The Power of a Yellow Sticky Note

“No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.” (Kevin Heath)

I was grumpy Monday. I was grumpy and depressed—deeply discouraged by the state of the world, the direction my country is taking, and the incivilities that have become so frequent and commonplace. I was feeling helpless to make any difference toward positive change and also overwhelmed by other things that are happening in my life. It wasn’t a great day.

In the mid-afternoon mail, I received a small envelope from my book publicist’s office. I had requested a supply of her business cards to include when I mailed information out to possible reviewers or others expressing interest in seeing advance copies of A Year of Living Kindly. Ben, the individual who mailed the cards to me, took the time to dash off a short message on a post-it, saying, “Donna, I just wanted to let you know that your book was incredible and inspiring! Thank you for that. ~Ben”

That tiny note changed my day. Suddenly, I felt hopeful. I felt connection. I was touched by Ben’s words. And I was also aware that he could just as easily have mailed me the cards without taking the time to include a note. I would never have known the difference.

One of my favorite quotes about kindness is by Julian Bowers Brown: “Kindness. Easy to do. Easy not to do. Choose the latter, no one will notice. Choose the former and lives may change.”  How simple and yet how profound that statement is!

How often do we have an impulse to extend a kindness—a word, a deed, a compliment, a brief note of appreciation—and then let it fall away? We think it’s too small, it doesn’t matter, I don’t have time…. The impulse dies unexpressed and we never know what difference we might have made in another person’s life.

I’m keeping Ben’s note as a reminder—not just that he liked my book (which is wonderful and thrilling!), but that what may seem to me to be a small or insignificant act—so small that it wouldn’t be missed—might turn out to be just what the recipient needs in that moment.

I resolve to express more kindnesses and try to withhold judgment about their worthiness. How about you? Is there a yellow sticky note (or equivalent gesture) you could give someone today? Don’t put it off. Do it right now. You just might make their day . . . and that . . . could change the world.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” (Mother Teresa)


19 thoughts on “The Power of a Yellow Sticky Note

  1. This was the perfect post for me to read this morning! Like you, I was feeling down and helpless about what is going on in our country. Your post made me realize that there ARE things I can do to make a difference. They may seem like small things and if I don’t do them, no one will notice. But if I do make the effort and act on my impulse, what a positive difference I can make. Thank you.

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    • Thanks, Janis! The problems of the world just feel so huge (“yuge”) and I feel so small and powerless to impact them, but maybe if enough of us express those little kindnesses they will tip a scale somewhere. Gotta believe it!

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  2. I had seen your quote at the top on a calendar before, but only the first sentence of it. It has become one of my favorite quotes, and I just want to thank you for sharing the rest of that quote!

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  3. We need a LOVE button—Like is not enough! 😄
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I feel your discouragement at the state of things.
    What gives me hope is that there are always examples of what Ben did everywhere. Sometimes we have to look a little harder to see them. Other times they land in our lap like a cosmic gift. Your post reminds me of a positive psychology research finding that in the healthiest relationships, the ratio of positive to negative feedback/interactions is a whopping 5 to 1. Depending on my mood and circumstances at the time I remember this tidbit, I feel either inspired, dejected, or a little hopeless. You post makes me the first, because you show us how very small gestures can have such a significant impact—any small kindness is worth committing! YAAAAY! 😄

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    • I’m inspired by you and your exuberance, Cathy! Thanks for your kind words and your thoughtful comment. I have seen that 5 to 1 ratio study and it’s powerful. Workplaces where positive comments outnumber negative ones by 5:1 are more successful, more profitable, and have far higher employee retention rates. What a difference it would make in the world if we all committed to 5 positive comments for every negative one we say. It would either be a much more positive world or a much quieter one–either way, a great improvement! Hoping your day is filled with kindnesses!

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  4. Donna, I get to feel hopeful, connected and touched every time I read the quote you sent me after you participated in my “Leader as Influencer: Impression management in the spotlight” program. (Needless to say, I read it often!) You continue to lead and influence with your “A Year of Living Kindly” posts and books. Thank you!

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    • I’m so glad to hear that, Jan! You’re such a bright presence–I’ll wager you have an awful lot of notes and quotes like that. All well-deserved. Thanks for your kind words!


    • Thank you for coming back and leaving a comment. You absolutely embodied the notion of choosing to extend a kindness when not doing so would have been easier and never missed. So glad you like that quote, too!

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