Random acts of kindness: Ideas to brighten your world

Updated Nov 13, 2023
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of an act of kindness, there’s something about it that feels really good.
Random acts of kindness are proven to boost our mood and mental health. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), when you help others by performing an act of kindness, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness.
Despite the benefits, research shows that people tend to hold back on spontaneous good deeds. We have a strong impulse to not do the nice thing—because we underestimate how much it will mean to the recipients. In reality, these thoughtful acts of humanity matter much more than you’d think.

So how do you show kindness every day? Here are some unique random act of kindness ideas to inspire your generous spirit. Read through them, then get out there and spread the joy—with your kids, at work and school, in your community and around the world.
  1. Act of kindness ideas for kids
  2. Act of kindness ideas for your community
  3. Act of kindness ideas for the world
  4. How your kindness is changing lives worldwide

Act of kindness ideas for kids

1. Make a homemade card and mail it
Receiving real mail is such a treat—it would brighten anyone’s day. Bonus points for adding googly eyes, glitter, or a list of things you love about the recipient.
2. Visit someone who’s lonely
Do you have an elderly neighbour or relative who’s homebound or living in long-term care? Bring a game to play, or a book to read together, or show them a special skill you’ve been practicing.
3. Call someone you love just to say “hi”
We rely so much on communicating through text messages and social media, but nothing can replace the experience of hearing a loved one laugh at your jokes or excitedly share their latest life updates. Call or FaceTime someone who’s special to you and let them know you’re thinking of them.
4. Make a gift for your mail carrier
They trudge through all kinds of weather to deliver what we need. The surprise of opening your mailbox to find something just for them will definitely bring a smile.
5. Donate your extra books to a neighbourhood library
If your neighbourhood doesn’t have one of these little free libraries, make your own, or give to your school or community library instead.
6. Pass along toys you aren’t using anymore
Toys are meant to be played with! Once you've outgrown something, donate it to a shelter, school, daycare or thrift shop that invests back in your local community. Just make sure it’s in good condition first.

Act of kindness ideas for your community

1. Pay for the coffee or meal of the person in line behind you
This was the very first act of kindness idea I ever heard about and I love it because it’s simple, easy and convenient. It delivers a sweet surprise to the unsuspecting recipient (who will hopefully pass the kindness on to another).

2. Choose to shop small
Supporting small businesses is more important these days than ever. Why not incorporate them into your shopping? Some ideas include: purchasing a gift card to a nearby salon or spa, shopping at a local farm, deli or bakery for dinner items, purchasing gifts for birthdays or other occasions from small online shops, and checking out local handmade goods for sale on Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t have the funds to spend, you can still help by writing a 5-star review for your favourite local businesses.

3. Prepare care packages for those who are unhoused
Being homeless is difficult, and in the cold winter months it can be especially challenging. Care packages in the winter can help make life a little more comfortable for people living outside. Try to think outside of the box: thermal or wool socks, waterproof gloves, chewable immune-boosting vitamins, Chapstick, sunscreen and band-aids, and non-perishable foods of course.

4. Prepare a meal for someone who could really use it
Deliver dinner to someone dealing with an illness or treat a friend who’s having a rough day. Do you know a new mom? Homecooked food prepared by a friend is a gesture she’ll never forget.

5. Support your local food bank
According to Food Banks Canada, Canadians visited food banks nearly 2 million times in March 2023 alone—a 78.5 per cent compared to March 2019. Unfortunately, 33 per cent of people who rely on food banks are children, even though they only make up 20 per cent of the Canadian population. Support your local food bank and know that your act of kindness is helping your neighbours to keep food on the table.  

6. Donate blood
If you think about it, there really isn’t a bigger act of kindness you can perform than donating blood. This one goes well beyond kindness, it’s downright life-saving.

8. Put down your phone and connect
Leave your phone in your pocket—or at home!—and see how it changes your day. Chances are, without a screen to distract, you’ll be more likely to make eye contact with people, to offer a smile, a compliment and a kind word. These small gestures go a long way toward combatting loneliness and creating “relational diversity”—connecting with a range of people has been linked to greater happiness and well-being.

Act of kindness ideas for the world

1. Start with self-kindness
When we treat ourselves with grace, we put ourselves in a positive mindset and are more equipped to extend generosity to the world around us. Think of the things you need to show up well, and do your best to prioritize them. Maybe that means booking a massage you’ve been putting off, taking time to make yourself a nourishing meal, or starting a gratitude journal. These kinds of small steps can improve your outlook, especially on the hard days.  

