30 acts of kindness. 1 act of meanness.

So: December 28. My Year of 40 is almost over. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I owe you the rest of the details about November, my month of “small kindnesses.” I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting my follow-up post, revealing those kindnesses. You haven’t been able to sleep, so much have you been anticipating this post!

Toss and turn no more, dear reader. Below, I offer you the complete set: 30 acts of kindness, and as a bonus, one meanness.¹

My month of small kindnesses, in chronological order (one per day):

  1. Sent out a copy of the slides from my resume workshop to a number of attendees who had requested them.
  2. Had coffee and gave career advice to a woman who had sought me out.
  3. Did additional research into possible VC firms for our next fundraising round.
  4. Donated to the Entelo Movember campaign.
  5. Helped anthropologists by tagging penguins and identifying African animals.
  6. Donated rice via World Food Programme by playing vocabulary and geography games.
  7. Gave the doormen in our building their favorite treats. Also, gave a Walgreens gift card to a homeless man.
  8. Complimented a woman on her dress. Gave away some Hillary tattoos.
  9. Unloaded dishwasher at work. Gave my au pair a break by picking up kids at school and giving them baths.
  10. Bought coffee for a colleague.
  11. Reached out to one of our junior employees for a post-election “walk and talk.”
  12. Brought Theron with me to the grocery store.
  13. Gave up my seat toward the front of the plane (for a worse seat) so that a couple could sit together.
  14. Bussed my table’s dishes at a conference.
  15. Bought coffee for a homeless man.
  16. Went in the hot tub with G even though I just wanted to go to bed.²
  17. Gave a banana to a homeless woman.
  18. Gave an orange to the doorman at work. Met a woman for coffee to help her problem-solve at her new job. Cleaned kitchen even though it wasn’t my mess.
  19. Let the kids do yoga with me.
  20. Took the kids to get haircuts (giving G a break).
  21. Bought more salad for the company lunch when we ran out.
  22. Prepared and served hot chocolate and cider to our employees.
  23. Made homemade chili for dinner for friends & family.
  24. Erred on the side of generosity when filling out evaluations of my peers.
  25. Brought my niece and nephew to the park.
  26. Managed lunch orders for extended family.
  27. Bought holiday gifts that give back.³
  28. Volunteered at Glide; gave a Walgreens gift card to a homeless woman.
  29. Agreed to host my peer networking group when the original host backed out.
  30. Gave up my favorite seat on the ferry.

Looking back on the list, I’m struck by how truly small some of the kindnesses are. For example: giving a person a compliment is something that requires no extra effort, time, or money on my part. And yet, it undoubtedly gave the recipient a boost, perhaps even made her day. I’ve enjoyed this nudge out of my comfort zone- and really, a small nudge has been all that is required to bring these kindnesses to the surface.

Still, I am no saint. I had one massive unkindness that I’d like to own up to.


  1. Took movie seats for me and two of my children from a woman who had been saving them.

I cringe even writing that. But I did it. On November 29, at the 3:30 screening of Moana. I can try to explain it away (the movie was starting; two teenagers on the other side of the block of seats told me to do it; there were no other seats together left in the theater; I was desperate)– but the fact remains, I should not have done that. The woman saving the seats was angry — as I would have been, in her shoes.


Does my act of meanness take away from my acts of kindness? I know we are yin and yang; we have both aspects in each of us. While I don’t think I can completely purge myself of all meanness, perhaps the more that I focus on kindness, the fewer such meannesses will ever surface. Perhaps the nudge toward kindness will no longer be required, because kindness will become my new default.

My main takeaway from the month is that being a kind person feels good (a lot better than the feeling of taking someone’s saved seats), and that generally speaking, there are opportunities to be kind all around us. We just have to look for them.

* * * * *

¹I’m sure there were others. This is the one that has stuck with me.

²I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t really count. Look, not every kindness has to be a hardship on me, okay?

³I have been doing more of this in recent years. I like giving gifts that have a positive impact somewhere else, in addition to the recipient. Some of my favorite sites for this:

Do you have other favorites? Please leave them in the comments!