Why we should all harvest the benefits of ‘randoms’

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

oday, some guy in a store told me I was a beautiful curvy woman,” a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook. “I just love randoms!!” Indeed, who among us doesn’t like to hearing a random compliment from a stranger (preferably with no apparent ulterior motive)? Actually the same week she wrote that, I got my own ‘random’: I was waiting in line to checkout at one of my favorite thrift stores when a man around my age stepped in front of me. I told him he was cutting in (something I mentally kicked myself for later as normally I tell people with only one item — when I have more, — to “go ahead of me” because I’m kind like that). The man who was currently getting his stuff rung up said to me, “I was trying to get YOU to cut in so I could admire you. You’re adorable.” He was just so breezy and friendly I could help but laugh and thank him for the compliment. What a sweet way to end a stressful day of shopping!

We can, and should, all harvest the positive benefits of randoms, otherwise known as random acts of kindness, including compliments such as these. The positive psychological benefits are not only felt by those receiving the compliments but also we will feel good about ourselves after helping others feel good about themselves with a compliment or a kind helpful gesture such as holding a door open, or responding when someone asks directions or another question. that you might help them with. Considering the state of the world for pretty much this entire year, more and more kindness is really needed now. This cannot be stressed enough: Not only “in these uncertain/unprecedented/scary (or some other over-used tired phrase) times” but always.

Several years ago the phrase for sincere compliments/mood lifters was “warm fuzzies,” though I don’t think I’ve heard that phrase in, well, years. Possibly because it seems our world has become a little less tolerant, more divided, less kind-and-gentle, more judgmental and harsh, less friendly (especially towards people who are “different” from us — which is REALLY sad). But reaching out to someone, in person or on social media, with a spontaneous compliment just feels good … and may even make you a new friend! I’ll explain more about that in a bit.

ecause I am a woman, unfortunately I have to sometimes question the above-mentioned “ulterior motive” of people (read: men) giving me a ‘random’. Of course my questioning the other person’s intention has a lot to do with the venue in which I am receiving it; say if it happens in a bar it will almost always sends my “beware!” antenna upwards, for obvious reasons. Being a woman who often goes out in public unescorted I have to be aware of my surroundings and of people who may approach me. This is sad but it’s fact of life I’ve known for most of my life, drilled into my head by my late great mother. Because unfortunately some people (for example, like we might meet in a bar) are predators.

Other people just might be looking for positive human contact. Nowadays (due to quarantining, stay-at-home orders, lost jobs) a lot of people are feeling extra lonely, adrift and cut off from the “real world” and their fellow man (and women). So bear this in mind while venturing out — appropriately masked, of course — and remember that a well-placed ‘random’ just might brighten someone’s day and help ease the adverse psychological effects of social isolation that we’ve all endured the world over in the past several months. When a compliment is given in a heartfelt manner from some complete stranger totally unexpectedly (i.e., a ‘random’) it’s really nice and may make the other person feel all warm inside and …. well, fuzzy. So, don’t be afraid to pay a compliment. Because you just never know what kind of good you might be doing for someone.

For many years it’s been one of my life’s philosophies/missions to say something nice to someone when I can, something that might make that person’s day. Usually in my case it’s me complimenting a woman, like I have done many times on someone’s clothing that I admire, or something else. Because of the need for hesitancy and being careful in approaching men (again, it depends on the venue) I don’t often compliment a man, though I WILL do something randomly kind like hold a door open for him. Random acts of kindness that just might brighten someone’s day/mood/life are always welcome and appreciated. Don’t be afraid to give them out!

That last sentence reminds me of a meme on Facebook, which went something like this: “Kindness: sprinkle that shit around liberally.” I could not agree more. I mentioned above that you might make a new friend by giving a ‘random.’ Some years ago I was standing around (in a big-box retail store) when a woman probably 20 years or so older than I, who was sitting alone at a table in the snack bar, told me she loved my outfit. I thanked her and decided to sit down at her table … and we ended up talking for quite a while like old friends. It was such fun! Apparently she’d had an interesting career in a formerly male-dominated field and told me about that. From that conversation I also gained a love of avocadoes, which I’d never really gotten into, until this woman mentioned how awesome they are.

I know we live in the “stranger danger” era and yes, I’m perfectly aware there are “bad people” out there. Being a child of the 70s I heard all the “don’t take candy from a stranger/get in a car with a stranger/always be aware of youe surroundings” warnings. And for the most part I’ve heeded these words of advice over the decades. I will never forget when my first husband said, “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.” He was, like me, able to talk to pretty much anyone. And since I don’t want to let fear and distrust rule my life I still give out ‘randoms’ when appropriate — and probably always will. It’s so cool to see someone’s face just light up when you say you love their dress or something. Often when standing in line at a checkout I’ll converse with total strangers, which can be quite delightful. Because you just never know the affect you will have on others … so be nice. Always.

Recently, in the same store where I met the avocado-loving woman, I did another RAK (random act of kindness) for a little girl who would quit whining a crying and was making a scene (maybe because I didn’t see an adult near her). I started talking to her and asking what was wrong, she immediately stopped crying, even smiled. When the women I discerned were her mom and grandma showed up they were probably relieved (and apparently somewhat under the influence of alcohol) but neither woman said thanks for calming the child. That was fine, as I made the little girl happy, so it was all good.

the moral of this story is: when you find the opportunity to pay a compliment, or buy a stranger lunch, or help someone to find their way/give them directions, or some other RAK, by all means do it. They’ll probably feel better and you may feel all warm and fuzzy, and life just might be a much brighter spot all around; at least for the moment. You may find a new friend, get a new perspective on life, or meet Mr. or Ms. Right … who knows? We all can, and should, harvest the awesome power and reap the psychological benefits of giving out ‘randoms.’ Try it, you’ll like it. Trust me.

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

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