Without a doubt, it was contagious. In less than 30 days, the phenomenon had affected countless numbers, traveled from coast to coast -- even internationally -- and spread smiles ear to ear.
The random acts of kindness had multiplied at an astonishing rate, all because of a 40th birthday invitation from Kristi Black to her Facebook friends.
“It’s one thing to do it yourself,” says the New Hampshire woman about her choice to celebrate her May milestone by randomly giving presents to others, “but then to get all your friends involved ...,” her voice trailing.
Because of their busy lives, she was hesitant about including them in her unique month-long birthday celebration. Even so, she decided to give it a try and set up the Facebook Random Acts of Kindness page, complete with a creative invitation to join her in the project. Friends could respond with the “going” reply -- and then it was “party on!”
Never miss a local story.
“A group of people right away said they were going to do it,” Kristi recalls about her idea to give gifts to strangers during her birthday month. “It started slow, then one of my friends shared with her friend and then another shared,” the young woman’s words brimming with excitement. “That’s when it took off, friends of friends.”
Word spread to at least 16 states, stretching north to south, from Maine to Georgia, and east to west, from Florida to Washington and Hawaii. But the random acts of kindness didn’t stop on our country’s shores. From as far away as Peru to Italy, Brazil to New Zealand and St. Crois, the birthday celebration rocked with kind deeds.
Free lattes surprised unsuspecting drivers in the Starbucks drive-thru; quarters filled gumball machines and overdue parking meters; smiley-face cookies brightened a dreary day for cancer patients.
The list of thoughtful gestures is long; some as simple as helping an elderly woman find her car in a store parking lot, another as complex as aiding women trapped in human-trafficking.
For Kristi, her random acts of kindness around town seemed at times to have divine direction.
“I often asked in a little prayer, ‘What am I going to do with these cookies . . . or if someone needs this, please lead me,’" the mother of four said before setting off on her busy days. “Then I’d miss my turn and see where to give.”
A pediatric hospital ward, an animal shelter, a food program with weary volunteers were all places touched by "angels" like Kristi -- friends who wanted to celebrate her life by showing compassion, thoughtfulness and love.
“I think people who are givers know how good it feels to give when it’s not expected,” the attractive brunette says about the happiness she experiences as she randomly affects the lives of others.
And because of Kristi’s birthday wish -- “no gifts for me, just others” -- there are people throughout the U.S. -- and across a continent -- who have felt the sheer joy of giving for no other reason than to be kind to another human being.
Perhaps, the world is a little brighter, a little softer because of their actions. And just maybe the idea of loving one another every day will catch on.