BY DANIELA USLAN
With all of the negative stories in the news, sometimes it’s nice to find tears running down your face for a different reason: a profound appreciation for the kind things people do for each other.
Some of the people in these stories give money to strangers, while others perform simple, caring acts for those they love. Many of these stories have inspired millions of people, and I hope they inspire you to do an act of kindness of your own.
A homeless man with a big heart
Riceman, a YouTuber who does social experiments and pranks, did an experiment in which he told people his brother was missing to see how they would react. The reaction of one homeless man showed him how generous a person — even with little means — can be.
The man was standing on the corner, holding up a sign reading “U.S. Vet in need, please help.” Riceman went up, gave the man some change, and told him that his brother was missing and to let him know if he saw him. When Riceman walked away, instead of holding up his own sign to passing cars, the man held up the sign with Riceman’s missing brother on it. He deliberately chose to stop asking for money for himself, in order to help Riceman.
When Riceman returned, he told the homeless man about the experiment and asked him why he chose to hold up the missing person’s sign rather than continuing to ask for money. The man told him, “What kind of a person would I be if I didn’t help someone else?” Riceman then gave him some cash and a hug, moved by his desire to help someone in need.
He paid for strangers’ groceries
High school friends Rob Westerman and Mike Lewis went to the Kroger store with four hundred dollars in their pockets. The money wasn’t meant to buy eggs and milk, however. Instead, the two friends used it to surprise 15 shoppers by buying their groceries for them.
You could see the shock and happiness in the shoppers’ eyes as they realized that this stranger just paid for their groceries. One woman offered to pay for the next person’s groceries. Another blew him a kiss and said, “I love you!” A third told the cashier, “That just gave me chills!” The final woman in the video cried so hard the cashier went around the counter and gave her a hug. “Now you’re going to make me cry,” she said.
“Let’s truly love our neighbor, whatever that looks like for you. We did this with no strings attached,” Westerman told Today. Lewis added that one of the women they helped that day later contacted them and shared that she had asked God for a sign because she was going through a rough time.
Westerman explained to Today, “Our goal is that people see this video and go out and be nice to people. Let someone over, in traffic, or smile at someone.”
His last wish was to give a $500 tip
Aaron Collins passed away just three weeks after his 30th birthday, but he left a legacy that has touched thousands of people. One of his final wishes was to give a waiter or waitress a $500 tip. When his brother Seth fulfilled his wish, giving a waitress a $500 tip at Puccini’s, in Lexington, Kentucky, he recorded a video and put it on YouTube. Within days, the video was viewed over one million times, and thirty thousand dollars had been donated to continue the cause, now known as “Aaron’s Last Wish.”
In the video, Collins gave the waitress, Sarah Ward, the $500 tip, explaining that his brother had just passed away and that giving a $500 tip was his final wish. Ward told him, “I’m going to be telling this story for the rest of my life.”
Over a hundred waitresses have now received $500 tips, all of which are chronicled on the Aaron’s Wish website. At first, Collins was only visiting restaurants in Lexington, but he has since given a $500 tip in every state in the U.S. He told NPR, “People have been programmed to think that good things can’t happen…and it makes me happy to, at least for a few of them, show that [they] can.”
She gave a homeless woman her boots
Kelly McGuire and her husband Sean were leaving a Bears game in Chicago when she spotted a homeless woman across the street. The woman held a sign reading “I am in need of winter boots and winter clothing items.”
McGuire had a bag of warm clothing with her because she had worn layers for the 30 degree weather, and then took them off while she was eating dinner. She wrote on her Facebook post, “I had everything in that bag that she needed. Shirts, sweatshirts, gloves, scarves, etc.”
After giving her the bag of clothing, McGuire sat down next to the woman and removed her boots, intending to walk to the train in her socks. That’s when the woman stopped her and offered her the old, dirty boots she had been wearing. McGuire wrote, “She, who had nothing, offered me these boots. Her boots. I wore them all the way home.”
Her story received thousands of shares on Facebook and she was invited onto the Ellen Show, where she shared her story again. At the end of the segment, Ellen gave McGuire ten thousand dollars, and instructed her to give a thousand dollars to ten friends, to pay it forward. Then Ellen gave her another ten thousand dollars for herself.
McGuire concluded her Facebook post, “If you have the urge to do something kind for someone, I encourage you to do it.”
A homeless man “wins the lottery”
Rahat, a YouTuber created a video in which gave a homeless man, Eric a “winning lottery ticket” and walked with him to a convenience store to cash it out. Rahat had already given the cashier one thousand dollars beforehand. Eric tried to give some of the money to Rahat. When he refused to take it, Eric cried and gave him a big hug. He said, “I’ve been doing this a long time. And I’ve never had somebody do what you just did back there.”
The original video went viral, and people wanted to help Eric. Rahat set up a fund, and in 17 days, raised $44 thousand. Rahat used the money to rent Eric a home, pay for his groceries, furniture, and utilities, and set up a joint bank account. When the two men arrived at Eric’s new house, and Rahat told him it was his, Eric clapped, cried, repeated, “Oh my God!” and laughed, as he pointed at the “Welcome Home” sign affixed to the wall. Then Eric faced the camera and said, “Everybody that helped me out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for sticking with me and I thank you for believing in me.”
In a third video, Eric used a thousand dollars of his own money to get a homeless man a motel room, in a true act of paying it forward.
