoted to ways of making others happy in small ways.

“It’s certainly a topic of debate about ‘why’ the movement is getting so much traction,” Ms. Jones said in the e-mail. “My thought is that we are hungry for simple ways to be nice to each other. We have lost so many of the little nuances of kindness in the age of technology. We are so glued to our computers, TV’s, phones and tablets that we rarely take time out to notice each other anymore. We are losing touch with each other, quite literally, and simple things like smiling, hugging, talking (and listening!) with eye contact are part of human nature.”

I tend to be skeptical about “feel good” gimmicks, but I don’t see much of a downside to this movement. In these days of partisan political rancor and school shootings, it’s easy to lose faith in human nature. So I’d say this trend comes at a welcome time.

Yes, it is lamentable that we need reminders to be kind, or even civil, to others. But given the persistence of cruelty and inhumanity, it’s a message that bears repeating.

Here are some simple suggestions from the foundation:

1. Smile at 10 strangers.
2. Buy something for the person in the line behind you.
3. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
4. Bring a treat to a neighbor or your co-workers.
5. Donate your time or money to a local charity.
6. Cook a healthy meal.
7. Let someone go in front of you in line.

By Ann Carrns

What do you think of this idea? What acts of kindness — monetary or otherwise — might you bestow upon others?  For more stories, ideas of kindness, or to share your own stories; visit www.randomactsofkindness.org

Sources:  http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/