25 Random Acts of Kindness

In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. --Deepak Choopra

Life can change so quickly. Recently, my sister, Alli, had life-threatening brain surgery. The outpouring of love and support from her friends was nothing short of astonishing. "There will not be just one emotion for the family," said a close friend. "There will be lots of different thoughts and advice." Alli's illness has had me thinking a lot about the acts of kindness that we do for others. Kate Hoepke, executive director of San Francisco Village (sfvillage.org), a nonprofit whose mission it is to enrich the experience of aging in San Francisco, said at their annual fundraising luncheon: "A lot of people don't know how to put value on their community. That should just exist. San Francisco Village is an intentional community where a network of volunteers come together to create something that wasn't there before."

On Every Street Corner

When I was growing up, I used to say that my sister knew someone on every street corner. And no matter where my travels took me later in life, I always met someone who knew my Alli. That was one of the first thoughts I had during the early days of her rehabilitation. Our family will long remember the intentional and exceptional acts of kindness from her village: friends praying for her and sending her positive energy; delivering daily dinners and setting up play dates; arranging school dropoffs and pickups for her children; running errands and sending texts, notes, and gifts for the family. Tokens of caring included a gold arrow bracelet sent to her from her Pi Phi sorority sisters symbolizing strength and sisterhood, and a heartfelt email from her BSS (Brain Surgery Sister), a new friend who had the same surgery the same day at Stanford. One friend flew in from Los Angeles (even though she works and has three kids of her own) to be with my sister the day before her surgery; another friend offered Alli her vacation home; another sorority sister took her eldest daughter with her family on spring break. Homemade muffins and scones were delivered warm to Alli's family for breakfast; Easter baskets were delivered for the kids, and the house was decorated on Easter week to look like a spring wonderland; a weekly driving spreadsheet was created for her doctors' appointments; laundry was outsourced and housekeepers were engaged; Cody, the family dog, was taken on walks; a boys' night out was arranged for my brother-in-law--and the list goes on.

As my sister moves through each phase of her recuperation, she has all the tools she needs to recover. For every rough patch and frustrating development she encounters, Alli is rewarded with measurable progress. In her own words: "It's hard enough being patient, let alone being a patient." Her job as wife and mother are on a temporary wellness vacation. For now, it's All About Alli.

All of this has reminded me that it's easy to put a smile on someone's face. Consider making someone's day with these acts of kindness:

1. Don't ask "How can I help?"--just help.
2. Send a greeting card, just because.
3. Take someone to lunch.
4. Offer to babysit.
5. Volunteer if someone needs a ride.
6. Put money in an expired meter.
7. Give a server a big tip.
8. Tell your friends how much you appreciate them.
9. Smile at a stranger.
10. Help an elderly person cross the street.
11. Compliment a stranger.
12. Cook a meal for someone who has just had a baby.
13. Offer a homeless person some food.
14. Share an overheard compliment.
15. Put a special note in a child's lunch.
16. Pick up trash on the street.
17. Offer to take the middle seat on the plane.
18. Help a tourist with directions.
19. Buy someone a coffee.
20. Hold the elevator.
21. Encourage a struggling server or clerk.
22. Say thank-you to a military person.
23. Donate books to a library.
24. Mentor a young person.
25. Tell your family how much you love them.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.