Saturday, January 31, 2015

Random acts of (goofy) kindness

My favorite random act of goofy kindness was one I read about years ago, in the Penn & Teller book How to Play With Your Food. Penn Jillette was in a diner once, back in the day, and when he saw "red Jell-O" on the menu he decided to randomly buy some for another customer, a big tough-looking guy. The guy asked his server who had paid for his wobbly dessert, went over to Penn and they talked for a while. Far from being annoyed, the customer was so pleased by the surprise that he vowed to pass it on, buying red Jell-O for other random strangers and telling them "Penn says hi." I loved that idea. Since then I've had several chances to engage in random acts of goofy kindness for others, and they've almost always been fun.

A few years after Captain Midnight and I were married, we were eating out at an Indian restaurant and reveling in the joys of mango lassi (mmmm, mango lassi). In fact we were so pleased by the lassi-tastic goodness of our meal that we felt the need to share it with someone else. On impulse, we called over a waiter and asked if we could anonymously buy a round of mango lassi for some college students at another table. He agreed, and then we had the fun of watching their reactions as everyone suddenly got an unexpected mango lassi. They tried fruitlessly to figure out who their benefactors were, as we finished our meal poker-faced and left with much giggling.

Another time, while crossing the Bay Bridge to go to San Francisco, we randomly paid the bridge toll for the car behind us. The man in that car was utterly befuddled. He kept speeding up to flank us, trying to figure out who we were and why we'd paid his bridge toll, and we just kept grinning and waving and making goofy faces at him until he finally determined we were insane and raced away -- which made us laugh even harder.

You don't have to spend lots of money to spread random acts of goofy kindness. Sometimes it's as simple as leaving a silly little note or an origami model where someone else will see it and smile. Sometimes it's writing an unexpected snailmail letter full of your completely fictitious adventures and sending it to a friend or acquaintance. It's not difficult -- you just get into the habit of adding a little unexpected delight to daily life.

Try it. It's fun!

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