2. Be an encouraging and positive online voice
We’ve all seen posts and comments by people who focus only on the negative or on putting others down. Online bullying can have horrible effects, so why not combat that? Use your online platforms to lift others up, focus on sharing good news and you’ll be someone people look forward to hearing from.

3. Be a conscious consumer
Did you know that child labour rose for the first time in 20 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Unfortunately, Canadian consumers’ post-pandemic spending on products that have well-documented cases of worker exploitation and child and/or forced labour could unintentionally contribute to this problem. Here are some tips to help you become a more ethically conscious shopper.
4. Lend your voice to a cause you care about
Speaking up on important issues is often much easier than we think. Many organizations equip us with instructions and scripts so we can advocate to government leaders on issues that affect our world. Not sure where to start? The World Vision Voices Advocacy Community sends monthly updates on issues of poverty and injustice, and straightforward ways to take action.
5. Give to an international charity
In Canada, we have so much to be grateful for, whether that be our health, jobs, the safety of our families or shelter. In many parts of the world, children and families are facing unprecedented hunger, conflict and natural disasters. Consider giving emergency relief to families in crisis, or a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalogue. When you sponsor a child, you’ll get even more opportunities for acts of kindness through personal cards and letters, and the chance to build a meaningful relationship as you support their family and whole community.

How your kindness is changing lives worldwide

We know the generosity extended by World Vision supporters has far-reaching affects. People who receive extraordinary help often go on to achieve great things while sharing their knowledge, skills or resources with the world.

Here are some stories of sponsored children who received great kindness—and are paying that kindness forward.

Milena: From sponsored child in Colombia to early childhood educator in Toronto

Two photos are cropped side by side: Milena at the age of child sponsorship on the left and her as an adult today on the right.Milena has come a long way since living in poverty as a child. Photos courtesy of Milena Jimenez Saunders.

Milena grew up as one of five siblings in Colombia. Her family fell on hard times when conflict in the country forced them to move from their small town to the capital city of Bogotá. They survived because of kindness from many people, including a young Australian woman named Sam who sponsored Milena through World Vision.

“My brain is still stuck on the fact that someone on the other side of the world actually cared about me,” Milena says, “because it makes you wonder: how do you truly care for someone that you’ve never met, insomuch that you’ll even take the time to write to them?”

Milena eventually moved to Canada. She now supports kids with special needs as an early childhood educator in Toronto—a career she chose because of the support she herself received growing up.

“I love and care for people a lot,” she says. “And I think it’s because I had someone who cared about me.”

Read Milena’s story.

Cidalia: Broadcasting education in Mozambique

A woman wearing a light brown uniform stands in front of a landscape with her arms in the air in a gesture of pride and accomplishment.Cidalia was supported in her education through World Vision sponsorship. Photo: Jaime Ubisse

Cidalia is a history teacher in her community in Mozambique, and even broadcasts educational programs on the local radio. She says she owes this profession to her sponsors.

Cidalia was forced to grow up quickly after her parents died. She and her siblings went to live with their grandparents, and as the oldest child, she had to start working to support them.

“After some time, I became a sponsored child,” she recalls. Her sponsors’ support ensured Cidalia got a school uniform and learning supplies. After graduation, she received a scholarship to become a teacher.

“With my work, I provide for my siblings and my two children. I was able to defeat poverty,” she says.
Watch Cidalia in action and read more inspiring teacher stories here.

Kim Lay Heng: Teaching courage in Cambodia

A young woman in a blue blouse sits on a motorbike outside a school building in Saang, Cambodia.
Kim Lay Heng wants her primary students to gain the same courage that she did, growing up as a sponsored child in Cambodia. Photo: Chris Montgomery

At age 23, Kim Lay Heng teaches primary school in Cambodia’s Saang sponsorship community. Canadians have been sponsoring kids here since 2010—and Lay Heng was one of them.
She says the experiences she gained because of her sponsors were instrumental in shaping her life. Her earliest sponsorship memories are happy, doing fun things like taking pictures and painting cards. Later on, she would join activities like cleaning the neighbourhood, learning to prepare nutritious meals, and performing in the community.
But at age 13, Lay Heng got her first taste of teaching—tutoring struggling students through World Vision’s youth club—and it unlocked something inside of her.
“Teaching children made me feel so courageous, and made me become who I am today,” she says. She’s working to instill that same sense of bravery in her students now, so they will have courage to show the world their strength.
Lay Heng is grateful to her sponsors for their kindness. (“I wish my sponsor good health, long life [and] good luck,” she says.) And she’s thankful that she showed up for herself, all those years ago.
“Thank you, Lay Heng,” she says, “for having the confidence to be a sponsored child when you were ten years old.”
Learn about the Saang sponsorship program.

Updated by Katie Hackett

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