Friday, November 14, 2014

Be Kind Without Strings

My blog, my thoughts. 
Pay it forward. 

Random acts of kindness. 

Unless you have lived in a wifi-proof cave for the past few years, you've heard the stories. The Starbucks line that went on for hours, each customer buying coffee for the person behind them, the guest that leaves a $1,000 tip on a buck cup of coffee so the waitress can fulfill her lifelong dream to backpack through Europe. The community that came together to build a house for a family that lost theirs to a fire.

I firmly believe that people want to do good things for others; some people may have selfish or have sketchy motives, but I'm ok with that. The public pressure to "do good" may form a habit or change minds...or at the very least, encourage someone else to participate in a positive action. 

Let's say you buy coffee for the next ten people. Maybe one guy at the coffee shop gleefully took your gift of a free coffee and then told a coworker what a sucker you were. Fine. But maybe that coworker told her daughter about the small act of generosity gifted to a stranger and then that little rug rat decides instead of toys for her birthday, she wants friends and family to buy gifts for the local animal shelter. You never know how one small gesture on your part can impact the community around you. 

Along that thought, I want to propose something radical. This may honk some folks off, but stay with me for a second.

The next time you go out and the cashier says that your coffee is free or a secret santa paid for your layaway, here is what I want you to do...accept the gesture, say thank you and let them be nice to you.

Let that sink in for a second.

On your way to pick up the kids at practice, you buzz through the drive thru and you are told your coffee is free. Say "thank you" and drive off.

Later on, pay it forward and do something nice for someone else, be a little crazy and do something special for two or three other people. Make it your own. Your way to pay it forward might be buying tacos for the office. Maybe it is finally cleaning out your closet and donating all your old suits to a return to work program.  Let the person with 3 items go in front of you at Heinens when you have a full cart. Finally show your uncle how to work the iTunes. Brush the snow off the cars next to yours. Put a quarter in the vending machine (ladies, you know what I'm talking about).

It doesn't have to be all about money. That super awesome barista that remembers your order every morning and tells you, "have a great day!" tell his manager. If it is a chain joint, tell corporate. Trust me, your tweet or Facebook post will be appreciated.   

Be kind without strings. 

One snowy day, I went into my local coffee shop after reading about one of those coffee lines that went on for 8 hours, and I paid for the next 5 coffees. All smug with good intentions, I sat and waited.

I was a giggly school girl when the first person came in for coffee. The little old granny came in and was incredibly confused about the free coffee, but still took it, all the while questioning her friend, "why would anyone do that?"  Two construction workers came in next and took the free coffees without a word. The remaining two coffees went to some one in the drive thru. 

I was crushed.

No one bought anything for anyone else. There was no chain of awesomeness.

As I sat, drinking my hazelnut coffee in full pout, a kooky concept occurred to me. We want to be a part of something awesome, I get that. We want to point to our friends and family that we are good people, and we can prove it because we were a part of some big movement.  But, if someone buys coffee for me, and then I buy coffee for the guy behind me, all I did was buy myself coffee.

Be kind without strings. 

No kind gesture goes unnoticed. With the holidays in front of us, I encourage you all to be considerate of those around you. Try doing something thoughtful or just plain nice for others once a week. Find something you are passionate about and share that. Here is an example - it was important to me to help others in Northeast Ohio find work in my field (nonprofit and marketing), so I started a email listing. I don't get paid for it and I don't know the majority of the peeps following the listing. I would bet that less than ten of the 500 or so following it couldn't pick me out in a line up.

And you know what? That's ok. It is my small way to give back to the community. It costs me a few hours of my time a week.

Whether you knit hats and hand them out to the homeless or you buy pizza for the guys in IT, we can all make a difference with what we have.

I challenge you. How are you going to be kind without strings?


  1. Taking a moment to marinate on this...

    1. It can be simple. Perhaps make Larry a tuna casserole.

  2. But, if someone buys coffee for me, and then I buy coffee for the guy behind me, all I did was buy myself coffee.

    Oh no, my friend: It's the first follower which changes the lone nut into a leader of a movement!

    Also? My daughter graduated with a degree in international business and has recently decided she would like to work for a non-profit. (Her previous goal was to take over the world and believe me - this kid could do it!)

    I think it's your list I just forwarded to her last week - she's found a position on it she wants to go for - so thank you!