Why No Random Act of Kindness Is Ever Too Small

Every act of kindness brings unexpected sunshine

Posted Jan 09, 2017

CanStock Photo, used with permission
Source: CanStock Photo, used with permission

One evening during the recent holiday season, I was watching the news and was captivated by an uplifting story. Some business owners in San Diego, seeing that Christmas day was drawing near, decided to bring the holiday spirit of giving to homeless individuals. One business owner described their mission as, “We’re trying to give people a quick escape from the daily grind of suffering.” While serving a hot meal, they handed out all types of essential provisions needed for living on the streets, including jacket sleeping bags. This unique invention offers multi-purpose uses, converting from a warm winter jacket into a water-resistant sleeping bag, and later into a shoulder pack. As the gifts were unloaded from trucks, the newscaster said, “This is what generosity looks like. A street that is usually lined with helplessness, today is filled with hope.”

The homeless people receiving the gifts were clearly moved. One man stood before the television cameras and proudly listed the treasures he had just received: clothes, a blanket, a sleeping bag, shirts, and a nice pair of pants. To another woman, the sleeping bag gave her a sense of independence. She made me smile when she enthusiastically said, “I don’t have to go try to roommate in somebody’s tent. I can sleep by myself.” Joy radiated from these two souls, as it did from the people handing out the gifts. One message really stayed with me, when one homeless woman, though certainly grateful for the gifts she had been given, said what meant most to her was that someone cared about them, which gave her hope. She had tears in her eyes, and as the story ended, so did I.

It was not long before I again was uplifted by another story of a random act of kindness, this time posted on Facebook. A woman traveling home for the holiday was at the airport, and purchased a coffee from an elderly man working at a coffee stand on Christmas day. She gave him a $100 tip and wished him good tidings. The man was so overwhelmed, he enveloped her in a giant hug, and they both ended up crying in each other’s arms.

These stories got me thinking about the power of random acts of kindness, and how through each act, hope is reborn each and every time. The great news is charitableness does not command expensive gifts or herculean efforts, as one simple act can bring unexpected sunshine into someone’s life. I know this to be true, as one year I gave Starbucks gift cards to the college kids who man the front desk at my gym. These gifts certainly could not be defined as huge, but the happy reception I received was indeed huge. Mother Teresa, a true saint of unfaltering service, encouraged the world when she said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  

My mother, who passed away in 2009, was like a Mother Teresa, doing both great things and small things with great love. Her giving nature steered her to serving vocations, and she became a teacher, a nurse, and a missionary in foreign lands. My own miraculous salvation was brought through my parent’s benevolence when they adopted me at the age of two out of poverty and sickness in Bolivia while working as missionaries in an impoverished region.

Jorge Antelo, used with permission.
San Borja, Boliva. I am in my mother's arms.
Source: Jorge Antelo, used with permission.

My mother’s selfless acts remained steadfast throughout her life. I remember at her retirement party from teaching, person after person standing up and describing how my mother helped them, from simple things like staying late so someone could leave early, to big events, like caring for a friend’s daughter who had been in a terrible car accident so the mom could return to work.

My mother further uplifted everyone through her love of baking, sharing her homemade delights freely. Every Christmas, my mom would bake for days, making an endless variety of beautifully decorated cookies, fudge, divinity, spiced nuts, and stuffed dates. She would assemble special trays of these goodies and deliver them to neighbors, relatives, and friends. Other times during the year, she would whip up homemade cinnamon rolls, spending the morning punching down the dough and rolling it out to perfection. Warm rolls with frosting running off the edges would again be delivered to grateful neighbors. I would go with her to deliver these treats, and always came home feeling as warm inside as the freshly baked rolls.

I have tried to emulate my mom’s generous spirit in my own family. My son, who loves to cook and bake just as much as his grandma did, decided one Christmas to make a plate of fancy reindeer cookies and fudge for his new dance instructor. The instructor’s genuine surprise was so touching, it was truly worthy of a video recording. He exclaimed, “These are for me?” He loved the creative cookies, immediately taking a photo and texting it out in record speed.

Photo by Aleida K. Wahn
Source: Photo by Aleida K. Wahn

Another time near Thanksgiving, my son and I made a pumpkin pie and delivered it to my son’s robotics instructors. As we left the studio, each instructor was literally smiling from ear-to-ear.

Photo by Aleida K. Wahn
Source: Photo by Aleida K. Wahn

So, as we enter 2017, I sat down with my son and his friends to brainstorm acts of kindness we can do right now. Still in the innocence of youth, they came up with the following: give a compliment and free hugs, give a present to someone even when it is not their birthday, play with a child who is lonely at school, collect clothes from classmates to donate to The San Diego Rescue Mission, and buy groceries for someone in need.

Magnificent words of wisdom came from Anne Frank, a young girl who knew wartime darkness, when she said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” That’s right, we don’t have to wait for Christmastime or an ordained season of giving to lift up our fellow man. Let’s all do what we can today!