Kind Actions That Don‘t Take Time and Won’t Cost a Dime

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” (Martha Graham)

038A large element of kindness is giving—perhaps money, perhaps time. And being able to give without thoughts of getting in return is certainly essential to a kind life. However, there may be times when neither time nor money are available to us. Does that mean we cannot still be generous … or kind?

Au contraire! We can always be kind. There are countless ways to be kind that don’t require investments of time or money. They are not without some effort, though. Here are a few that come to mind. Some are self-explanatory, such as:

  • We can make eye-contact, smile, and say “good morning.”
  • We can say “thank you” or “I’m sorry.”
  • We can hold a door or offer help in carrying a heavy load.
  • We can let the car merge in front of us.
  • We can say something nice about an absent friend when others are gossiping about her.
  • We can load the dishwasher even if they aren’t our dirty dishes.
  • We can acknowledge our own imperfections and overlook the foibles of others.

Other little-time-no-cost expressions of kindness invite us to delve deeper into their meaning:

  • If we can give nothing else, we can always give the benefit of the doubt. Rather than assume the worst, let the stories we make up about people or things we don’t know be positive and affirming. We can assume one another’s good intent—and life will be so much richer if we do.
  • We can let go of anger or resentment. We can forgive. Carrying around anger and resentment toward others, or regrets and recriminations toward ourselves serves no one. Kindness happens when we learn from mistakes, slights, and injuries, forgive and open up to a new story.
  • We can listen for the music rather than the missed note. There are people who spend their time looking for the typo, catching others’ errors, and playing “gotcha” with life. While sometimes that’s our day job if we’re an editor, diagnostician, accountant, building inspector, or the like, it needn’t be our personal mission. The rest of the time, we can practice looking for what’s right and letting go of the rest. Learning to let go is one of the great lessons of kindness. One of the best things we can learn is when something needs to be said, and when it doesn’t.
  • Kind words are powerful, and always welcome. We can compliment someone on the great service they provided, or their perspicacity, a well-written report, or how their smile brightens a room. It’s rare that we can’t find something kind to say.
  • We can pay attention and express appreciation for all that we notice. Paying attention to our lives is one of the secrets to a consistently kind life. If we are unaware of what’s going on around us, it’s so easy to miss opportunities to be kind, or miss the kindnesses extended to us by others. Opportunities to express kindness are all around us, but they’re also easy to overlook if we aren’t paying attention.

Of course, there are still many kindnesses that ask us to open not just our hearts, but also our wallets, and ask us to commit our time as well as our intentions. It’s rarely an either/or. When our hearts are open we will do what we can, recognizing that we offer the best of who we are when we choose kindness.

 “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” (John Wooden)

15 thoughts on “Kind Actions That Don‘t Take Time and Won’t Cost a Dime

    • Hi, Nicole, thanks so much for your comment and your good wishes! I hope you also are doing well. I look forward to reading you every Saturday. Thanks for the lovely messages of kindness that you consistently share. All the best.


  1. Is kindness practiced by saps? What I mean is, do you ever find that people, esp here in the US are derisive of those who practice kindness? That by allowing that car to merge in front of you or taking extra time to do a good turn for someone else that you’re being “too nice”…maybe even a pushover? As you know, I’m a strong believer in kindness. I find it interesting, though, to observe our cultural attitudes to kindness and find it curious to occasionally see negative reactions. Have you seen this as well?

    On a different note, love the Martha Graham quote!

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    • Hi, Nancy. I’ve been mulling over your question, and like most important questions, there’s probably not an easy answer. Yes, I believe that there are people who equate kindness with weakness and who think people like us who are choosing to make kindness a priority are saps. And they will probably gleefully take advantage of the kindness of others whenever it appears to their advantage.
      When I started this blog, a couple of friends asked me if focusing on kindness meant I would be a pushover and a target for con-artists and people looking to take advantage. I told them that I hoped kindness would not take away my ability to reason. The old Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify,” seems apt here.
      There may be times when our kindness is scorned or even used against us, and we need to be able to recognize when it’s time to step away—I always trust my gut on things like this. I think we can distance ourselves from people who prey on the kindness of others without stooping to their level; they—and unkindness—win if we do that. But I’m okay if occasionally my kindness is unappreciated, or even taken advantage of. I prefer to err on the side of kindness … if someone is unkind to me, when possible I want to be kind—not because they are, but because I am. This is one of the biggest challenges of all…and it’s one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
      Thanks for your very timely question, Nancy!

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      • Good points and well said, Donna. Wow, to think that some questioned the premise of your blog and that you may be putting yourself in danger. I’m sure they were well-intentioned. Yet speaks to how we sometimes hold ourselves back because of fear..and reminds me of what your friend Sandra Walston has written about why we need to draw on our courage. Ha, you kinda need a thick skin at times to practice kindness..but luckily for the most part it is well received and feels wonderful, even if unacknowledged or under appreciated. Like in the Christmas lyric, “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy….” 😊

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      • Donna, I could not agree more. The net benefit of kindness and the overall positives for both we who practice and those on whom we practice, far outweigh the negatives of ridicule and cynicism. Having a tribe of kindness practitioners like you, Nancy and Tim helps a lot! 😊

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  2. Thanks, Donna, for another inspiring blog, a joy to read after coming home to a stack of irrelevant emails. I love the Martha Graham quote, which seems to be about creativity in all its forms, including kindness. Here’s to ‘keeping the channel open’!


  3. Thanks, Carol, I love that Martha Graham quote, too. It’s been on my bulletin board for years—reminding me that even when it doesn’t feel like I’m creating anything worthwhile (especially with my writing), as long as I feel the call, it’s what I need to keep doing. Welcome back from your travels. I hope you’ll share the highlights with the “campers.” Tasmania sounds exotic and beautiful—and summery, a most welcome image in the midst of our bleak winter.

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  4. Hi Donna!
    You have started my morning on the right foot, thank you! 😊
    I have heard and seen this quote by Martha Graham many times now, and I love it every single time. What an amazing woman.
    I bet you would like Liz Gilbert’s new book, _Big Magic_. It expounds on this idea of every artist’s unique contribution, and the work of its expression.
    Best wishes to you, Donna! 😊


    • Thanks, Catherine, I’ve added Gilbert’s latest to my growing list of books to read. It sounds inspirational, and knowing her stuff, it’s sure to be well-written and thought-provoking. I appreciate the suggestion.

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