by Amy Giddon in Medium
When I went to the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan this summer, I was treated to a charming and random act of kindness. As soon as I purchased museum admission, my friend and I were presented with mysterious folded and sealed letters.
I opened my letter and was delighted to find a unique and thoughtful note: “Please enjoy the entire museum. Start from the top and work your way down. Smile today. Be the reason someone else smiles today. Enjoy!”
I was intrigued as to what prompted my new friend Gia to spend time on this gesture of kindness for a person she didn’t know, and whose reaction she wouldn’t see. I soon found out. Rounding the corner, I came across an invitation to write a letter of my own.
This invitation spoke of the “karmic ripples” one can create by participating in this delightful act of kindness. Having been touched by Gia, I paid it forward, and felt like an integral link in a chain of visitors, connected across time and experience.
It was a small but uplifting moment. It can be hard to feel positive these days, which often feel divisive, even dehumanizing.
It seems like we’re stuck in an unending chain of negativity. We’re more polarized than ever and a splintered news media entrenches us further. Social media algorithms ensure our existing views are reinforced. When we venture out of our social media bunkers we can find ourselves in conversation threads that bring out the worst in us, sending us back to our tribe and perpetuating our distrust of others.
That unexpected pay-it-forward experience at the Rubin Museum reestablished my feeling of interconnectedness. I knew that this experience made me feel good, and I wondered, can random acts of kindness jolt us out of an us-vs-them mentality and restore our faith in humanity?
The Psychological Benefits that Come with Random Acts of Kindness
Science supports that these little acts of kindness can have a big emotional impact. The ripples are real. Whether a giver, a receiver, or even simply an observer of a kindness, we are positively impacted both individually and collectively.
● Happiness: Performing acts of kindness makes us healthier and happier. Lee Rowland, director of research at Kindness.org has scoured the researchand documented the many ways that being kind measurably boosts wellbeing. In fact, the more acts of kindness we do, the happier we are.
● Generosity: Further, it turns out that kindness truly is contagious. As described in Psychology Today, witnessing acts of kindness makes a person more inclined to “pay it forward.” The natural high you get when you observe an act of kindness makes you want to act more altruistically toward others.
● Gratitude: As the lucky receiver of an unexpected kindness — we experience gratitude. Not only do feelings of gratitude enhance our well-being but gratitude motivates us to want to “share and increase the good we have received.”
In today’s political and cultural climate, kindnesses and the happiness they create are more important than ever. Random acts of kindness remind us of our foundational connection as humans. They disrupt today’s pervasive negativity and distrust. They create a place for us in a chain of strangers, our greater human tribe, united in gratitude and delight.
Inspiring Random Acts of Kindness
As a marketer and businessperson, I’m interested in how businesses can introduce and perpetuate these pay-it-forward chains of goodwill among their customers and employees. How can brands and businesses use their reach to supersize the idea of “give a penny, take a penny”?
The Rubin got it right: baking opportunities directly into the product or service model is a surefire way to make it easy for customers to spread kindness. Rosa’s Fresh Pizza takes baking in kindness quite literally as customers can pre-purchase a slice of pizza and post a sticky note receipt on the wall to be redeemed by those who need it.
Jetblue’s Flying it Forward program began with a crewmember nominating a worthy flyer for a free flight. Each recipient then selects the next candidate “looking to fulfill a dream, join a humanitarian effort or making a meaningful impact on the world” for a free flight.
In Airbnb’s #OneLessStranger initiative, hosts are encouraged to perform Random Acts of Hospitality. Airbnb gave $10 to 100,000 Airbnb hosts, asking the hosts to use the money for “personal and creative acts of hospitality,” with the hope these kindnesses get paid forward.
Big or small, these programs cascade goodwill and serve up unexpected moments of connection. And that really feels good these days.
I’ve been chipping away at a new mobile app project with the lofty goal of getting humanity back on the same page and creating a daily pay-it-forward moment.
Daily Haloha involves a simple daily exercise that encourages introspection and connection. It combines a mindful moment with the delight of sharing and comparing thoughts with anonymous users around the world. When someone sends off a Haloha note to another random participant, they immediately get one back from someone else — creating a chain of connection.
Each day the chain kicks off fresh with a single new thought-provoking fill-in-the blank question.
Intrigued? Sign up to be a beta tester.
Does your business incorporate pay-it-forward moments into your products or services? Share your examples in the comments and let’s cascade kindness.