Random Acts of Kindness

***This post is part of the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest by Wayman Publishing, May 27 – 31, 2013. Visit the blogfest for free downloads of ebooks, including Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales.***

A Smile and a Good Deed: Random Acts of Kindness

I still remember her, all these years later.

About 15 years ago, walking past tall buildings near 15th and J streets in downtown Sacramento, I was lost in thought and feeling a little sad. I looked up and saw a young woman with short brown hair and a radiant smile passing by.

“Hi!” she said and looked me in the eyes, as though to say, “I see you. I acknowledge you. Everything will be okay. ” Her face was full of joy and kindness.

I smiled back. Then I thought about what a gift it was, her smile. How did she know it was exactly what I needed at that moment?

Two strangers acknowledging each other’s existence. No big deal, right? But these days, when everyone is so rushed and busy and dealing with a daily dose of information overload, I believe it can be a powerful, positive act.

The smiling girl is a memory I revisit when I need a boost. When I need something that restores my faith in humanity.

Another memory does that for me, too. I was 20 years old, working as a summer intern in the features department of the New York Daily News. I didn’t know anyone except for my co-workers. I didn’t have any friends to hang out with. So my weekend adventures consisted of walking to the bus stop from my rented attic bedroom in Flushing, Queens, and adventuring solo into Manhattan, riding the subways and walking to museums, Central Park, and other famous landmarks like Trump Tower, Macy’s, FAO Schwarz, the Empire State Building, and the World Trade Center.

I didn’t feel lonely when I was out in the world, around other people. Playing tourist and seeing the sights gave me a goal that took my mind off being by myself for the summer. I love people-watching, and New York City is one of the best places for that.

One day, I inadvertently took an express train to The Bronx, what people had told me–and what I knew from movies–was one of the tough boroughs. (This was 1990, four years before Rudy Giuliani became mayor, cracked down on crime and cleaned up the subways.) I immediately realized my mistake, but could do nothing except watch the platforms speed by in a blur and the street numbers rise into the 100s.

I worried aloud about my mistake to the closest kind-looking person I saw, a handsome and serious man in his early 30s. He admitted he had made the same error. I’m sure he could see how scared I was. He looked concerned himself. We got off at the next stop, somewhere in Harlem, I think, and waited nervously for another train to take us back downtown.

The stink of body odor and urine was strong in this warm, underground world. As we kept a suspicious eye on the handful of scraggly–and frankly, scary–people who milled around the graffiti-scarred station in dirty clothing, he mentioned that he used to live in New York. He married a woman from Sweden and they moved to Europe. He was just visiting for a few days.

A train finally showed up and we boarded. I thanked him for staying with me and we exchanged smiles and goodbyes as he exited a few stops before I did in Manhattan. I’ll always remember this kind stranger guiding and protecting me.

One beautiful thing about random acts of kindness is that they don’t have to cost money. And yet, they can be priceless. The act can be as small as holding a door open, giving an encouraging word, or smiling and saying hello.

Or helping a lost stranger find her way back to familiar ground.

Katherine Valdez is the author of Little Red Riding Hood Seeks Vengeance, featured in the anthology Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales (Wayman Publishing). Like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AuthorKatherineValdez.

***This post is part of the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest by Wayman Publishing, May 27 – 31, 2013. Visit the blogfest for free downloads of ebooks, including Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales.***



  1. You make a great point, Katherine. Sometimes it’s the small gestures that make a huge difference. When a little thing like a smile can make us feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s a powerful lesson that we need to pay attention to the people around us….and smile at them lots more often.

  2. “Hi!” she said and looked me in the eyes, as though to say, “I see you. I acknowledge you. Everything will be okay. ” Love this. Such a small gesture that let’s someone know that they matter in this world. 😉

  3. Smiling is always a grand way to spread the kindness. People today seem to forget the world around them, that there are others out there, and that just simply smiling and saying hi is of itself a great gift.
    Thank you and keep smiling!

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