Have you ever heard of the Starbucks effect?
I’m not referring to the theory that Starbucks will boost the price of your home, but that is a thing. I’m talking about the kindness of strangers.
“Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you,” it’s the Golden rule. I’ve heard it since I was a little child. It boils down to this… put out into the world what you want to get back. It’s karma for those so inclined.
In my 20’s I was self-centered, everything was about me. When I got married, I had my first experience of occasionally putting someone else’s needs and wants before my own. Then I had children and putting others before myself has become my full-time job.
Over the years, I’ve found myself doing more good but still that selfish little voice in my head kept asking, “When’s it my turn? When will someone do something nice for me?” I just sort of got tired of always giving of myself. Now that I think of it, I wasn’t giving so much as having it taken. I did nice things because I felt it was expected.
Then my perspective of the world changed, we moved to Chesterfield, VA and I was on the receiving end of several random acts of kindness from complete strangers. These women changed my perception of the world. For the first time, aside from my parents, someone was doing something kind for me with absolutely no expectation. It was so out of my ordinary that at first, I was suspicious. What did they really want?
I decided, then and there, that while I cannot control how someone else responds or reacts to my kindness or goodwill, I would live by the good rule because I’m responsible for my behavior. I can put all the good I want into the world but I had to let go of my expectation that the others would reciprocate, care or even appreciate my act.
Then, I had an epiphany. Who cares if they don’t appreciate it? I feel good when I do good so I’m doing good. I let go of the whole idea of putting good out there so good would come back to me and then it did.
I believe that our simple acts of kindness that we do throughout the day, they cause ripples and eventually we get caught in the tide of our own ripples so next time you find yourself deciding whether you should take an extra second to hold the door for a stranger, smile back at someone for no reason at all, give a dollar to a homeless person or share on an opportunity or helpful advice with someone who you think might be a good fit or need it, just do it. Don’t over think it. You can’t control what others do with the gifts you give but you can take joy in knowing you cared enough to give the gift and tried to help someone else.
I know everyone says this and I know many of us don’t immediately see the effects of our good deeds and that may leave you wondering, why bother? Let me tell you a little story.
I once received a cup of coffee in one of those Starbucks lines, when the person ahead of me paid for my latte. It was the first time this had ever happened to me and I had no idea this was a “thing” or that there was a “protocol”, so I took my latte, said thank you and was happy for the rest of the day. The more I thought of it, I realized that I should have paid it forward and bought the person’s behind me. It was what was probably expected.
Last week, I finally paid it forward. I ordered my Oprah Chia Latte, pulled up to pay and then said, “ I’d like to pay for the person behind me too!” Then I looked in my rearview mirror, and saw it was another mom. She looked exhausted and I saw myself in her. I pulled away feeling good. I felt good for rest of my day and it only cost me $4.50. I mean, who knew happiness was so damn cheap? I’m hoping that my simple gesture brightened her day, at the very least I saved her $5.00, right?
The thing is last week I got 3 new freelance jobs and scheduled an interview for another job. Maybe it was coincidence but I’d like to think that my little ripple has caught me in its tide. I put out into the world what I wanted so, guess what I did this morning (what I will be doing every Monday morning)? I bought another person a cup of coffee and I saw her smile in my rearview mirror when she pulled up to the window and she didn’t have to pay and THAT made my day. If I can brighten someone else’s day by such a simple gesture, why wouldn’t I do it every single time I can?
What random acts of kindness do you do when no one is looking?
I get that buying Starbucks for someone won’t change the world, but it might change someone’s day and that’s enough reason for me.