A few days ago I stood in line at a local brewery, six feet behind the person in front of me, and did a thing I often do, a remnant that’s been carried over from “normal” life to life right now. I mindlessly eavesdropped on the conversation in front of me, between a masked customer and a masked employee. The words they exchanged were mostly mundane but full of warmth, talking in circles around the pandemic, and all that’s changed in recent months. They seemed to linger a little before they parted—two strangers seeking connection, one trying to support the other in the small way they could.
Life continues to feel endlessly strange. It’s one big swirl of uncertainty that runs on a seemingly endless loop. There has been a lot of bad that’s happened lately (a massive understatement), but there’s been a lot of good, too. I’ve seen folks showing up for each other in ways both big and small, trying to offer connection and insert some brightness into a situation that’s full of anything but.
Is there a writer you love? A business? An artist? Someone you follow on Instagram whose posts always brighten your day? Why not send them a note telling them how much (and why) you love their work. Our team was talking about one such note of kindness we received the other day. We occasionally get emails like this at W&D and I tuck them away in a little folder to look back on when I’m having a bad day, trying to figure out how to reply to a negative comment, or am deep down the rabbit hole of second-guessing myself (do you know the feeling??). It may feel strange when you first start writing but it can mean the world to the person on the receiving end.
Wash the dishes in the sink and unload the dishwasher. Vacuum or sweep the floors. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom countertops. Put away the clothes that are strewn across the bedroom floor and start a load of laundry.
It’s no secret that we all benefit from the effects of an orderly home. Give the people you’re living with (or yourself, if you live alone) a nice little surprise in the form of a tidier space.
Send a loved one takeout from their favorite restaurant or cafe (or make their favorite meal or dessert and deliver it to their doorstep). You’ll be supporting a small business and feeding a person you care about.
Is there someone in your life you know would be over the moon to hear from you a little more often? Your grandparents? A friend? Give them a call, or even send them a simple “just thinking of you/I miss you text.” I know I personally haven’t reached out to many of the people I love lately, if only because more often than not, I’m drained at the end of each day. But I could definitely make space to send a few more texts, at the very least, and I’m going to make an effort to do just that going forward. The quick act of reaching out may seem simple, but it can mean a lot to the person on the receiving end.
There’s something about the anonymity of being in a car that seems to make people forget that it’s not just whirring vehicles alongside them, but other humans behind the wheel. Instead of letting frustrations get the best of you while on the road, be an extra courteous driver. Let someone in ahead of you. Allow another driver to turn in front of you onto a busy road where there’s not often an opening. Give the go-ahead for pedestrians to cross the street (which, I mean, I think we’re supposed to be doing anyway but it’s shocking how many folks don’t??).
Just try not to get into a Portlandia-style scene at a four-way stop. That’s where I’ll draw the line.
When I first started at this job at W&D, it became clear pretty quickly that one thing my coworkers value most is intentionally recognizing each other for our work, both big and small. “Thank you” is a phrase that’s said frequently around here, and hearing people pause to show gratitude, even from afar on Zoom calls, really does have a meaningful effect.
Did your partner clean the kitchen? Say thank you. Did your coworker complete that task you asked them to do? Say thank you. Did your child put their toys away? Say thank you. Did the employee at the grocery store wave you in when it was your turn to enter? Say thank you. (You get where I’m going with this.)
At a coffee shop drive-thru? Pay for the person behind you. Picking up a crowler at a brewery? Pay for an extra for the next person who stops by. The gesture doesn’t have to be big to mean a lot.
Remember the thrill of putting together a *carefully* crafted grouping of song selections (songs that represent the emotional journey you want a specific someone to take), burning them onto a blank CD-ROM, and presenting it with all the enthusiasm you can muster? Yeah, it was a journey. And guess what! You can still have that journey today, although it may look a little different.
All I know is this: A friend sent me a personally curated Spotify playlist a few weeks ago, complete with all of the songs they thought I’d enjoy listening to right now, and folks! It made my day.
Put all your thoughts and emotions (or even, I don’t know, a mundane list of everything you did that day) into a handwritten card and send it off to a friend or family member. Or write a quick love note for your partner and leave it on the bathroom mirror or next to their home workspace (folks, maybe I’m a romantic, who’s to say!!). We could all use a little more unexpected cheer in our days.
There’s a house along my standard neighborhood walking route that has been setting out trays and trays of free plants for the taking, every day for the past month or so. Every time I walk by I see folks gathering (from a healthy distance) around the offerings, their days brightened by this small gesture of goodness.
If you yourself have a green thumb and a garden of one variety or another, share the wealth with your loved ones. Divide your plants, disperse your vegetables (and fruits if you’re lucky enough to have ’em!)—it’s sure to make someone else’s day.
I don’t know what your internal dialogue sounds like most days, but mine has a tendency to not be very considerate. It usually runs on a loop, jumping from anxiety to self-doubt to wondering whether someone is mad at me, and then back to anxiety again. On my birthday this year, in the midst of a particularly hard week, I made a concerted effort to be kind to myself, for a full 24 hours (in theory this shouldn’t be that hard but in practice, it can be!!). I treated myself to breakfast from a favorite cafe, did my best to dismiss any negative self-talk, and tried to let any anxieties take a backseat for a day. It’s something we could all stand to do more often, birthday or not.
So when you’re making an effort to be extra kind to others, remember to factor yourself into the equation too.
And, most importantly of all, wear a mask. It’s one of the kindest things you can do, for yourself and for everyone you may encounter. (If you need a little extra convincing, might I suggest allowing one Dan Levy to provide it?)
BY Jackie Saffert - May 22, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.