Have you ever gotten a boost from someone when you weren’t expecting it? I have, and it made me feel pretty great. So I started looking for ways to pay it forward.
Here are three random acts of kindness you can do yourself, made simpler with a little help from your phone:
Buy coffee for the person behind you
I distinctly remember the first time this happened to me. It’d been a tough week at work, I was beat, and was about to start another long day. There was only one other person in line at the coffee shop when I walked up to the counter. She didn’t so much as look at me before she turned around and asked what I was having. I said I was just getting a regular coffee, and she told the barista to put my cup with hers.
That day, it wasn’t the caffeine that perked me up, but a friendly gesture from someone I didn’t even know.
So the next time you open your Starbucks app to pay for your morning cup, make someone’s day and tell the barista that you’re also buying for the person behind you. Who knows what you could start? Last year at a Starbucks in Florida, someone set off a pay-it-forward chain that lasted an entire day.
Take a picture in the moment
This one’s about being in the right place at the right time. For me, it was a calm, fall afternoon at a Navy base in Maine, and I was sitting in the car getting ready to pick up my grandparents after my brother’s graduation. Most of the families had already left the base, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the graduates get down on one knee in front of his girlfriend.
He was proposing—and I realized I was the only witness—so I grabbed my phone and snapped a few photos. I could tell the proposal went well, so I approached the couple before they walked off together. We chatted for a minute while I emailed them the photos, then went our separate ways. They were thrilled that I captured that meaningful moment in their lives, and that they now had the unposed, authentic photographs as keepsakes.
If you’re out and happen to notice a family or friends trying to take a picture together, offer to take it for them so none of them are left out. People can be hesitant to approach a stranger to ask for this favor, but you never know when it’ll be your chance to record a special memory for someone.
Surprise someone with a gift you know they want
Soon after my sister went away for her freshman year of college, she got really homesick. I was checking out the Amazon Mobile app on my phone while texting her about it when I had an “aha moment.” With the app, you can browse wish lists created by people you know. So I searched her email address, and voila: she had a list set up, and on it was a book she had talked about wanting earlier that summer. I used the app to buy the book and send it her way with a note.
A few days later, my sister called to say thanks. And she didn’t sound homesick. She really loved the book, and kept me updated the whole way through reading it. It was an easy thing to do, but being able to send her a gift I knew she’d like ended up making a difference for her during those first few weeks of college. And it made me feel happy, too.