Often, when we think of people who inspire us, we gravitate towards those who seem larger than life, like celebrities, political leaders, and other important figures in history. But why should we only aspire to be larger than life when anyone and everyone has the ability to do amazing things every day?
You don't have to make a platinum music album, blockbuster movie, or a million dollars to make a difference. Ordinary people share extraordinary amounts of kindness every day. These good deeds — no matter how small — have a powerful impact, and not just on their recipient. According to a scientific study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, performing acts of kindness can improve your mood and emotional wellness. That's a heck of a reason to do something good.
While countless people show their love for others through kind gestures every day, here are seven of our favorites. From giving a little girl with Leukemia a one-of-a-kind gift, to surprising a grandmother with a trip to Disney World, these people prove a little kindness can go a long way. Sometimes, it goes even further than you could ever imagine:
1. Kelly McGuire gave her boots to a homeless person.
Kelly McGuire was walking home from a sports game when she passed a homeless woman sitting out in the cold. At first, she passed by the woman, but then something inspired McGuire to go back and speak to her. Just from their short chat, McGuire felt a special connection with the woman, named Amy, and gave her the winter boots right off her feet. Believe it or not, they were the same size. In return, Amy lent Kelly her old boots so she wouldn't be cold on her way home.
McGuire is no stranger to random acts of kindness. She gives cookies to the local fire department every Christmas Eve, drops off fruit and veggie trays for nurses and doctors working in the ER, and organizes donations for children whose parents are incarcerated. All those good deeds didn't go unnoticed. Ellen Degeneres invited McGuire onto her talk show and then surprised her with $20,000 to help her "pay it forward" even more.
2. Lorraine Jara created the "Be Kind To Humankind" project.
Created in 1988, the Be Kind to Humankind Week was Lorraine Jara's response to what she saw as people's harsh indifference to each other. Observed globally from August 25 to 31, this project is "a week of reflection and kind thoughts of others to make this world a better place." Each day has a different intention from "Touch-A-Heart Tuesday" to "Forgive Your Foe Friday."
Last year, Jara teamed up with Medical Daily to spread kindness among unsuspecting New Yorkers one particular day during Be Kind to Humankind week. They surprised them and paid for their snacks, while also encouraging them to be kind to others. While Jara always suggests "practicing kindness daily," she urges participants of Be Kind to Humankind Week to use this time each year to take it to the next level.
3. Alex Ruiz fed a customer with physical disabilities at his restaurant so he wouldn't go hungry.
During Alex Ruiz's regular Sunday shift serving at Cinco De Mayo Mexican Grill in Douglasville, Georgia, he heard a customer asking people for help. Not having hands, he needed some assistance to eat his meal. Without hesitation, Ruiz sat down, fed the customer, and stayed with him until he was finished.
Another restaurant patron, Reginald Widener, spotted Ruiz's act of kindness and decided to take a photo and post it to Facebook on April 24, 2016. Since then, the image has been shared over 2,000 times, amplifying the positive impact of Ruiz's gesture more than he could've ever imagined. This single act of kindness sparked countless others.
4. This man spent an entire plane ride walking up and down the aisle to comfort a crying toddler, giving the child's pregnant mother a much-needed break.
When many people hear a toddler crying in the middle of a flight, they start complaining. Not this guy. He started comforting the upset child so his pregnant mom could take a break. A father himself, according to fellow passenger Angela Bryd, the unnamed man spent the majority of the plane ride walking up and down the aisle to soothe the young boy.
Everyone on the plane appreciated the stranger's kind act, especially the child's mother. Byrd appreciated it so much, she was not only "in tears" on the flight but decided to share a photo of the experience on the Love What Matters Facebook page afterwards. Since its posting in September, the photo has received over 250,000 likes and more than 32,000 shares.
5. Keaton Hamin, a 9-year-old boy, gave a special present to a 7-year-old girl living with Leukemia.
Two youngsters proved it's never too early to learn or teach the gift the giving. Alyx Delaloye, a 7-year-old girl living with Leukemia, was at a Winnipeg Jets game with her family when she noticed a 9-year-old boy, Keaton Hamin, had won a signed hockey stick from the team. She ran down to admire the stick, but was surprised when he followed her back to her seat. Hamin gave Delaloye the hockey stick because, as he told CBC, "Right away, my instinct knew that I had to give it to Alyx. I felt bad for her that she had cancer and I wanted to give her a little support."
Delaloye couldn't believe Hamin would do something so nice for a complete stranger, but she gratefully accepted and thanked him with a hug. The Jets team was so impressed by Keaton's kindness, they gave him a second signed stick of his own.
6. Lucy Smith-Williams and Taylor Zisholtz surprised a hard-working cafe employee with a free trip to Disney World.
Lucy Smith-Williams and Taylor Zisholtz, two students at Elon University in North Carolina, have a very special relationship with Kathryn Thompson, a campus cafe employee. After talking to Thompson late one night in the cafe, the students learned one of her dreams was to take her family to Disney World.
Having seen how hard Thompson works and how much she invests in getting to know each and every student, Williams and Zisholtz were inspired to start a GoFundMe campaign to fund her dream vacation. In less than a month, they raised over $7,000. Through the kindness of others, Thompson was able to give her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons a magical trip none of them will ever forget.
Pedro "Tony" Abrego, a homeless man, was able to reunite with his son and daughter after 20 years, all thanks to the kind gesture of a liquor store employee, Juan Samhan. Friends with Abrego for ten years, Samhan wrote a sweet Facebook post urging those who saw it to help Abrego get back in touch with his family.
After Abrego and his wife separated years ago, he lost track of his two children. But within two days of Samhan's post going viral, he received a Facebook message from Abrego's daughter. She told Samhan that the family had been looking for her father for years and feared he'd passed away. Luckily, that was not the case and the family was able to share a heartfelt reunion.
Of course, these are just seven people whose random acts of kindness — no matter how big or small — have inspired us. There are countless more whose good deeds may not make big headlines, but make a huge difference to one person. Anyone can spark a positive change, and everyone should try.
Cover image via Unsplash