You can have Thanksgiving with or without turkey but you can’t have Thanksgiving without expressing gratitude. Simple acts of kindness were very visible in the days and weeks following Superstorm Sandy. Everyone thinks of New Yorkers and Jersey-ites as tough folk, but they were as busy thinking about their neighbors as about themselves in the aftermath of this catastrophic event.
It’s hard to imagine the “city that never sleeps” being totally dark below 40th Street. No power, which means no hot shower, no hot food, no heat, no elevators, no land line phones, no computer, no TV, no gas available for the car, and no way to charge the cell phone when texting is the only means of communication. So what happened?
A New York startup company named Moxy set up a cell-phone charging station that also broadcast Wi-Fi at a branch of Chase bank. Duracell, the battery company, drove its trucks into battered Battery Park with phone chargers and internet accessible laptops. Homes that had power set up extension cords and power strips so passersby could charge their phones. Even the CNN news truck that Anderson Cooper was working out of in the devastated city of Hoboken shared power for people to charge their phones and get online to assure loved ones of their safety. Gyms that had power opened their doors free to non-members so they could have showers and at least get in a work-out. Some doctors set out signs on the street offering free medical care. Various restaurants offered free meals. Individuals set up tables filled with snacks, or hot coffee. People whose homes had power brought in friends and sometimes total strangers to share a meal, a hot shower, or a place to sleep. A large veterinary practice offered free office visits for traumatized pets. Whole Foods set out free provisions. Everyone pitched in. Rather than further burdening official rescue workers, some private citizens took jet skis or row boats or even inflated air mattresses to bring stranded storm victims to dry land. Facebook and Twitter were flooded with offers of shelter and hot showers.
Why does it take an event of this magnitude to bring out the best in us?
It’s so easy to do something small and simple that can bring a smile to someone’s face, can lighten someone’s burden for a moment or two, or can actually change someone’s life. Here are 25 suggestions for simple acts of kindness:
- Help someone who is struggling with old age or heavy bags to cross the street.
- Stand up for someone who is being bullied.
- Offer to buy a meal for a homeless person.
- Pay the toll for the car behind you.
- For your birthday, get the same number of dollar bills as your age and hand them out during the day.
- Spread holiday cheer by paying for strangers to fill up their cars with gas.
- Post a request on social media for a homebound invalid to receive cards and well wishes.
- Stop to help an animal that has been injured.
- Stand near a busy street holding a sign that says “Love.”
- Put some coins in someone else’s parking meter.
- Send someone a note of thanks.
- Pay for the drinks or food at the next table in a restaurant.
- Give a big tip to someone who doesn’t expect it.
- Pick up trash instead of ignoring it.
- Compliment someone.
- Give another driver your parking spot.
- Let a car in front of you in traffic.
- Tell your family members or your co-workers or boss how much you appreciate them.
- Leave a book on a train or bus for someone else to read.
- Let that harried mother go ahead of you on line in the grocery store.
- Thank the people in your community who make a difference—the police, firemen, teachers, nurses, bus drivers . . .
- Cheer up the lonely.
- Clean up graffiti.
- Adopt a soldier.
Put the thanks back in Thanksgiving. You’ll be amazed at how doing something as small as smiling at a store clerk or sincerely thanking the person who prepared your holiday meal can make you feel better about yourself and the world. For my part, let me thank you for your willingness to work on yourselves and your interest in healing and higher consciousness.