Early on Sunday morning, my stomach fluttered with nerves as I approached the stranger’s door with a massive bouquet of flowers, and knocked. I wasn’t sure how this person would respond to being surprised by someone they didn’t know, especially before 9 a.m. on a weekend, but the reward of catching someone off-guard with an act of kindness was worth the risk.
A few days prior to this moment, I had put a random callout on Facebook asking if someone knew anyone living in Los Angeles that deserved to be surprised with a bouquet of flowers. A friend of mine sent me a direct message to tell me the poignant story of her friend Haley who unexpectedly lost her father just months before her wedding day. When I read about her circumstance, her story resonated deeply in my soul, and I wished I could do more for her than just deliver flowers. I felt, however, that no matter how small the gesture, acknowledging her pain and gifting the joy of flowers could do a lot to create a memory of light during a difficult time.
Most of all, I understood her pain: five years prior, I had also lost my dad unexpectedly. So when I heard about Haley’s loss, I remembered my own experience with grief — the deep unending sorrow, the loneliness, the confusion. What made the biggest difference to me during that intense period of grief was the kind people I hardly knew who showed up to support me in unprecedented ways. No matter how big or small the gesture, I felt less alone in my pain whenever someone did something to communicate, “I’m thinking of you.”
So, without Haley knowing, her friend helped me coordinate a time to come by her place and deliver the flowers with a small gift basket I put together filled with things I hoped would bring her comfort.
During the planning phase, things took a surprise turn.
Around that same time, I had been texting a guy I matched with on the dating app Hinge. After weeks of exchanging messages, he asked if I wanted to meet up, coincidentally on the day I planned to surprise Haley. While the guy had suggested we grab a drink, I decided to do one of the most vulnerable things I’ve ever done. I suggested that instead of meeting for drinks — like normal people — he instead accompany me on this random act of kindness. Much to my surprise, he said yes without hesitation. While I knew this was something unconventional to ask of someone on a first date (especially given the sensitive subject matter), I also thought performing a random act of kindness in the context of a date would be a more inspiring alternative to happy hour or coffee.
Beyond dating, when you create a meaningful context for connection to take place, it leads to a powerful experience. Right away when he picked me up to go flower shopping, we sailed beyond the initial facade of shallow first date banter and dove straight into deeper conversation. Then after surprising Haley, we held space for one another to discuss the emotional waves of the experience.
Haley was definitely surprised by the flowers and gift, but I think the most surprising part was how quickly we related to one another. I only stood at her door for a matter of minutes, but the experience has stayed with me since. No matter how grand or simple the gesture, I think we are here to uplift and support each other in any way we can. Sometimes giving back is as simple as giving someone a hug and flowers then letting them know they are not alone.
Here are Three Ways Random Acts of Kindness Make Your Happier
If you’ve always wanted to surprise someone with a good deed, there’s something in it not just for the recipient, but for you as well.
ONE: Kindness increases your Oxytocin levels, which can lead to less stress and better sleep.
TWO: Studies show, generosity gives you a boost of happiness because it can elevate your serotonin levels.
THREE: It gives you a win (read below).
I’ve found that when I am in a low place in my life for whatever reason, when I stop overthinking my circumstance and do something simple for someone else it gives me the sensation of a “win.” Let’s imagine you endured a failure recently, or were let down by something that didn’t go your way. It’s easy in that case feel overwhelmed by the sensations that come with negative thinking. Allowing ourselves to do something positive in the world gives us a greater sense of purpose and personal achievement, not to mention positive reinforcement.
I’d encourage you today to find a simple way to contribute, even if it means calling someone to thank them, or sending someone on FB a random note of appreciation. You are a powerful force for good in this world.