He gave strangers secret Santa envelopes
Stuart Edge, another YouTube prankster, gave shoppers a merry Christmas by presenting them with red “secret Santa” envelopes, stuffed with handwritten notes, gift cards, and one hundred dollar bills.
He walked around the store, handing a red envelope to a shopper from under a clothing rack, dangling one over a woman and her children as they ate, and slipping one into someone’s shopping cart. Many of the recipients cried when they saw what was tucked inside.
At the end of the video, Edge shared, “The main reason I did this was to inspire others to go out and do the same thing,” adding that the gift cards were worth $250 from Best Western.
An 8-year-old bought dinner for a cop
Eight year old Mikayla Raji was eating with her mom at a pizzeria in New Jersey when she spotted a cop, Patrol Officer Quinn, picking up some food for dinner. Raji greeted Quinn and then asked her mom to pay for his food. According to the Jamesburg Police Department, Raji leaned over to her mom and said that she insisted on buying his dinner.
Afterward, the police department did a little detective work to find out who had paid for Quinn’s dinner and discovered it was Raji. But what makes this story incredible, is that Raji’s police officer father, Thomas, was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2008, just a few months before she was born. Her mother, Mimi, is a retired police officer, as well. Raji felt that the police were an important part of her life and wanted to support them. Her mom told News 12, New Jersey, “”[Mikayla] looks up to [police officers]. She knows their job is hard. She knows they put their lives on the line for us.”
The Jamesburg Police Department paid it forward by inviting Raji to lead the Memorial Day Parade and set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for her education.
A first grader shaved his head in solidarity
First graders Vincent Butterfield and Zac Gossage were best friends. They loved hanging out at school and being silly together. But then, tragedy struck. After feeling tired and sick, Gossage was diagnosed with leukemia. Even though the treatments exhausted him, Gossage continued going to school.
As a good friend, Butterfield decided to learn about cancer, and told Inside Edition, “It’s when your white blood cell and your red blood cell fight.” He learned that the treatments were expensive and donated $200 to help Gossage’s family pay for his treatment. Then Butterfield took his support a step further by shaving his head. He explained that he did it to help Zac “feel like he’s not the only one without any hair.”
A reporter from Inside Edition asked the boys, “What is friendship?” Butterfield responded, “A beautiful thing.”
She was honored for her daily kindness
Tinney Davidson, an 84-year-old woman, waved to students from Highland Secondary School in Comox Valley everyday as they walked to school. The students’ art teacher, Charlotte Hood-Tanner, told ABC News, “She’s lived in the community forever. She’s very connected to the kids and she has all sorts of funny stories about them waving to her. She gets a kick out of it. She’s a fireball, she’s full of love, she’s a ton of fun and I think it keeps her young.”
Davidson explained that the students would always look into her house, and she figured that if they were looking in, she would wave to them. “I love it,” she said, “And they seem to like it also. So it’s been a fun few years.”
That’s why, on Valentine’s Day, the students invited Davidson to their school and gave her a gigantic Valentine. They also shared a video of thanks that they had made for her. One of the students said, “You can always count on her to be that warm smile on a dreary day.”
Firefighters took care of a mentally disabled man
Tony Tumminello first visited Fire Station One in Lansing, Michigan in 1953, when he was 13 years old, striking up a conversation with the local firefighters. They invited him back to the fire station and it’s been his second home ever since. Tumminello, who has a mental disability, eats all of his meals at the fire station, and he spends all of his free time there, as well. He’s spent six hours a day there, every day, for nearly 60 years.
The firefighters see him as family. They feed him, hang out with him, play pranks on him, wash his clothing, and even help him shower and shave. “It’s really special,” one firefighter told CBS. When asked what he would do if he didn’t have the firefighters in his life, Tumminello became visibly distressed. He said he didn’t like thinking about it.
It seems that the department gets as much out of it as Tumminello does. As Lieutenant Doug Burke told People, “We get a lot more out of helping Tony than he gets from us. If we get a call and have to leave our dinner there, Tony gets up, too. He’ll shut the garage door for us and let us in when we get back. He’s the only resident in Lansing who has a key to the fire department in hand.”
Two strangers went beyond the call of duty for a loving widower
When Bud Caldwell’s wife Betty passed away after 55 years of marriage, he dedicated a park bench to her, taking daisies to her memorial whenever he could. That proved difficult in the winter, when the walkway in the park was often slick with ice and snow.
But one day, that changed, when city workers Jerrod Ebert and Kevin Schultz saw Caldwell parking near the snow bank. “It took us both back a little bit thinking, my gosh, his devotion is that strong that he still comes when he can’t make it to the bench even,” Ebert told CBS. The two men began going to the park and shoveling the walkway daily, even though no one would be walking on it other than Caldwell. “One day I pulled up there and there’s the walk shoveled,” Caldwell told CBS. He was so touched, he said, “My knees about buckled on me.”
Ebert explained, “We were just doing what we felt was our job. Some intuition, be it divine or otherwise, says this is why you’re here — to help one another.”
Pay it forward
Many of these stories end with the hope that you pay it forward, and help someone in need. Acts of kindness can be as generous as buying a homeless man a house or as small as waving and smiling at a high school student as they walk to school. Everyone, regardless of their means, can give back to others. What will you do to pay it forward?