Not to overuse an old adage (too late—I already I am) but it’s the little things in life that can make all the difference. Last weekend, I witnessed an act of gratitude that got me thinking about how we treat each other—how one simple thing can change the course of someone’s day. I was in downtown Los Angeles stopped at a red light, when I spotted two soldiers crossing the street toward the bus stop. There was a homeless man sitting on the other side of the street, who promptly stood up, took off his hat, and offered his hand to the two soldiers as they walked by. It was a small, but meaningful gesture. He had nothing to give but his genuine appreciation. But you know what? That was enough. It’s not about extravagance or gifts; it’s about compassion. It’s about our sensitivity to the human condition.
Alright, now that I’m done talking like a politician (I couldn’t help it), here are some simple ways YOU can make someone else’s day:
1. Let someone go ahead of you in line. . .
. . . especially if you’re up to your ears in groceries, and the person behind you only has cheese.
2. Ask and answer: How are you?
It’s a question we hear over and over again—at the cash register, at work with your colleagues— but try providing a genuine answer. And while you’re at it, ask how that person’s day is going, too. When you open up, chances are, others will join you.
3. Say hello.
It may sound simple, but saying hello is an acknowledgement of another person’s existence. And let’s be honest, it feels nice to be acknowledged. So say hello to your neighbor across the street. Say hello to people in the elevator (even the ones who refuse to give you eye contact). I’m sure a simple “heyyy” would be welcomed, especially if you’re going up a couple floors.
4. Open the door for the people behind you.
And when you see someone having trouble with the door, get out of your seat and help!
5. Tag a friend in funny animal pictures on Instagram:
6. Give your seat up for a stranger.
Whenever you’re in a crowded waiting area or using public transit, look around. See if there’s a person who could use your seat. It might make somebody else’s day a little easier.
7. Send a compliment someone’s way.
And be genuine! There’s nothing worse than a disingenuous, “Oooh I love your shoes!” There’s always something you can compliment.
8. Run an errand for someone else.
If you know someone who’s overwhelmed (and a lot of us are), offer to alleviate some pressure by running an errand for them. Now that’s real stress relief!
9. Give someone an unexpected treat.
Nothing says “I’m thinking of you and I want you to be happy” like a box of delicious donuts on a Tuesday afternoon.
10. Put everything back in its right place.
When you’re at J. Crew and that boat neck t-shirt falls off its slippery hanger, pick it up off the ground. This also applies to any wayward straw wrappers hanging around the perimeter of the trash can. Someone, somewhere is gonna have to pick it up. . . might as well be the person who dunnit.
11. Say thank you.
It seems like common courtesy (maybe that’s why it’s so overlooked?), but every good deed, no matter how big or small, deserves to be acknowledged with a simple, genuine “thank you.”
12. Oh yes. . . and don’t forget to smile: