© Micah Cruver | Paris, France

The unexpected returns on goofy goodwill.

How a tiny comment box prompted a whole new approach to sharing kindness.

I distinctly remember just about every compliment anybody has ever given me. From friends or even complete strangers: the simple act of voicing something kind happens so infrequently, that it’s occurrence can leave me buzzing for days. Beyond directly building the people we interact with a daily basis up, I’ve come to discover some ways to subltly impact the lives of strangers that I wanted to share.

Takeaway Love Letters

“I LOVE YOU.” The three most meaningful words we can hear lay boldly typed out in the comment box typically reserved for requesting chopsticks or identifying a nut allergy. Since I didn’t need to do either of those things, it felt like a waste to let this strange opportunity to hijack the top of my food order ticket go unused.

As soon as I clicked “ORDER”, and went back to what I was doing: I had almost immediately forgotten about my note. My stomach gurgled at me, as true hunger seems to only manifest the moment you’re aware that food is actually on the way.

Forty minutes later, in the elevator ride down from my Cape Town apartment to the street, I quickly looked up how to say “thank you” in Swahili, having noticed it as the spoken language on the UberEATS profile of the kind-looking man about to deliver my avocado toast and activated charcoal cold-pressed juice (neither of which ended up giving me the perfect body I expected them to).

Waiting outside on his bike, the amicable “Wallance” beamed from ear to ear as I blurted out “Asante!” and received my large paper bag. The smile was quickly contagious as I realized that scrawled in massive letters across the paper bag were “Micah, we love you too!”

Like putting $0.04 into an emotional investment account and receiving $100 back in return, my tiny gesture of goofy goodwill went out into the universe with no expectation of return, and yet somehow managed to come back multiplied. I was hooked. As somebody who frequently uses online food delivery, I knew at this moment that not a single “additional request” box was ever going out unfilled with my over-the-top adoration for whatever stranger was going to be filling my order.

The Lord of Dogtown

It should be our natural state to be kind to others: life seems to move along a lot more smoothly when we’re generally decent human beings to one-another. But when you can step above this an be uniquely kind to somebody, it can make the different between an average day, and a memorable one for a person who could really need the win. Luckily for us, going “out of our way” to be uniquely kind to a stranger can be the easiest detour you’ll take all week.

My friend David embodies this principle during his frequent trips to South America. In regions grappling with wealth inequality, he always carries dog food to feed hungry strays he encounters on the streets. Witnessing the joy of these wary, lovable animals receiving a meal is heartwarming, and the appreciation from locals he receives for caring for their vulnerable community members is equally touching. I’ve joined him on these walks a few times, and once witnessed a beautiful exchange: a man saw what he was doing, and although clearly struggling to keep food on his own table, came out of his home to humbly request a small bowl of food for their family pet. David respectfully obliged without a second thought, and an unspoken bond is formed.

David Jackson feeding a stray dog in Santa Marta, Colombia

For just a few dollars, David uplifts both people and animals, earning the approval (and watchful eyes) of locals, gaining unusually safe passage through areas unsuitable for outsiders.

Don’t just be another passenger

As a frequent standby traveler: I’ve developed a very deep-seated respect for the airline industry – specifically cabin crews. This hardworking group of people who are not only responsible for hospitality, but safety, law enforcement, bartending & food service: all while trapped with us in a tiny metal tube rocketing through the sky. They’ve been frequently attacked, disrespected and consistently have to deal with some of the most incredibly rude people I’ve ever seen: all without getting thanked, tipped or even paid what they’re worth.

So, as a way to give back to an industry that has already given me so much, I recently discovered you can buy $5 Starbucks gift cards in bulk on Amazon, which makes for a easy, affordable & perfect way to brighten an entire cabin crew’s day. Upon boarding the flight: when you get greeted by the two attendants at the front, you can simply hand them a stack of these cards and thank them for all their hard work. They’re usually pretty busy loading passengers in at this point, so I don’t ever expect an elaborate thank you: but I get to my seat glowing with the knowledge that I helped caffeinate an entire crew of people with annihilated sleep schedules who work tirelessly keeping us all safe and comfortable as we rocket through the air in a tiny metal tube.

I highly encourage everybody else who frequently travels to try this as well, as it can change the entire flight – I’ve received beautiful handwritten thank-you notes, half a home-made sandwich, an ice cream sundae and at one point: two full bottles of wine upon leaving. You should never do anything kind with the expectation that something will happen in return, as that defeats the whole purpose – but statistically speaking, it certainly helps your chances.

For those interested, most flights usually have:

  • 2 flight attendants + 2 pilots on those small propeller domestic flights
  • 4 flight attendants + 2 pilots on most domestic flights
  • 6 flight attendants + 2 pilots on medium-haul flights
  • 12 flight attendants + 2 pilots on large international flights

If you aren’t sure, just look up the seating capacity for the specific airplane model you’ll be on: most airline authorities require 1 flight attendant for every 50 passengers, so round up to the nearest 50 and you’ll know how many to bring.

Compared to the cost of a flight, bringing a little treat for these hardworking crews is a drop in the bucket, and is something I just factor into the price these days. Gifts like electrolytes packets, chapstick, snack bars or individually-wrapped candy are also great options if you’re on a budget.

Buy 10-Pack of $5 Starbucks Cards [Amazon] (affiliate link)
Buy Electrolyte Packets 20-Pack [Amazon] (affiliate link)
Buy Burt’s Bees 4-Pack [Amazon] (affiliate link)

It takes nothing.

It takes so little for us to stand out as a positive memory in people’s lives, and I’d argue that every ounce of effort or money spent is returned in multiples. As we make it a habit to mindlessly create these cute moments for the benefit of the people we share this planet with, we start leaving a wider and wider wake of positive impact behind us: and not only become somebody that others assume nice things about, but more importantly – we start assuming nice things about ourselves. Feeling like a good person motivates you to make healthier decisions for yourself, and ultimately starts affecting your life in a depth of positive ways.

Whether it’s taking two seconds to scrawl out “I love you” on your takeaway order notes, or spending a couple extra bucks on a person or pet who deserves it, but expects nothing – we all possess the ability to make a positive impact on ourselves and the world around us: one goofy gesture at a time.

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