Culture

Seven Acts of Kindness to Express Your Gratitude

(Getty Images)

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, our social media streams fill up with people expressing their thankfulness. Of course, we’re supposed to be thankful in November. But what about the rest of the year?

Gratitude is a lost art these days. In our era of grievances and entitlement, hardly anyone expresses thankfulness as they should.

In honor of Thanksgiving week, here are seven ways to express gratitude through acts of kindness. These are things we don’t have to save for a special holiday – we can do these things any time of year. My hope is to inspire you to make gratitude a regular part of your routine.

7. Plan a special day or event for a loved one

Nothing expresses thanks like time with a person you love. If you’re grateful for a friend or family member, show him or her by planning some special time with them. You can enjoy a whole day or just a couple of hours, and the time you spend with them can be a wonderful expression of your thankfulness.

Take your loved one out to eat or cook a favorite meal. Go out for ice cream or drinks. Enjoy a movie or sporting event. You can plan something elaborate or simple, but the sentiment is the same. You’re thanking that person for who they are and for what they mean to you.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make someone feel special. Time is a precious gift that can mean so much.

6. Give a big tip

Restaurant staff have it rough sometimes. Most states’ laws allow their bosses to pay them minimally so that they have to rely on tips to make a living. Far too often, servers don’t get the tips they deserve. Sure, we may go out of our way to tip a little more when the service is stellar, but that doesn’t mean that their other diners are doing the same thing.

Once in a while, it’s fun to give a server a larger tip. I’ll never forget going on a business trip several years ago, and my boss at the time gave the waitress a $100 tip. We found out later that she was a struggling college student, so she was extremely grateful.

The tip doesn’t have to be $100 or even $50. An extra $10 or $20 will go a long way to help a server financially – and brighten his or her day. It will make you feel good too.

5. Pay for a stranger’s coffee

Occasionally our gratitude isn’t aimed at a specific person or group of people. We can overflow with joy for the general blessings in our lives. When those moments come, it’s fun to pay for a stranger’s coffee.

So many people grab a cup of coffee every morning, and it can make an impact on someone when they find out that their coffee is free. And it’s so simple to do: just hand the cashier or barista a five-dollar bill and tell them to apply it to the next customer’s coffee. Another idea is to tell the employee to save the payment for someone who looks deserving or appears to be having a rough day.

I like to pay for a coffee anonymously. That’s especially fun for me because it deflects the credit off of me and adds an extra measure of joy. Who knows? The person for whom you bought a coffee may even pay it forward.

4. Give a restaurant gift card to a homeless person

It’s sad to see homeless people on the streets, yet we can sometimes look at the ones who ask for money through a cynical lens. Will they use the money for alcohol or drugs? Will the small amount we can give help them?

One way to show how grateful you are for your blessed life – and to give to someone in need – is to give a restaurant gift card to that homeless person. Pick a place that is fairly ubiquitous and easy to get to and buy a $5 or $10 gift card to share. I like to give Subway gift cards because Subways are everywhere and it’s a relatively healthy fast-food option.

You’ll be surprised how the gift of something to eat will make a homeless person’s day. You’ll be blessed by giving it too.

3. Create a handmade gift

Here’s the deal: modern technology makes it too easy for us to give someone a gift without putting too much thought and effort into it. I lean on gift cards far too often, and you may be able to identify with this sentiment too.

Nothing says “thank you” like something that you’ve made yourself. Now, I know this can be easier said than done. If you’re “crafty,” it’s easy. It can also be simple if you’re good at cooking.

If you’re artistically disinclined, or if your food will never pass a Paul Hollywood judgment, what do you do? There are plenty of options. You can make ready-made cookie dough or brownie batter work, and the heartfelt sentiment is still special. If you know a local craftsperson who can create something custom for you, that’s another option.

Don’t be afraid of handmade gifts, because they can make a massive impact as a special way to express gratitude.

2. Buy a meal for a first responder or member of the military

Our military and first responders sometimes have the most thankless jobs. Too many people treat them poorly and see the worst in what they do. So it’s crucial for those of us who appreciate them to express our gratitude.

It’s one thing to verbally thank a public servant for what they do, but it’s a whole other thing to put your money where your mouth is and buy a meal for a first responder or member of the military.

Many restaurants will gladly accommodate your request to pay for someone else’s meal. I recently paid for a pizza for a soldier at a local place where I trust the staff, and the restaurant held my card and brought it back to me when the soldier had gone through the line. Not all restaurants can do that, but you can give a cashier or server cash to pay for the meal or figure out another creative way to pay.

It’s even more fun when you can pay anonymously. I like to make sure people don’t know when I pay for their meal, because then they don’t feel compelled to thank me. Give it a try!

1. Write a thank-you note

Think about the last time you received a handwritten note in the mail. I’m sure it made an impact on you, especially if it was a surprise.

It’s easy to forget the power of a handwritten note. These days, we rely on texts, emails, and social media posts for so many of our expressions that notes are rare. I’d also be inclined to say that our postmodern culture has taken an emphasis off of gratitude.

The thought and effort involved in writing a note make receiving one extra special. There’s also a personal touch to a handwritten note that electronic communication can’t duplicate.

A thank-you note doesn’t have to be eloquent or poetic; it just needs to be honest and thoughtful. If you express your gratitude out of the overflow of your heart, the note will be special, and the recipient will cherish it.

Try sending a thank-you note this week. I’m sure it will do your heart as much good as it will lift the spirit of your recipient.

Happy Thanksgiving. May we always find opportunities to express gratitude.