Lately, I've noticed a trend in good will. Call me blindingly optimistic, but there seems to be a rise in random acts of kindness around the country. The latest: a total stranger went into a Michigan Kmart and paid layaway bills for three random customers. Her only requirements, according to Consumerist, was that the layaway orders include toys and that each beneficiary receive the following note when they checked out: "Happy Holidays from a friend".
All told, the generous donor dropped $500 on other people's tabs. When a clerk asked her why she was doing this, she said: "I just want to help people."
This reminds me of another recent pay-it-forward moment in September, when patrons at an Oregon Diner started picking up checks for other tables creating a domino effect of kindness that lasted the entire day.
"People were just pointing to tables," a restaurant manager said at the time. "Nobody knew each other."
Again in November, the good samaritan movement went on the move, this time in Minnesota, when a stranger paid every riders' bus fare for the day. It was his way of repaying karma for returning his lost wallet a few days back, without a dime missing.
The following week, a man identified only as "Secret Santa" handed out $100 bills at a bus terminal in Reading, PA. After reading the city was the poorest in the country, he hit the most poverty stricken areas within the community, distributing by hand an estimated $20,000. "It's time for us to step up, not step back," the mysterious donor told the local news.
At the start of December, a Des Moines woman walked into city hall to pay her water bill and walked out having paid bills belonging to 17 other total strangers. Her $1,640 donation ensured several families would have running water during the cold months of winter, regardless of their employment status.
In a time of global financial instability, when unemployment is practically an epidemic, it's surprising that small acts of monetary generosity are on the rise. Aren't people more likely to be hoarding their savings more than ever? Here's a theory: acts of no-strings-attached giving triggers positive emotions in the brain. It's called elevation psychology. Studies, most recently at Stanford University, have shown that altruistic people are generally happier, more satisfied and may even live longer. Maybe it's because of the way a simple exchange fosters community. But I think the best part about it, is the reminder that money isn't just spent or saved, it's also sometimes shared. The concept exerts a little more control over the dollar: it doesn't just depend on the economic climate, but on the individual.
Maybe that's why this whole good will fever is so contagious. Look how fast and wide it's spread this year. Have you been involved in a random act of kindness recently?
Tips for raising kind kids
5 random acts of kindness
Chef sells restaurant for $100 and a promise
The pay it forward restaurant
What's your favorite DIY gift to receive?
PICK OF THE DAY
- Bad financial habits to ditch in 2013 Financially Fit