If you drove through the Five Corners intersection of Uniontown on Saturday, you were bombarded with kindness. It came in the form of signs and small gifts, and in hugs and genuine listening.
Kindness to a Stranger Day, and its volunteers, hoped to prompt smiles and certainly did so.
Organizer Brandie VanDusen said drivers stopped at Five Corners were surprised at random gifts like candy, coupons, flowers or bubbles. But, she said, those small gestures can have a big impact. Research shows VanDusen is right — and random acts of kindness benefit not only the recipient, but also the giver.
A Psychology Today article published in 2018 notes that extending kindness to others has an overall impact on the doers well-being.
It notes a study where researchers asked participants to perform acts of kindness for others or themselves over four weeks.
Researchers measured participants’ level of emotional, psychological and social well-being at the beginning and end of the experiment.
The article noted, “By the end of the study the people who had performed kind acts for others had higher levels of psychological flourishing compared to those who acted kindly towards themselves. Benevolent acts also led to higher levels of positive emotions. In short, demonstrating altruism not only benefits others, but makes us feel better ourselves.
Another study found that those who did for others experienced a boomerang effect — their kindness had a positive impact on their own mental state. Kindness, the article notes, can also be contagious, prompting a pay-it-forward mentality.
Think about how good you feel when someone compliments you. It cost them nothing, yet you find your spirits were raised.
You go on about your day, and perhaps are more open to noticing someone in need of a verbal pick-me-up. You may now notice that your co-worker looks stressed and buy him that candy bar you always see him eating when you run out for lunch.
You’ve done something kind expecting nothing in return, but likely brightened the day of someone who needs it. That person, in turn, may do the same for someone else.
There are endless tiny ways to do something nice that cost nothing: holding the door, offering a sincere and specific compliment, carrying a bag for someone or pushing their cart back to the return at the grocery store, letting another driver go before you at a stop sign when you don’t have to, walking a neighbor’s dog ….
The list of free kind acts are limited only by your imagination and desire to perform them.
Two popular random act of kindness that made the rounds a few years back come at minimal cost: paying for the order of the car behind you in the drive-thru or buying a stranger’s coffee at the neighborhood shop.
They’re small gestures that can have big impacts. We never know what someone is going through on a daily basis because none of us wear signs that disclose our personal stressors to the world.
That is why those small, kind gestures are so important.
We should all take a cue from Saturday’s volunteers, and make each day be Kindness to a Stranger Day.