Whether you ordered holiday gifts weeks ago or are still checking things off your list, it's likely you'll somehow get caught in the last-minute shopping frenzy. Even if you just need one thing at the grocery store or post office, you may find your regular errands are complicated with traffic jams and frantic shoppers. Maybe you're one of the frantic shoppers. No judgement here! The point is, shopping, driving, waiting in lines—it gets pretty serious this time of year.
So let's shine a little kindness on the situation. You can do it in easy ways that will make everything a lot more bearable for everyone, especially you. • Before errands, eat something first, or take a little snack with you to keep you going. Counts double if you have a child with you. • Remember that each line will eventually end. Take some deep breaths. Smile. If you see some bad behavior — another adult pitching a fit, for example — try to show some compassion in your head (just think how bad a day he or she must be having to lose it like that) and move on. • Manners! "Please" and "thank you" mean a lot—especially if you're talking to a sales associate who just dealt with a fit-pitching adult. If a store employee asks how you're doing out of habit, you can say, "Fine, thanks, how are you?" It's the little things that can make a hectic work day better. • Add some Zen to your drive. Someone cut you off in traffic? It's OK. That was going to be your parking space? Oh well. You will eventually get to where your destination. Let it go. Your life will be the same after you park the car. Any other attitude will just get your blood pressure up. • Think of people you love. Works a charm every time.
You may have heard about someone doing this—maybe someone you know, or one of those feel-good stories gone viral online. Maybe you've done it yourself. Maybe you've been the lucky one on the receiving end.
It's a wonderful thing to do, but let's not forget something: Paying for a complete stranger, even one you never see face-to-face, can be intimidating, even scary.
Our friend Leigh in Athens, who blogs at Leigh vs. Laundry, wonderfully captured just such an experience on her blog. She was in the drive-thru line for fast food on a dreary day, she writes. While fretting over various everyday issues in her life, she heard a little voice, she adds, telling her to pay for the person in the car behind her.
"I dismissed the quiet voice and tried to talk myself out of it," she wrote in the blog post. "Money is tight, I can't just go paying for other people's food...what if she was buying food for her whole office?"
Yet Leigh did it—heart pounding, hands trembling, she wrote, she blurted out, "I'd like to pay for the car behind me, too."
Turns out it was just $5 extra dollars. Plus, Leigh could see the big smile and wave of thanks in the car behind her.
"I truly believe that the quickest way to finding happiness is to do good things for other people," Leigh wrote. "Even the smallest gestures can make big waves."