What do you think about when you think of surprises? Do you think about what you’ve been given? Do you think about how you made someone’s day better when they least expected it? What about when you know you’ve stepped over a line and made someone uncomfortable? Do you even care? What do you think the positive and negative ramnifications for your actions will be? Do you think it will affect others or are you the type that goes about their business thinking that your actions won’t concern you in the long run?
Chances are most of us have had unexpected surprises in our lives. I know I do almost daily. I always try to make people have a better day. I don’t have to be their best friend in order to care about talking to each person as if I would wish to be treated. Our attitudes tell others a lot about how receptive we are to the unexpected surprises in our lives.
Most of the time, we get the good and great surprises. You know the type. The meals that were paid in advance, or a drink that was paid for by someone else. The flowers that showed up unexpectedly, the simple gestures that we show one another to let us know that we mean the world to those we love. These are just a small symbol of things that we experience in our lives. But what about the bigger surprises? The approval for a loan or grant to go to school? The unexpected recognition for a job well done? Being able to share in the joys of our loved ones when life has gotten out of control? It’s truly the little things that set the tone for how our days, months, and even years seem to go.
There was a time that I was really bitter about not being able to have a family. All I could see was the negative. When the little surprises starting popping up, it was almost as if the clouds were being rolled away from my eyes. At the time I was working for Habitat for Humanity. I was meeting a friend for lunch who had picked up my favorite lunch from my favorite establishment. The man I was hopelessly in love with had taken the order and told my friend to hang on. In the bag he sent me was a cupcake. This wasn’t anywhere on the menu but just the little gesture meant everything to me. It told me that he was thinking about me. Such a simple gesture meant so much.
There was another instance where I had just about run out of gas and my credit card was declined. I guess I had a guardian angel because someone else paid for my gas. I’ve never forgotten that incident and try to pay it forward whenever I can. It’s the little things in our lives that have the greatest impact.
Not everything has to cost money to be a great surprise. Try holding the door for someone. You’d be amazed at how a simple gesture like this can start a conversation and show the other person’s gratitude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held the door open for someone who had their hands full with their child, or groceries, or other items and you could see the relief on their face.
Are you constantly around people you don’t know? Introduce yourself. They may have been wanting to get to know you but are too shy. Sometimes it just takes a few seconds to become less of a stranger. Some of the greatest surprises I’ve ever had in conversations with folks is just how small this world really is. I can’t tell you how many times the people I have met knew many of the folks I knew. It’s a great way to network and you may even make new friends in the process.
Donate items. Did you know that many times donated items can help surprise people too? How? Most donated items are either re-donated or sold at very affordable prices. It might be gently used clothing or toys that others can enjoy the use out of. Whatever the items are, those donated items can help make someone else’s life a little better and they can get a great surprise by having affordable clothing or toys.
Be sure to listen to others and don’t try to fix their issues. Many of us want to surprise someone by trying to fix the situation. As tempting as it is, don’t do it. Why? It’s been my experience that when you try to fix the world, you only make things worse and then you get frustrated with the person as well as the situation. Surprising folks is great and very rewarding but when those surprises are taken for granted, it can lead to resentment, hostility and frustration.
Surprising each other is something that can be very healthy. It can also lead to bad surprises. I will never forget learning how much deception there was in my marriage. That was a very nasty surprse. I’m not alone. There’s been many couples who have had to fight infidelity, manipulation and lies. When you get nasty surprises, remember you aren’t alone. Take a breath, regroup, and get back up. You can’t fix everyone else but you can surprise yourself with a strength and conviction that you never knew dwelled within you. Give yourself the credit that you are a person of worth and that good surprises await you.
Finally, free yourself from the negative surprises surrounding you. You may need to step out of the toxicity around you in order to grow. Sometimes by doing this, it can be a very liberating experience. Treat each other with kindness and respect. Do the little things that no one expects you to do and bring smiles to people. Right now we need kindness more than ever. Be the unexpected surprise of positivity. You never know what kind of impact you will have.