HuffPost Readers Pay It Forward: A Round-Up Of Random Acts Of Kindness

03/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Verena von Pfetten The Huffington Post

Earlier last week, and inspired by heart-warming stories of charity from around the country, we asked our readers to submit their own random acts of kindness, in the hopes of putting a spotlight on all the good hard work that's going on in communities around this country.

And less than a week later, we have been absolutely overwhelmed by you responses. We've pulled together some of those that caught our eye in the hopes that even more of you will be inspired, but know that these were not necessarily the best or the biggest -- because there is no such thing.

As Larry278 put it so well in a comment on our original post:

I wonder if one may do a random act of kindness if one chooses to do kindnesses in every moment of each day?

Without further ado:

My sister has been unemployed for a year. As a result, she was a year behind in her rent and on her way to being evicted.

Finding this out, I got the landlord information, and paid off all of the back rent she owed and paid her rent up front for the next year without her knowledge. She is a very proud woman and didn't ask me for help. She's been going through this struggle all alone and was spiraling into a severe depression.

She also admitted to me that she had contemplated suicide, once it became mandatory for her to leave her apartment. She'd had no luck finding a job in spite of sending out thousands of resumes and had not had a single interview since last summer.

When I gave her the copy of the check I wrote to her landlord today, she just cried and cried and thanked me.

I wanted to share this story with you because there are so many people out there, like my sister, who desperately need help. If we can all help just one person who is in dire need of help, we can all get through these difficult times together.

- SabrinaFair

A Mervin's department store closed and I was the last to buy some store fixtures. They asked me to also take a large pile of professionally cleaned coats, sweaters, umbrellas, gloves and such - the left-over lost-and-found. They didn't give it to Good Will because GW charges for things and they wanted them to people directly, for free. I accepted.

At a place that usually has a lot of homeless, two people told me to keep them until the winter rainy-season because they can't manage many belongings and didn't need them at the moment.

When it got cold and wet, I found the city had put up a chain link fence keeping people from going under this overpass and other areas nearby - there was no one! Arg!

Just yesterday, a rainy afternoon, I met a woman collecting money for charity for children outside a grocery store. In three hours she'd collected only $5, but she remarked what a nice umbrella I had. I asked about her circumstance and realized she wasn't well off at all - volunteering as she had no job (and was looking for work) - and had no umbrella. So, I gave it to her. She opened it up and with it, she lit up like a child with their first toy at Christmas. It was hard to believe she could be so happy over something so small, but I'm glad I had this burden handed to me by the man at the Mervin's store...


My wife and I were driving on a small state road in New Mexico in December when it started to snow. It got so bad I had to pull over in the middle of nowhere to put on snow chains. I was having a really hard time trying to put on the chains when a pickup truck pulled over and stopped. Out jumped a man in a suit, he was coming from church I think and asked if I needed help. I said sure and before I know it he took off his jacket and got down in the snow and put on my chains. Then he told me not to worry that the snow stopped further up the road. With that he wished me a merry christmas jumped back in his truck and took off down a side road. I don't even know his name. I would love to contact him to tell him how much I appreciate what he did. It renews my faith in mankind.

- John Martin

Although not an organized charitable event, I simply stopped for coffee at a local specialty coffee shop. The line was long and twisty, everyone anxious for their morning coffee. Apparently a repeat customer, a young man with developmental difficulties came to the head of the line and ordered a fancy blender concoction. As he struggled with counting his coins, he was oohing and aahing over how delicious the drink tastes. "It is so good with chocolate on top." The waitperson realized he did not have enough money and kindly said, "Hey Hank, you need a $1.47 more, bring it in next time, OK?" Hank nodded his head yes as he spun around with what can only be described as a look of pure joy on his face over this drink.

I was several patrons behind and involved in a juicy novel not paying much attention but thought to myself, I will just give them the $1.47 Hank owed when my turn comes up. When I mentioned this to the waitperson he said, "God, I love our customers!! Every single person in front of you has offered to pay the difference!" Not that it mattered as Hank's benefactor walked back in with him shortly thereafter and made good on the purchase. But still in the random stop of an overcast day, there was kindness flowing from people over something so simple. Our basic decency and willingness to help one another out in the smallest of situations is magical and for the briefest moments confirm that goodness prevails.

- Pamela Ehret

We are very poor African-Americans who learned from our parents, who were able to send us to private and parochial schools, the value of obtaining a good education and giving back to our community in a positive way. Although retired, we were able to take a few dollars from our savings account to provide bona-fide scholarship assistance to two young talented African-American female students, one of whom is presently a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

The following is a copy of the correspondence we received from one of the students (Kiara Thomas):

Dear Mr.and Mrs. Ronald B. Saunders,

I am so pleased and honored to receive this scholarship from you, and I can assure
you that your money is being spent well. You two are really blessings and angels from above.
There are so many people who are unable to attend college because of financial difficulties. Well, your family is helping those in need with your contribution.

I participated in the Miss Black Teenage Beauty Pageant in 2001 and won the title in 2004. The pageant contributed so much to my life and I owe part of my success to the teachings and examples of the dignified men and women on staff.

Currently I am a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. My major is psychology. I have a cumulative gpa of 3.3 and I will be graduating in May of 2009. I plan to go straight into graduate school with my concentration in counseling.

Once again I appreciate and humbly accept and thank you for this scholarship.

With gratitude,
Kiara Thomas

- Ronald B. Saunders

I have a friend in plenty of debt whose car died. I made her a zero-interest loan so she could buy a good used car with cash and I'm waiting for her to get her budget together so I can pay off her credit cards and arrange a payment schedule for her to repay me. It's too much money to make a gift and I want her to get out of trouble but feel good about doing it herself.

- Jane

My partner and I have been blessed with a caregiver Julia, who has been helping us care for Donna's 95-year old mother for two years. We live in New Jersey. Recently, Julia's mother, who was ailing in a nursing home in South Carolina, passed away. Julia, who lives from week to week on our paycheck, and has a daughter at home who recently had a baby and for whom she also cares, did not have money enough to join the rest of her family and attend her mother's burial. Donna paid for her trip and gave her money to live on besides while she was grieving.

We consider Julia a part of our family, not just a professional helper. We feel that because she came into our lives, she is part of our responsibility, part of our human family and we owe it to her to be there for her and her family in times of trouble. We feel this is the attitude that people in general, and Americans in particular need to cultivate, and that our new president understands profoundly will be key to a safe and healthy future for us all.

- Francesca Jenkins


And then there were two stories that serve as a poignant reminder that random acts of kindness are just that: random. They don't have to occur in the here and now, or be done by those who have to help those who have not. Often, they are just the opposite.

I was in a serious car accident in India. I spent 6 weeks in the medical intensive care unit and was then discharged. A pregnant nurse from the ICU invited me to stay at her home while my recovery continued. She showed me to a bedroom and attached bath, which I used. I later observed that she and her husband, having given me their room, slept on a table top and used the outdoor bathroom. I learned from this incident that the people with the least to give are the most generous.

- Abbe Anderson

I wear my Birkenstocks until they're absolutely worn through, until the cork has fallen away from the toes and the soles separate, causing them to slap loudly against the pavement as I walk. While working at an NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I realized my latest pair of had run their course. They'd shod my old feet through several countries and different lives, but it was time to put them to pasture. I threw them into the alleyway behind my little flat which is located in one of the most impoverished areas of the world and where much of the local economy is based on picking recyclables from an enormous, gaseous garbage dump. With this in mind, I figured the remnants of my sandals would somehow be put to good use.

The next day, when I returned fr om work, there lay a pair of sandals at my door -- MY sandals. They'd been glued, sewed, cleaned, buffed, and some kind of epoxy was filled into the cracks of the cork soles. It'd been an ingenious repair, too; one I would never have thought to make. I asked my landlord, the cleaning woman, my one knew who'd done the work. In this incredibly stressed community, someone committed a simple, random act of kindness. That was a year ago. I still wear them now and seldom does a day go by that I don't think of that kindness.

- Todd Eliassen


We hope your hearts have been warmed as much as ours have. And for more inspiration, we highly recommend reading the comment thread on our original post. We mentioned earlier that "these stories are a much needed counterpoint to all the doom and gloom" and that with your help we'd do our best to "change the conversation." Well, rest assured, that's one conversation that's already been changed. Let's keep it going!