I hate to post this, because the point is to do it without the thanks, without the recognition. An act of kindness is done with the goal of knowing that a single person can feel recognized or relevant to someone. I share this not for the recognition that it gives me but in hopes that others will do the same.
My wife and I were out to dinner at our usual spot and were sat across from an elderly gentleman. He sat very quietly having given a largely ignored smile and wink to his server who paid just enough attention to him to get his food and drink order right.
After he placed his order was when I really started to pay attention to him. He had ordered two drinks, had a wedding ring on and sat with a forced smile attempting to cover a somber feeling. He was sad, lonely and clearly had recently lost someone very close to him. His second drink sat directly across the table from him and was left untouched throughout his dinner.
It made me look across the table at my own wife and felt an instant sadness in my heart that one day that could be me. Having lost the love of my life and the reason I live. I couldn't imagine the loneliness and the loss he was feeling and all I thought to myself was how nice it would be for someone to just acknowledge me.
I instantly ran inside the restaurant to find his server, I ordered him two more drinks and a dessert and paid for his dinner, telling the server explicitly to not tell him who it was. I only asked that she make it a point to converse with him for just a moment and ask him engage him in a small conversation to ask him how his evening was. It wasn't because he looked like he couldn't afford his dinner, it was simply to acknowledge that he was relevant and someone recognized him.
After all, that could be any one of us one day. Since that day, I have a ritual. Every Friday morning I go to my favorite cheap coffee spot. It's just a gas station but it's busy with loads of hard working people just trying to get through the week and I anonymously by the first 50 coffee's of the day. it's to the point now where they just go ahead and do it regardless of whether or not I come in and pay for it (which I do).
I don't know if any of this makes me a better person, but it makes me feel good knowing that someone who is having a rough week, or a rough day or a rough life might crack a smile because of something as silly as a stranger buying them a cup of coffee or randomly paying for a dinner. Pay it forward, do something nice. It's not about what we expect in return, it's about helping someone else pay that kindness forward and becoming better versions of ourselves.