It’s only about an hour after sunrise on a Sunday morning at Dunkin’ Donuts. The lobby is full, the drive thru line winds around the corner and needless to say, people need their morning coffee.
I’m decked out in the overwhelmingly attractive visor, apron and polo combination, trying to flash a smile at each customer and count their change before I’ve had my morning coffee. I think I’m mostly succeeding, until I catch a glimpse of what looks more like a grimace in my reflection in the coffee maker.
A woman pulls up, I bare my teeth once again, and then just before the automatic window slides shut she says, “I’d like to pay for the man behind me also.” I stop short of my mechanical valediction. “Oh, wow sure thing! Would you like me to tell him anything in particular?”
“Tell him I say thank you for his service” she says, and then pulls away like a hero into the night (or you know, early morning).
When the police officer pulls forward I let him know, he smiles and leaves a nice tip, and pays for the car behind him. Then the next woman pays for the one behind her. When the last car in line pulls up and I tell her that her order is taken care of, her mouth opens in disbelief. Touched, she cranes her neck to look ahead, then realizes the Good Samaritan is long gone. There’s no one behind her for her to pay for, but she promises to pass it along in some other way. She drives off, and even though I’m surrounded by spilled coffee rather than trees of green and red roses, I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!”
Being a do-gooder is actually as simple as doing something kind, and the beauty of doing some nice is that it’s not only easy, but makes both you and the recipient feel great. If you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy (or hoping to offset some bad karma) and seeking some good deed-spiration, look no further. Here are seven easy ways to be a do-gooder today.
1. Call Someone by Their Name
In an era of anonymity, where usernames prevail over nicknames (actually I have a friend whose nickname is her Instagram username) and legitimate face to face interactions are scarce, calling someone by their name is startling— in a good way. Whether it’s the girl making your coffee (we wear name tags, guys) or your coworker as you pass him in the hall, take the millisecond to address them personally and make them feel validated.
2. Compliment a Stranger
Or a friend! Chances are you already say nice things to your friends, but really who gets tired of being complimented? Rhetorical question, obvious answer. So flatter away!
The only trick here is to genuinely mean whatever you say. If a classmate gives an especially captivating presentation, let them know how eloquent they were. If you like someone’s shoes, chase them down the street to let them know. It’ll be creepy for a second, but then they’ll appreciate the compliment and be doubly happy that they’re not getting mugged. Someone’s manicure or haircut catch your eye? Tell them! Chances are they spent a lot of money on it, so you’ll be assuaging any buyer’s remorse.
3. Leave Some Paper
No, not a tip (though those are always nice). Leave an actual piece of paper—with a nice note or a cute doodle—taped above a water fountain or tucked into a library book (maybe tell them why you loved it).
Or leave paper in the form of a new “People” magazine, the holy grail of gossip magazines, on the table in a waiting room. If you can spare a book, why not leave that behind on a park bench or common room table for the next lucky stranger to pore over?
4. Pick Up a Piece of Litter
Yes, even if it’s not your trash. And no, you’re not going to stop the ice caps melting, but throwing away that plastic bag could prevent an inadvertent goose noose.
The next person who goes to sit down on that patch of grass for a picnic will also have a much more pleasant dining experience thanks to your consideration, and they will be more likely to leave the space as clean as they found it.
5. Go Fund Something
Visit GoFundMe, a crowdsourcing site for all different kinds of projects, and choose a fundraiser near you or a select one from a cause category you feel passionate about. Five dollars won’t break the bank, but it could really help someone out.
6. Hold the Door
It may be easier to run around like a bunch of ruinous two-year-olds, knocking down other kids’ block towers and slamming doors shut— but we’re not toddlers.
Hold the door open for someone even if they’re that awkward five feet away, smile and say “thank you” or “you’re welcome.” Newton’s Third Law applies to physics not good deeds so don’t worry, holding the door for one person won’t result in it slamming in the face of another.
7. Order Like an Adult
In the grain of behaving like truculent toddlers, don’t order like one. Your waitress or barista isn’t Medusa— you can make eye contact without turning to stone, so lock eyes and while you’re add it flash a smile. Omit any demanding diction from your coffee shop vernacular.
Try, “I’d like” or “Could I please have” rather than “I’ll take,” “I need” or the short and not-so-sweet: “Give me.”
And hey, if you’re feeling especially Louis Armstrong about the world, why not pay for the order behind you?
A professor of mine once suggested adopting “Be a force of good” as a morning mantra. As a fictional hero once said: May the force be with you.