Who knew there was a national day set aside for doing something nice? Of course, ideally, every day is an opportunity to do something nice for someone, but we’re adding in a specific for you on this October 5. Take a moment to think about some of the nice things you’ve done for people lately—maybe this is for your kids, or your partner, your co-worker, a stranger, or even for yourself. Now think about someone who isn’t on that list. Who in your life have you not done anything nice for recently? On October 5, do something nice for that person. Again, this may be yourself.
Doing something nice for someone else can be a small thing. Just because this is a nationally designated day doesn’t mean that you have to undertake some sort of grand gesture, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to do more than you’re able. The lovely part about doing something nice for another person is that little gestures can go a long way. A well-timed smile or hug, a thoughtful compliment, bringing a friend or neighbor dinner, donating money to an organization you admire—all of these things are examples of relatively easy and small gestures that can nonetheless have a large impact.
Another thing to consider is the option of doing something nice and anonymous for someone. The National Day calendar website quotes American politician Frank A. Clark on generosity, who said, “Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” Since, ideally, we’re all trying to do nice things for those we know and love on a regular basis, this October 5 may be a good time to experiment with anonymous niceness.
One important aspect of do-gooding to keep in mind is that one can intend to do a nice thing for another person but, in fact, that’s not how the action reads to the other person. For example, complimenting someone whom you don’t know very well on something about which you don’t have enough information might not be viewed as very genuine. Other types of compliments can end up reinforcing the societal othering of non-dominant groups. When considering how to do something nice for another person, do it with thoughtfulness and with a keen eye on how your words or actions could affect the other person. Remember that good intentions aren’t enough; we have to act with thoughtfulness and self-awareness in order to truly have the positive impact we intend. As the singer Ben Harper once said, “There’s good deeds and then there’s good intentions. They are as far apart as Heaven and Hell.”
So on October 5 and, truly, every day, we encourage you to put your good intentions—for yourself and others—into action in both small and large ways, and to do so with kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness and self-awareness.