One for me, one for you

As I pointed out on Monday, being a hero can be as simple as just being kind to someone. I went to Starbucks last month during their buy-one-holiday-drink-get-one-free weekend and the guy in front of me gave me his free drink. Ok, he wasn’t exactly my hero, but he did make my day (especially since I’d escaped to Starbucks after watching my football team lose yet again).

Here’s another random act of kindness/karma story that I love telling: One of the colleges my dad and I visited in 2003 was Hahvahd. We were planning on going to a 1-hour information session and then a 1-hour campus tour right after that. We drove around Cambridge madly trying to find a parking spot and found one magically close to the campus. The only problem was that it was metered, and only accepted one hour of coins at a time. Since we didn’t have time to find a new spot, my dad decided he’d just run back before the tour and pump the meter.

Just after we got out of the rental car, we passed a homeless man who held out a plastic cup for donations. My dad said hi and gave him a dollar bill. I’m sure I rolled my eyes–who knew what the man would use the money for?

My dad and I went to the session as planned, and he joined up with me on the tour after putting in a few more quarters for our second hour. The tour lasted longer than expected though, and we walked briskly back to the car, worried about finding a ticket on our dashboard. Instead, as we neared the parking spot, the homeless man flagged us down. I saw the meter maid making rounds, he told us, so I put a few more quarters in your machine.

And thus, the only lesson I learned at Harvard had nothing to do with the school itself: kindness counts. Or, as Justin Timberlake likes to say, what goes around comes around.

Before the duffels come the presents!

Everyone loves it when a stranger does something kind for them, and a few companies have caught on. Here are my two favorite “RAK” campaigns (quoted from the trendwatching website):

“In December 2010, Spain based airline Spanair collaborated with creative agency Shackleton Group to surprise passengers on one of its late Christmas Eve flights. As the passengers waited to pick up their luggage at the carousel, the airline sent out personalized presents to everyone who was onboard as a way of celebrating the holiday.”

A gift certificate to offset the parking ticket

And: “Washington based eco-conscious restaurant chain Sweetgreen employs a street team to perform ‘Random Acts of Sweetness’ for its customers. Previous acts include covering people’s bike seats when it rains, or leaving gift certificates for drivers who’ve received parking tickets.”

I love these two examples, because the people on the receiving end probably needed the extra cheer more than usual. Because, as we know, nobody likes a parking ticket.