1. Verklan, M. Terese PhD, CCNS, RNC, FAAN
  2. Professor and Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist

Article Content

By the time this journal is delivered, many of you will have forgotten the name Larry DePrimo. He was the New York City Police (NYPD) officer who gave a man a new pair of all-weather boots and socks on a freezing November night just off Times Square. And the man was a veteran! I wonder how many people passed right by without even noticing the man? A woman visiting from Arizona saw Officer DePrimo squatting beside the man with the new boots and took the photograph that was later posted on NYPD's FaceBook page. Very quickly the photograph and accompanying comments went viral, with thousands of people posting comments. Because of one man's generosity, people across the country, possibly the world since the story was a hit on the Internet, were touched by a random act of kindness.


I seldom go to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. The lines are long, and the food is not the greatest! But I found myself standing in a long line some time ago, and when I finally reached the cashier, she smiled at me and said the man ahead of me (already out of sight) had already paid for my food. I was shocked! Why would anyone want to do that? I hadn't noticed a familiar face ahead of me. I was puzzling over this as I walked toward the elevator. As I looked up, I saw him standing far down the hall looking at me. He just smiled and waved and then walked through the door. I've never seen him again. Telling the story to others on break brought out smiles and comments such as "You're so lucky," "What a nice man," "Wish I could have seen that!" and "Wish I was you." I felt so great the rest of the day, and I know that feeling shone through to the families of babies that I looked after those next few days.


Have you experienced a random act of kindness? Have you given a random act of kindness? I didn't think of one until I heard the story about Officer DePrimo. A month or so ago, I had gone to the cafeteria with my students for a quick morning break. The nurse directly in front of me was short a little over a dollar to pay for her breakfast, and I heard her tell the cashier she would bring the money in the morning. As she walked away, I told the cashier that I would pay her balance. I don't know if the nurse heard me, and I really didn't even think of the moment as a random act of kindness. I just had a 10-dollar bill in my hand and she looked like a very busy nurse! Since then, that cashier always has a smile for me and never asks me to open my Styrofoam container as I tell her what my breakfast is! I think that's a bonus.


Well, now I am interested in random acts of kindness, especially since Thanksgiving is just past and the holiday season is here. My friend volunteered at a men's shelter helping to serve Thanksgiving dinner. Fire stations are collecting toys. Animal shelters are receiving food donations, and pets are being adopted. A gentleman in a city I don't remember is handing out 50-dollar bills randomly to people who are in need. We see acts like this all the time and really don't pay much attention or think about the giving.


I didn't know that there was a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation ( Its aim is to inspire people to practice kindness and to pay the kindness on. There are "kindness ideas," inspirational quotes, and even lesson plans and activities for educators to teach kindness and positive attitudes in classrooms. We could take some of the suggestions from the foundation for use with novice nurses and preceptors to enhance positive learning environments.


In my search I also found a Random Acts of Kindness Week. Apparently, it was the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Didn't know that! The manager of the Asheville Mall in Asheville, North Carolina, randomly paid for portions of shoppers' purchases as one way of giving back to his customers. He just asked that they do something to help another. Not that I was mean, but I don't remember doing anything kind during that time frame.


And then there is also Random Acts of Kindness Day that is celebrated nationally! The day is February 17-didn't know that one either. November 13 is World Kindness Day, at time to be kind to all to build a more pleasant, polite, and kind World. The day was created in Japan by the World Kindness Movement from a number of conferences held in 1996-1997 that culminated in a "Declaration of Kindness." Barnes & Noble even has a calendar that you can purchase in the store or online: "2013 Random Acts of Kindness Day-to-Day Calendar: A Year of Touching Stories and Thoughtful Suggestions." Now there is no excuse for not paying it forward.


I am grateful to the Arizona woman who saw the young police officer brighten the face of the homeless man and was wise enough to recognize the significance of that moment. The photograph has inspired millions, including myself. The holiday season is a time when businesses, communities, and neighbors encourage everyone to be generous. It is good to have a reminder that anyone, at anytime, can benefit from kindness. The feeling will rub off, and the person shown the kindness will send it forth to others.


What will you give back? Perform a random act of kindness. You too can help!


-M. Terese Verklan, PhD, CCNS, RNC, FAAN


Professor and Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist


University of Texas Medical Branch


School of Nursing and Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesGalveston, Texas