Have you ever been in one of those pay-it-forward car chains when you’re in the drive-thru line? It gives me quite the mix of emotions. First, there’s the delight and shock of something being taken care of for you, and then the guilty dread as you realize that you should probably keep the chain going. So, you end up paying for the person behind you. Which, if you’re like me and go to McDonald’s for only a large Coke, can sometimes be ten times what you would have paid originally. Not to sound like a downer, but, I am a college student. I need about every cent that I get. Sue me! At least I’m being honest.

But once I inevitably pay the person behind me’s total (save that it’s not something absurd, like fifty dollars) and go through the initial reluctance, I end up feeling really, really good. There’s some type of indescribably bright feeling in your chest when you imagine somebody’s face lighting up when they hear they’ve been paid for. They won’t ever know who I am, but at least I managed to make their day a little happier.

That’s what random acts of kindness (RAK) is all about– doing something without expectation of anything in return. February 17th happens to be Random Acts of Kindness Day in the United States for 2023, and I would encourage you all to think about what you could do to spread some more kindness in your community on that day. I want to share some of what I plan on doing to celebrate the day, and maybe it will inspire you, too!

You don’t have to spend anything to participate in Random Acts of Kindness Day. One of the easiest ways to show kindness is by complimenting a stranger. Whenever I’m in public and a stranger stops me to compliment my outfit or my hair, I think about it for the rest of the day. So, next time I find myself silently admiring a stranger’s jewelry, outfit, hair, or makeup, I’m going to say it out loud, even if I feel anxious about it. If it always makes me smile, I think it will make them smile, too.

I’m living with roommates this year. One thing I plan on doing to help them out is by doing their part of the chores that day to lessen their burden a bit. Additionally, I’m a little bit hopeless at cooking– so though I’d like to make a meal for everyone, I’ll settle for buying snacks for everyone to enjoy. Similarly, though I don’t have neighbors in my dorm that I can do this for, if you have neighbors, consider shoveling their snow for them– or, if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that isn’t freezing this time of year, you can mow their lawn.

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Another plan I have is to go through my childhood books that have been collecting dust in my basement for years. They’d be far better loved in a new home for a new child they can teach, or maybe in a library for many kids to enjoy.

On that note: Random Acts of Kindness Day would also be a great time to teach kids about empathy and kindness. If you’re interested, check out Kindness is a Kite String by Michelle Schaub or Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud!

With the extra cash that I have, I’d like to pick up coffee for a family member, a friend, a roommate, or even one of my professors. On the way out, maybe I can even give a big tip to the barista and write them a kind note that hopefully will make rush hour a little more bearable. Additionally, speaking as someone with three cats that I just adore, I’d like to buy some supplies to give to a shelter to support all the kitties without homes out there– maybe I’ll linger there just to spend some time with them, too. If my friends are free, I’d also love to get the chance to treat them to dinner.

Maybe, if I’m going through the drive-thru and find myself in a pay-it-forward car chain on February 17th, I’ll keep it going.

Finally, I’d like to encourage everyone to be kind to yourself in celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Day. Do something for you– and don’t expect anything from yourself in return. You deserve it!

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Chloe Kukuk, a junior majoring in public relations and English at Oakland University, is an editorial and marketing intern at the Cardinal Rule Press. When she’s not studying or working, she loves taking trips to the bookstore and lazing around the house with her three wonderful cats.