Without a doubt, it was contagious. In less than 30 days, the phenomenon had affected countless numbers, traveled from coast to coast — even internationally — and spread smiles ear to ear.
The random acts of kindness had multiplied at an astonishing rate, all because of a birthday invitation from Kristi Black to her Facebook friends one year.
“It’s one thing to do it yourself,” the northern Virginia woman said as she reminisced about her choice to celebrate her birthday milestone with random presents to others, “but then to get all your friends involved…” her voice trailed off.
Because of their busy lives, she was hesitant about including them in her unique monthlong birthday celebration that year. Even so, she decided to give it a try and set up the Facebook Random Acts of Kindness page, complete with a creative invitation to join her in the project. Friends could respond with the “going” reply — and then it was “party on!”
“A group of people right away said they were going to do it,” Kristi said as she recalled her idea to give gifts to strangers during her birthday month. “It started slow, then one of my friends shared with her friend and then another shared. That’s when it took off — friends of friends.”
Word spread to at least 16 states, stretching north to south from Maine to Georgia, and east to west from Florida to Washington and even Hawaii. But the random acts of kindness didn’t stop on our country’s shores. From as far away as Peru, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand and St. Croix, the birthday celebration rocked with kind deeds.
Free lattes surprised unsuspecting customers at Starbucks drive-through windows; quarters filled gumball machines and overdue parking meters; smiley-face cookies brightened a dreary day for cancer patients.
The list of thoughtful gestures is long; some as simple as helping an elderly woman find her car in a store parking lot, another as complex as aiding women trapped in human trafficking.
For Kristi, her random acts of kindness she performs regularly around town have seemed at times to be divine direction.
“I often ask in a little prayer, ‘What am I going to do with these cookies … or if someone needs this, please lead me,’” the mother of four said about her routine prior to setting off on busy days. “Then I’d miss my turn and see where to give.”
A pediatric hospital ward, an animal shelter and a food program with weary volunteers have been special places touched by “angels” like Kristi — friends who wanted to celebrate her life by showing compassion, thoughtfulness and love.
“I think people who are givers know how good it feels to give when it’s not expected,” she said about the happiness she experiences as she randomly affects the lives of others.
And because of Kristi’s birthday wish that year — “no gifts for me, just others” — there were people throughout the U.S. and across a continent who felt the sheer joy of giving for no other reason than to be kind to another human being.
Perhaps the world is a little brighter, a little softer because of their actions. And just maybe the idea of loving one another every single day will catch on.
Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.