My main motivation for doing most things I do in my life is that I want to make the world a better place. And as much cliche as it is, well, it is what it is.
I’ve recently watched a clip from Jordan Peterson’s lecture and something that really resonated with me was the following quote (even though that wasn’t the main point of the talk):
You’re a node in a network. (…) You’ll know a thousand people at least, over the course of your life. (…) And the things you do, they’re like dropping a stone in the pond. The ripples move outwards and they affect things in ways you can’t fully comprehend. And it means that the things that you do and the things that you don’t do are far more important than you think.
We all have an impact on the world around us. It doesn’t always have to be a big impact, but sometimes small things matter and can just create a little bit more happiness out of thin air.
I think the culture we live in has a lot of issues, social alienation and lack of trust being one of them. And it is our actions, which on aggregate, create culture. So why don’t we change that bit by bit?
I personally have experience of living in two countries – Poland and Canada. In Poland, our national pride is in complaining, and so, the negative attitude is the default. Canadians on the other hand, are most well-known for being nice. And the fact that by default, strangers are nice to each other rather than by default being neutral (with a splash of distrust) really makes a difference in the quality of life.
So here’s a list of things which I sometimes do. Things that require minimal effort and are directed towards people I don’t know. Acts of kindness to random strangers. I hope it will inspire you to do them as well.
Compliment people whose work usually goes unnoticed. Or even better – people who, by design, go unnoticed if they’re good at their job. A couple of months ago I was at an event where a string orchestra was playing on a street. Getting the sound right in such settings is not simple, there are plenty of things that can go wrong. But everything sounded great so after they were finished I went to thank the sound technician for doing a good job. Another example – at the conference during a coffee break there were a couple of servers who were bringing food, taking dirty cups, etc. I stopped one of them and thanked one of them for doing his job well.
Smile at people. Whether on a street, on a bus, in a store, whenever you make eye contact, remember to smile.
When something you read on the Internet was really good, send an e-mail to the author saying: “Hey, I really liked your article. It was a good read, it really made me think!”. You don’t need to elaborate on how it changed your life or anything like that. Just letting someone know you read and liked it is a super nice thing already! Don’t take my word on it!
If you ride on a full bus and the stops are frequent, if you’re not in a rush you can get off one stop earlier and just walk those extra 5-10 minutes. This extra breathing space that you’ll create is not much, but it always makes it a tiny bit more comfortable!
Pick up trash from the ground. Our streets (and forests) sometimes look really terrible. It doesn’t take much to pick up stuff and throw it in a garbage bin. Also, when I see someone throwing a cigarette on the ground I pick it up and tell them that it should go to trash. Well, perhaps not the kindest thing to the person, but I find it kind to society.
Be patient. Sometimes there’s a long line in some office and the clerk tries their best but it’s not their fault things go slowly. And people in the line get angry, cause it takes so much time. Relax, notice that they try to do their best and even if you’re in a rush and annoyed, don’t lash out at them. Sometimes the system is broken, sometimes it’s bad luck, not necessarily their fault.
When I used to work at the office, when I was taking a break I sometimes just took a couple of apples, cut them in pieces, and offered them to the people I was passing in the office on my way back to my desk.
If you have stuff you no longer need, give it away. There are plenty of apps that allow you to do that. You gain some extra space and one less thing to worry about and perhaps someone will get what they need. I recently gave away a bunch of Polish books my kids outgrew and someone from Alberta wanted them, so I sent them a parcel. Win-win!
When you are in a supermarket and you see that the person behind you has only two items, while you have a full cart, just let them go first. Or in any other place where someone is nervous and seemingly in a rush – let them pass.
Hold the door for someone when you’re entering/exiting the public space. And if that’s a lot of people, just stand there for a minute until all the people leave.
When the airplane lands, if you don’t have a good reason, don’t rush to the exit. There’s a good chance that some people in that plane have a good reason to rush out. Also, plane boarding is already inefficient enough.
There are a lot of other things you can do to make the world a slightly better place for others and I encourage you to do them! These were only some that:
- I’ve personally did
- Truly don’t require much effort nor any money
- You can do for strangers, not your friends or family
Another good source of inspiration is Random Acts of Kindness website. If this blogpost inspires you to do sth kind to a stranger, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org! And if this resonates with you, perhaps the idea of Effective Altruism will also resonate with you :)
And for any Poles reading it, here’s a song by Łona which particularly resonates with me on this topic.
Have a nice day!