If you've ever been the recipient of an unexpected favor, you know how nice it feels when someone is--well, nice. And when you're the one doing a good deed, you can feel good about trying to be the best version of yourself. It's a way of depositing currency in your "no regrets" account--the one you'll access when you get to the end of your time on this planet.
1. Give up your aisle seat.
My husband has a hard time when he gets stuck sitting between strangers on an airplane. Knowing how much this stresses him, when I see someone physically larger than myself sitting in that dreaded spot I often will offer my aisle seat in trade. If you're feeling peaceful with an ample reserve of mental energy, this little thing can completely turn someone's day around.
2. Invite a neighbor to go on a walk.
Loneliness is a modern epidemic which actually kills people. Fight against this reality by hanging out with the people who live near you. They're the most convenient population on which you can bestow good deeds.
3. Divide plants and share them with others.
Lots of plants do better when you split them up every few years, including rhubarb, hostas, horseradish, asters, yarrow, peonies, and daylilies. Who in your circles would appreciate this kind of green gift?
4. Offer to take an old person to the store.
Young people take their mobility for granted. At a certain age, though, driving becomes scary and lots of people end up feeling trapped in their homes. You have no idea the kind of freedom you and your car can provide.
5. Bake something delicious and deliver it to someone not expecting your attention.
Warm chocolate chip cookies, pie of any sort, or brownies topped with chocolate frosting will never fail.
6. Teach a kid to play a card game.
Anything you can do to get younglings' heads up and off their devices is an honorable pursuit. Whether it's cribbage, hearts, 500, or some other old-school diversion, playing card games is a sneaky way to spend time with--and influence--the young people in your world.
7. Write a note (or make a visit) to thank someone who made a positive impact on your life.
When I was a kid, my dad headed the youth program at our church and took packs of teenagers camping and pitted them against each other in softball games. At my parents' 50-year anniversary party, a middle-aged man--once part of the youth group my dad led--came up to my dad and said, "Bob, I just wanted you to know you made a big impact on my life and I want to thank you." Those 21 words may have meant more to my dad than any other he ever heard.
8. Show up with a smile on your face.
Everybody has social, family, and career obligations that can feel burdensome. Be the bigger person, don't complain, and stay present in the moment.
9. Pay for the person behind you at the drive through.
It's a classic good deed, but if you've ever been the recipient of a free coffee or burger, you know this kind of surprise can make a day brighter.
You're not going to be kind 100 percent of the time, unfortunately. After the fact--in those uncomfortable moments when you realize you've said or done the wrong thing, or you've hurt someone--be humble and admit you were a jerk.