I used to work as a cashier at a popular Mexican cafeteria-style restaurant. One of my favorite things about working there was when random customers would step in and pay for other people in line.
Sometimes a customer paid for a person who forgot their wallet. Sometimes they covered a military service member’s meal. Sometimes they paid as a random act of generosity meant to brighten someone’s day.
All I know is that myself, the receiver, and the bystanders felt as though the world was a kinder, more generous place when it happened.
An act of generosity is something that you do for the benefit of others. It is a conscious act that embraces the virtue of selfless giving in order to spread kindness and love to one person, your community, or the world at large.
They can be big or small, random or planned out. Often, they are done anonymously.
The point of an act of generosity is to help people, monetarily or emotionally, to make their day a little brighter and to inspire more kindness in the world.
If you want to brighten the day of others and help make the world a more kind place, one of the best things you can do is start practicing acts of generosity.
Studies show that witnessing acts of generosity or kindness produces oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel connected and loved. When we give or receive acts of generosity, we also get a boost of serotonin, another hormone associated with happiness and well-being.
This research shows that acts of generosity don’t just help the receiver; they positively affect the doer and those who witness or hear about the act.
Don’t know where to start? Below are 10 real-life acts of generosity that you can start with to spread kindness and love to others.
1. Volunteer Your Time
A tried and true act of generosity is volunteering your time. Time is valuable and when you give it freely to a cause that helps others, you are performing a selfless act that benefits everyone.
You can volunteer for a number of non-profit organizations that need people to carry out their altruistic mission.
Make a list of causes you believe in, then go to Volunteermatch.com to discover organizations in your area. Consider the following types of organizations:
- Animals shelters
- Homeless shelters
- Food drives
- Religious organizations
- Women’s shelters
- Meal delivery services
2. Pay for Someone’s Groceries
If you have the means to do so, foot the bill for someone’s groceries.
A few years ago I was a struggling single mother with a new baby. Stressed and overwhelmed, I went through the line at the grocery store one day only to find out that my card was declined. I felt embarrassed and was near tears when the man behind me offered to pay for my groceries.
His act of kindness helped me remember that there are caring people in the world and allowed me to bring food home that week. Paying for someone’s food is a generous way to help a person who may really need it.
3. Donate Unwanted Items
As of 2017, 11.5 million tons of textiles, including shirts, towels, curtains, and other household fabric pieces end up in American landfills every year, adding to problems with pollution and putting toxic chemicals into the environment.
Donating your unwanted items is a twofold act of generosity.
Not only do you help reduce the amount of textile waste in landfills, which is kind to the environment, you also help make these items available to people who cannot afford brand new clothing or household goods.
This act of kindness is super simple and a great choice for introverts who are uncomfortable with face-to-face actions.
4. Pick Up Litter
Another act of generosity that helps you give back to the community and the environment is picking up litter in your city or along the major roadways.
During the 2020 lockdown, residents of Chicago spent time outdoors collecting trash from neighborhoods and county parks in order to get outside and help the community.
They reported feeling like they were doing their part to give back. It gave them a sense of peace and accomplishment to clean up the areas where they live.
If you are looking for an anonymous way to give back, consider picking up litter to beautify the area and connect to your community. Doing so helps in a practical way, but it can also help you find more meaning in life and feel a sense of belonging.
5. Give a Gift Card
Giving a gift card is an act of generosity that you can do for anyone in almost any setting.
This is a great choice because you can buy a gift card that can be used anywhere and put whatever amount you can afford.
You can also give gift cards to different people in different ways. Consider leaving a gift card on the desk of a coworker, mail it to a family member or a random person’s address.
You can also buy a gift card then ask a cashier to hand it to the next person in line. However you give the gift card, you can be sure that the person who receives it will feel special and cared for.
6. Help the Elderly
Helping the elderly is an act of generosity that caters to one o the most overlooked populations of people in society.
It feels wonderful to help this vulnerable group of people and it brings such happiness to their lives. You can help the elderly by:
- Volunteering with Meals on Wheels
- Getting involved with the National Council on Aging
- Volunteering at a Nursing Home
- Offering free grocery pick up and drop off to seniors
7. Give Blood
Giving blood is an act of generosity that requires you to give a part of yourself in order to help others.
One blood donation can save the lives of three people, making this one of the most selfless and necessary acts of kindness on the planet.
To perform this vital act of kindness, find a blood drive near you by searching your zip code on redcrossblood.org.
8. Return Shopping Carts
Although this act of kindness may not seem as important as donating blood, returning the shopping carts to the cart return is a small act of kindness that is appreciated by many.
People often leave carts in random areas of the parking lot, causing damage to cars and more work for employees who have to round up the carts.
By taking a small amount of time to return your cart and other carts you see sitting around, you are helping keep the area organized and prevent frustrating incidents with metal carts.
9. Share Your Knowledge for Free
If you have specialized knowledge in some area, consider sharing it for free.
Offer free consulting during a community event or hold a free conference at your local library.
Often people with knowledge charge lots of money for courses and seminars, leaving those who can’t afford these types of events behind. By sharing your expertise with your local community for free, you are performing an act of generosity for those around you to better themselves and grow.
10. Leave Positive Notes
Everyone loves to hear compliments or receive words of support and encouragement.
Giving compliments to others uplifts both parties and boosts happiness. One act of kindness you can easily perform is to leave positive notes for those around you.
You can handwrite these notes or print them out on cards to leave on people’s windshields or hand them out as you walk by.
Find Your Anchor is a suicide prevention organization that started with this concept in mind. The founder creates boxes with positive, encouraging statements and helpful resources then distributes them to people in need.
This type of act of generosity, whether it is to someone you know or a random stranger, can put a smile on their face or even possibly save their life.
Change Your Life By Changing the Lives of Others
Performing acts of generosity is a wonderful way to change your own life and the lives of others.
The great thing is that they don’t take tons of organization or resources to perform. If you are able to give monetary, do so, but if not, there are plenty of things you can do to help others for free.
The important thing is that you perform these acts with an open heart and a giving spirit. The results will quite literally spread kindness and happiness to those involved.