February 17th was National Random Acts of Kindness Day, but you don’t need a special occasion to find ways to make other people’s days better! For college students with low budgets and limited resources, a kind gesture can seem like a daunting task to perform. Fortunately, with some help from Pinterest, a little creativity and a genuine desire to make people around you happy, anyone can complete a random act of kindness. While trying to accomplish my February goal of doing one random act of kindness a day, I have compiled a list of eight of my favorite “good deeds” I have attempted so far that any college student can easily pull off.
1. Pay it forward. What I love about paying it forward is that it can be as expensive or inexpensive as you’d like. Paying for someone’s order at places like Starbucks rarely costs more than five to ten dollars, but can make someone’s entire day!
2. Leave kind notes in unexpected places. As long as you have a paper and pen (what college student doesn’t?), this act of kindness is free and totally open to interpretation. You can write anything positive, ranging from inspirational quotes to simply telling someone that you hope they have a great day. Another great part of this is that you have thousands of different places to choose from to leave notes: on tables at restaurants, on cars, in books at the library, taped to bathroom mirrors- you name it! Sometimes all people need is a small reminder to smile and that they matter.
3. Treat yoself… and your neighbors. To me, there is nothing better than living on a dorm floor where everyone is one big family. A simple way to show your floormates how much you care about them is by leaving candy or snacks in the common room or kitchen! Who doesn’t love free food? Another option is leaving small things at everyone’s door around the holidays to get everyone in the spirit.
4. Have people “take what they need”. Just like #2, if you have a sheet of paper and a pen, you have everything you need to make a “Take What You Need” flyer. This is simply a paper labeled “Take What You Need” with the bottom of it cut into slips people can rip off saying things like “hope” and “motivation.”
5. Sit with someone who’s alone or offer a seat to someone who needs it. The atmosphere of college dining halls definitely pales in comparison to the intimidation factor we all remember from high school cafeterias, but everyone appreciates seeing a familiar face at dinner. If you see a classmate eating alone and they aren’t preoccupied with a computer or homework, go up to them and chat! It can make a boring meal that much better for them.
Another similar act is offering seats to people. I was sitting at a crowded coffee shop and saw that two girls had nowhere to sit and eat it so I invited them to eat at my table with me. After chatting with them, I found out one of them went to highschool with me and it was exciting getting to talk with someone who has a background similar to mine. You never know what can happen or who you’ll meet just from doing one kind gesture.
6. Give people recognition. Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Make Friends and Influence People, observed that “the royal road to a man’s heart is to talk about the things he treasures most.” Seeing and appreciating people’s talents and work is simple, and the ripple effect it produces is huge. Live with your eyes peeled for what makes the people around you great and have an attitude that you can learn and appreciate at least one thing about every person you encounter.
The girl who sits near you in class takes time every morning to do her makeup perfectly? Tell her how great it looks! A guy the floor below you is great at playing guitar? Let him know the next time you pass his room! This small exchange of words may seem like nothing to you, but saying kind words to someone about something they love can become part of the foundation of their confidence.
7. Be a substitute significant other. This idea is inspired by this past Valentine’s Day. Most college students have experienced the uncertainty that can come with dating in college and because of this, I always advise having a strong support system of best friends. If you know one of your friends is having boy problems or is lonely, anything as simple as giving them flowers or their favorite candy can remind them just how loved they are. There is never a bad time to make your best friends feel appreciated.
8. Snail mail. I am a huge advocate for written sentiments. Of course texts and and tagging your friends in Facebook posts can make them smile, but there’s no feeling quite like opening your mailbox and seeing a card. Letters are a great way to keep in touch with friends from home or even to make people you don’t know as well happy. Once, instead of doing a “Like for a honest DM” post, I tweeted that people could DM me their address and I would send them a card. That night I sent out nearly forty cards and it was really cool seeing how excited people were when they saw them. As a bonus, add little items to the letter like candy, confetti or coloring pages from stress relief coloring books.
I hope that these ideas serve as a basis for finding random acts of kindness for you to commit in your everyday life and that making others smile brings you joy. Always choose kindness!