It’s my birthday, and I made a few people happy

It’s my birthday today, and to celebrate, I thought it would be a cool idea to make a few people happy through random acts of kindness.

I got the idea from a site called Random Acts of Kindness that I stumbled on a couple of days ago, and it turns out that many people have actually done this on their own birthdays as well (and published their experiences on their blogs).

So this idea is not new (and obviously not mine), but I think that if everyone stole it, we’ll all live in a much happier place.

Here are 10 random acts of kindness that I did during the past couple of days.


1) $10 Panera gift card

I bought a $10 Panera Bread gift card and gave it to the guy who sits all day in a Goodwill truck and waits for people to drop off their donations. I thought he deserved a warm breakfast. The card made him really, really happy.

The Goodwill drop-off station

The Goodwill truck where he sits


Picture of the guy with the gift card + smile

Look at that smile


2) Donuts for the school teachers

I bought a dozen donuts from Dunkin Donuts and gave them to the teachers at my daughter’s school when I dropped her off in the morning. The principal loved them and was very appreciative of the gesture.

Dunkin Donuts

I wanted to eat one, but they would’ve noticed because of the sticker


3) Cheer me up notes

I printed out copies of notes that read “Have a Wonderful Day!” with a smiley face and stuck them on the windshield wipers of 3 random cars in my neighborhood (I didn’t stay  around to see the drivers’ reactions).

The notesI stuck in windshields


4) Messaged Mom

I sent this text message to my mother, who stopped smoking a year ago (after 40+ years of being a non-stop heavy smoker)

Hi mom. Just wanted to say I’m proud that you’ve been smoke-free for a full year now. Didn’t think you’d last but you did. Great job. Love you.

Her response:

Thanks habibi I am happy too love you.

I used to think that it would be impossible for heavy smokers to stop smoking on their own (i.e., without any external support), but if my mom did it, then anyone  can.

She stopped smoking completely on one day, and used decreasing doses of nicotine gum to ease herself off of the physical addiction.


5) Helped a random person on Twitter

I went on and typed in the #help hashtag to find out if anyone was asking for assistance. I replied back to a girl in the UK who apparently had no idea how to “cook” tea (not sure if she was being serious, but I answered anyway :) ).

Twitter Help

I never got a reply back from her. She probably thought I was some weirdo.

Update on Sep 13, 2013: Karen mentioned in the comments below that in Britain, “Tea” could refer to a meal and not the actual drink. I checked online and it turns out she’s right (the meal even has its own Wikipedia entry). So I guess the girl wasn’t kidding, and I should have replied back with a recipe for scones or something :) Sorry Becca!


6) Bag of change to a homeless guy

I gathered all the loose change from my house, and put the coins in a plastic bag. I then handed them over to a homeless veteran who asked for spare change from car drivers at a traffic stop.

I think the total amount wasn’t huge (maybe around $15 to $20 in total), but it did cheer the guy up.

Here’s a video of me giving him the bag:

7) 15 minutes to my daughter

I told my 4-year old daughter that she could have my full attention for 15 minutes. We could spend that time on anything she wanted. No phone, no laptop, no distractions. 100% focused on her.

I obviously spend much more time than that with her reading books, going to the movies, visiting museums, etc., but this was different because those were going to be her rules and I had to play along without any objections from my end. She was ecstatic about the idea, and decided to play her favorite game (Zingo), and then a game of “grocery store.”

She charged me $943 for that muffin

She charged me $943 for that mini muffin


8) Coins in vending machines

I left a couple of quarters in candy vending machines so that the next time a kid walks up to one, he or she would feel like they found a million dollars.

Candy Vending Machines


 9) Paid for the car behind me at Burger King

At a Burger King drive-thru, I asked the cashier to pay the bill of the car behind me. The lady didn’t really understand what I was saying, so she asked the manager to help her out.

I had no idea how much the total bill would be until the manager mentioned it (turned out to be only $5.43, so it didn’t break my bank account :) ).

I drove off before seeing the driver’s reaction.

Here’s the video of how it happened:

10) Donated $15 to charities that my friends picked

I asked the following question on my Facebook status update:

What’s your favorite charity? (if you had to pick only one)

A few of my friends responded, and I donated $15 to every one of those charities (none of my friends had any idea why I asked that question at the time).

Here are their responses (names/ pics masked out for obvious reasons)

Charities on Facebook

One of my friends facetiously replied with his own name (that’s why his response is also masked out), so I’ll probably buy him a $15 gift card when I see him :)

Update on Sep 13, 2013: After reading this post, he reached out to me and kindly asked me to forget the gift card and donate the $15 to the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon (his favorite charity) instead, which I did.

Here are the links to the charities if you’re interested in learning more about them:

I hope this has inspired you to pay it forward as well.

If it did, please feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ by clicking the share buttons on the left.

The more people copy this idea, the happier everyone will be.



  1. Awesome!

  2. Hey Hassan,

    Many more happy return of the day. This post is so inspiring. Looking forward to imitate in my birthday too.

  3. Nice way to celebrate your birthday!

    Just FYI, the English girl may well have been talking about a meal the Brits call “tea,” which is usually an early supper.

  4. This is a real ‘keeper’ Hassan. Well done and Happy Birthday.


  5. Chris Yuenger says:

    Here’s to hoping that the rest of the world will be so generous with their time and a “few dollars” to make someone else happy. I truly hope it becomes an epidemic.

  6. Hassan,

    What a fantastic idea and I agree with your thoughts on the subject of random acts of kindness. What goes around, comes around right? But it doesn’t always have to come back around to us. It can be to our children, friends, co-workers, strangers, etc. It’s also not about dollars, but the act of “collecting loose change” or a kind act. This story has really inspired me today and I vouch to do the same on my birthday.

    • Thanks James. I agree that Karma comes back in many different shapes and forms, and not necessarily back to the original person, but also to those he or she loves. Glad it inspired you to do the same on your own birthday!

  7. Brilliant idea! You make me laugh with the Twitter story. Although living in London did not have a idea they call meal ‘a tea’. Learning sth new every day :) My friend recently recommended me ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox if you really want to get a gist of English culture. May be worth two cozy evening under the blanket with English tea (drink) :)

    • Thanks Agatha! In fact, most of my friends who live in the UK didn’t know they call some meals ‘tea’ as well, so you’re not alone :) Thanks so much for the recommendation about the movie – the only English culture education I’ve received so far is from Downton Abbey :)