Our actions matter. Even the smallest acts can have significant impact, because we have an incredible power that we often forget about: We have the power to brighten someone’s world, in big and small ways. A kind gesture can do everything from make someone smile to soothe their sorrow to restore their faith in humanity.
This might sound dramatic, but it’s true.
Think about how you feel when you’re having a bad day, and a stranger smiles and holds the door for you, or says you can skip ahead of them in line, or buys you a cup of coffee. Think about how you feel after a loved one gives a compliment or listens to you, without interrupting or judging or saying what you should be doing.
As illustrator Emily Coxhead writes in Make Someone Happy: A Creative Journal for Brightening the World Around You, “You are one in over 7.4 billion humans on this planet and although you may not be able to change the whole world, you can make a few of those worlds a tiny bit brighter.”
Below are 10 ideas from Coxhead’s journal to try this week.
- Write a letter to your best friend on their very worst day.
- Write a letter to anyone starting with: “Dear ___________. Thank you so much for making the world a whole lot happier…”
- List several ways you can make the world or somebody’s world a little happier.
- Write a letter to your train conductor/pilot/taxi or bus driver, and leave it for them to find. You might start with: “Thank you for getting me home safely…”
- Give someone your full, undivided attention—without being distracted by your phone or anything else. Reflect on what you learned.
- Write a letter (or email) to a schoolteacher who helped or inspired you.
- Thank someone today for simply being who they are, for something they did, for what they do, or for something they said.
- Jot down five kind messages to any five people.
- Send a postcard to a loved one the next time you think of them or are reminded of them. Use this template: “Hello ______. I just wanted to let you know I thought of you on ________. ____________ reminded me of you and it made me happy because ____________. Love from __________.”
- Go (ever so slightly) out of your way to help someone this week. In the journal, Coxhead suggests checking off the following: Help with a stroller or luggage up or down the stairs; offer to help an elderly person with heavy bags; give up your seat; hold the door open for someone; let someone go in front of you in line; chat with a homeless person, or any new person.
Kindness doesn’t necessarily reside in sweeping, must-make-a-sacrifice gestures. Kindness resides in how we listen to someone, holding space for them to share whatever they need to share, without judging or fixing or even reassuring them. Kindness resides in sitting with someone’s pain instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. Kindness resides in letters that express love and support. Kindness resides in showing someone that they are appreciated and important; that they are seen.
How can you be kind? How would you like to brighten someone’s world?