Here’s a list of my favorite things that make people smile and take little time or effort:
Hold the door, letting others go through first.
Chat with cashiers when you buy stuff. They are bored stiff.
When you go to a store with carts, park near one that a lazy bum has left sitting there, not in the cart return. Grab two if they are there. Otherwise, park next to the cart return, grab at least one cart, and leave any extras with the other carts inside or out front. Then after you are done unloading into the trunk, take the cart back inside instead of leaving it out there.
If you are sitting in a waiting room, instead of staring at the floor start up a conversation that everyone can participate in. Easiest is to talk about the doc or local news. This makes waiting an activity instead of agony.
Standing in a line? Find something complimentary to say about someone nearby or make an offhand remark that can lead to conversation. Most people will enjoy a short conversation, and chances are fair that you will never see that person again, so give them a smile while you have the chance.
Notice someone having a bad day via social media? Give a positive comment or a private message reminding them of good things.
If you see a relatively clean piece of garbage that doesn’t look like it is harboring disease (piece of non-food paper, closed plastic water bottle, etc.) Pick it up and recycle or dispose of it properly. Hundreds of people walk by that item before you get there, and if you leave it so will the next few hundred.
Learn people’s names that you interact with periodically, such as the butcher, baker, or pharmacist. This helps them feel appreciated and doesn’t require any actual appreciation. 😉
If you see a neighbor’s trash can or recycle bin rolling around in the street, grab it and take it up to their garage or porch. If they have an obscenly long driveway at least grab it and put it upside down off the road. My neighborhood is very compact, groups of townhouses, and both my neighbors have newborns. If they aren’t home yet and I go out to grab my bin, I take a minute to recover theirs as well. Takes longer than ten seconds, but when they get home they have a baby, diaper bag, etc. to deal with so it really makes them feel good to come home and not have to deal with that.
These aren’t Oprah-level acts of kindness, but most days you can make a dozen or more people just that much happier by just adding a tiny bit to your routines. Take the time, make the time, and if you haven’t seen it, watch the film “Pay It Forward” to see what kind of domino effect your actions can create. Most of all, have fun!