Last Tuesday evening when I stepped out my front door, my neighbor’s friend was sitting on my front step smoking.
As I locked the door, she apologized and stood up, allowing me by.
Rather than say, “No problem!” or “That’s okay!” I just leaped down the stairs and passed her without saying a word or even looking at her and jumped in my friend Melissa’s waiting car.
I felt a little bad about it later. How hard is it to just say something or even smile when a stranger speaks to you?
I consider myself a (mostly) nice person to the people in my life, but I’m not really bringing much of anything positive into the world in the way I go about my day. I don’t drive anymore, or rather, I’ve driven maybe four or five times so far this year. But when I did so every day, I was sort of an asshole city driver. Why not let someone go first when at a four-way stop? Why not smile or even give a nod from time to time while walking down the sidewalk rather that scowling or looking straight ahead?
You never know what someone is going through as they move through the world. A loved one could have just died. Maybe they got fired, maybe they found out they’re losing their house, maybe someone they’re going through a breakup, maybe they were passed over for a promotion, maybe their bike got stolen, maybe their big plans fell through. I think a lot of us are barely hanging on sometimes, and stranger being a jerk just adds to that misery.
But someone being nice, offering a smile or a kind word or a compliment could really lift someone up. Plus, spreading kindness makes you feel good, too. I often see women with cool clothes or shoes or hair and rather than keeping those thoughts to myself, I’ve started giving random compliments to strangers. It’s fun to see their eyes light up and it gives me a little jolt of joy too.
Later that Tuesday night, Melissa and I went back out to her car after volunteering with the shelter cats at Petsmart and we found a note on her windshield. It was a square of construction paper and it said, “You’re the Best!” in marker, and it also had a web address, kindnessisfree.com and a hashtag, #kindness365.
I looked it up and the people behind this movement are traveling the country just spreading kindness. I think they were in Philly because of the Democratic National Contention, and given the politics of today, we sure could use more kindness in the world.
My friend and I both thought it was so nice! A note on your windshield is usually a ticket or a note from a fellow driver about something you or they did, so to get a note like this was so refreshing.
Then we noticed a huge RV in the Petsmart parking lot. On the side it read #kindness365 and some people were dancing around it. I held the note out the window and yelled, “Thank you!” but they didn’t hear, so I took a photo of it and put it on Instagram.
They responded with a sweet message back and added, “Pay it forward.”
Pay it forward. Hmm. What can I do to spread kindness to others? To strangers?
Then it hit me: Duh. I can just write my own notes and put them on cars, or wherever people would find them. That night I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I got up and spent a few hours coming up with messages to write.
Then over the next couple of nights, I wrote 30 notes on construction paper and markers. It was actually a lot of fun! I put the hashtags #phillyiskindness (I made that one up; I’m not on Twitter but I’m on Instagram) and #kindness365 as a way of building upon the stuff that the group who left us the note is doing.
I haven’t handed them out yet because it’s rained every day for the last week, but the weather looks sunny for the next few days, so I’m going to start putting them out there. *
Maybe it will encourage someone, give somebody hope or maybe just turn around a crappy day. You never know the effect your actions have on others.
The reason why I’m writing this post is to encourage others to spread kindness, too. Rather than bringing negativity into the world by snarking on a woman’s clothes or body on the Internet, complaining about everything , being judgmental of somebody’s choices, or being racist, sexist or violent, doesn’t it make more sense to look for opportunities to offer a kind word or do a kind act, not because you feel you might get something for yourself in return, but because it’s just the right thing to do?
I know it sounds hokey, but I hope this will create a tiny ripple effect and cancel out some of the garbage happening in the world right now. Are you with me?
*Another reason why I haven’t handed any out yet is I’m afraid people are going to yell at me for touching their cars. This is Philly, after all!