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From cake to free coffee: How to connect with your neighbours with a random act of kindness

A small act of kindness can make a big difference to someone’s day. And when that gesture is a surprise, it can be even more wonderful. Doing something nice for no particular reason is known as a random act of kindness (or an RAK) and it can be a great way to foster a happier, more supportive and more inclusive community.

“As Mark Twain said: “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”. Here at Nabo we believe that the best way to break down barriers with your neighbours is to reach out with generosity and openness and that’s why we are so excited about Random Acts of Kindness” Simon Smith, CEO at Nabo. 

Here are seven ways you can embrace the idea of a random act of kindness and make life more lovely for those in your neighbourhood.

1.Smile at someone

It’s the simplest of all, and costs nothing, but smiles make everyone feel better.

2. Pay it forward

Things you don’t need could make a big difference to someone else.


3. Buy a “suspended coffee”

Across Australia, there are cafes that are part of an international “suspended coffee” movement – where customers pay for their coffee, and one for someone in need. One way to see whether a café near you does this is by visiting suspendedcoffees.com, which lists cafes all around the world. It’s based on the Italian idea of a caffè sospeso, a tradition said to have started in the working-class cafes of Naples, where someone who had had good luck would order a sospeso, paying for two but drinking one. Those who could not afford coffee could ask at cafes whether a sospeso was available. 

In August each year, the CafeSmart initiative (run by the StreetSmart organistaion) uses coffee to help fund local services to help the homeless, with cafes across Australia donating $1 from every coffee sold.

4. Do a random acts of baking kindness

Baking is a great way to bring a smile to someone’s face. It’s lovely to have someone make a cake for a birthday, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day – but a baked gift you aren’t expecting? That can be even more of a mood-lifter.

Take the wonderful example of Cath Webb, a teacher who took on the challenge of baking a cake every day for a year and giving them away to family, friends and total strangers. The Telegraph, who dubbed her the “sponge cake Samaritan” reported that the UK mother of three decided to bake and gift a Victoria sponge every day after she made a cake for a friend who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was told by the grateful friend,  “You can feed people with love”.

Baking – a cake, a tray or brownies, or even just sharing a few bikkies with a neighbour when you bake a batch – is a lovely way to show some love, or support, or even just say hello.

Or if you prefer whipping up a casserole to popping a cake in the oven, giving a home-cooked meal can be just as heartwarming and helpful.

If you’d like some help figuring out what you could make and how best to pack or transport it, blogger Aimee Wimbush-Bourque at the popular Simple Bites blog has some great tips in this article: Cooking for Others: A Guide to Giving Sympathy Meals.  And you can find some great ideas for meals and baking that transport well, including dairy-free, gluten-free, and low-sodium recipes, here.  

5. Praise someone who does a great job

Does your postie go the extra mile to make sure your parcels reach you? Does the person serving you at your local store always have a sunny smile or a cheery greeting? Let them – or their boss – know how much you appreciate the way they do their job. A post in your suburb hub on Nabo can spread the word to your neighbours so they know where to find great service, too.

Or perhaps there’s an award you can nominate them for – some businesses have employee of the month schemes that customer feedback plays a role in; and most local councils have annual or monthly awards – everything from “Young Person of the Month” to sports and business awards. These awards are usually listed on the council’s website.

6. Be kind online

While it’s always great to be kind in person, there are lots of ways you can make someone’s day digitally, too. You could

  • Send an encouraging text or email to a friend
  • Write a review or leave a positive comment on Nabo, on a favourite blog or on a review website
  • Make an on-line donation to a charity (which could be one that’s close to your heart, or a donation on behalf of a friend to a cause they care about, which makes it a double-dose act of kindness)

7. Keep an eye our for someone who needs a hand

With the hectic pace of life for many of us, sometimes we don’t notice that someone could use some help. So making a conscious effort to keep an eye out for someone who might be struggling a bit can really make a difference. Not everyone will say yes – but some people, who wouldn’t ask for help, will be very grateful for your offer of assistance.

Notice a senior citizen or a parent with children struggling to carry their groceries at the supermarket? You could offer to give them a hand carrying the bags to their car, or offer to return a shopping trolley for them. 

You could also keep an eye out for someone who might appreciate your seat on a bus or train; offer to take out a frail or sick neighbour’s rubbish bin, collect some groceries for them, or walk their dog; offer to help a parent carry a stroller off a train or bus, or up or down stairs; or even just offer a sympathetic ear to someone who might need to talk about an issue, or want some advice.

If you’re looking for more ideas for doing nice things for others, take a look at our article  how to show some love for your neighbours. You can find more than 100 other great ideas for RAKs – for example, things to do with kids – at the website of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, which was started in the US in 1995, and now has members in 87 countries around the world.

Random acts of kindness don’t have to cost a lot of money, or take a lot of  time. Never think you can’t make a difference. Even something as simple as smiling at a someone in your street can make the neighbourhood a happier place.

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