Have you ever noticed how a small act of kindness can make someone smile? Think about the last time you were entering a building, noticed someone coming in behind you, and held the door open for them to grab it. The odds are that that person looked at you, smiled, and said “Thanks.” They recognized your small act of kindness and acknowledged it. You felt good. They felt good.

If you didn’t see them, or if you did and just let the door go, they probably felt slighted. Which situation would you want them to experience? I’m sure the first, pleasant one.

If a police officer approaches you when you are in your car, do you look up and smile at them? If they ask for your driver’s license and insurance card do you say, “Yes, of course” or do you say  “I’m not doing anything wrong, why do you want me to do that?” The first answer paves the way for a polite exchange. It also recognizes the legal authority of the officer. The second is the introduction to a confrontation.

Which would you rather promote with a police officer, a polite conversation or a confrontation? I always give the first answer and I have never, ever, regretted it, even if I got a ticket.

Small acts of kindness fall under the category of common courtesy. Common courtesy consists of the ways we act toward our fellow human beings, especially the first time we meet them. They are the acts which tell our fellow human beings that we recognize them as fellow human beings who deserve our respect, and that we expect their respect in return. They are mandatory if we are going to live together as civilized people.

Oh, and for you Millennials, the proper response for “Thank you” is “You’re welcome”, not “No problem.” “No problem” means you were not inconvenienced. “You’re welcome” means you enjoyed giving the small service you just provided. The difference is minor but noted by those of us in the older generations.

Small acts of kindness can change the world!