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Random Acts of Kindness for Law Enforcement Officers

On August 12, 2011 San Diego Police Department’s Officer Jeremy Henwood lost his life in the line of duty.  Henwood, a Marine combat veteran, was 36 years old when he was gunned down after leaving a McDonald’s restaurant.  He had returned from Afghanistan just six months earlier, it had been his third military tour.

Video cameras were able to catch Henwood’s last minutes while in the restaurant.  A boy had approached him at the counter asking for change to buy cookies.  Henwood did so without hesitation, spoke to the boy and encouraged him to meet his goals of being an NBA star athlete.  It was Henwood’s last random act of kindness, and it will always be remembered.

Most people have heard the phrase “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”.  But what does that really mean?   Quite simply a random act of kindness can be defined as a selfless act performed by a person or persons wanting to assist or cheer up an individual for no other reason than to make that person smile or to be happier.  These altruistic acts are a generous way of expressing gratitude for all that you have been given. The benefits of performing random acts of kindness are multifold.

Personal Social Responsibility

Can you imagine a world where no one gave to one another?  Personal social responsibility is about doing to others what you would like others do to you; recognizing how your behavior affects others; and being accountable for your own actions.  Unfortunately, law enforcement officers encounter many people who simply have absolutely no sense of personal social responsibility.  They commit crimes; they abuse and violate others, and create general havoc.  It can lead an officer into cynicism.

Random acts of kindness are essential to our feeling of well-being individually and collectively.  Kindness is contagious. Acts of kindness can help free an individual of feelings of self-obsession, isolation, and pessimism.  It doesn’t matter who the recipient is; a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a victim of a crime, an out of luck civilian on your beat, or even a whole community, kindness counts.

Kindness is truly a win/win/win situation. The person you are being kind to benefits through your help. You feel good for having made someone feel better. And the world is a better place through your kindness.  If that isn’t enough, numerous scientific studies show that acts of kindness result in significant health benefits, both physically and mentally.  After performing an act of kindness many individuals feel a rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of feeling calm by the release of endorphins.

Additional health benefits of kindness include:

  • a decrease in the effects of diseases such as ulcers and asthma
  • strengthening of the immune system
  • a decrease in both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain
  • decreased feelings of stress, depression, loneliness, helplessness, hostility and isolation
  • an increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness, and optimism
  • enhanced feelings of energy, vigor and emotional resilience
  • a definite decrease in Scrooge signs and symptoms over the holidays

Even better; the health benefits and sense of well-being return for hours, or even days, whenever the act of kindness is remembered. 

Most of us have been blessed by being the recipient of at least a few random acts of kindness.  Some even while working in law enforcement!  From someone covering your shift so you can be home Christmas morning with your children, to the couple who paid your breakfast tab before leaving a restaurant, to a civilian who called your supervisor to praise your service, to the girl scout troop who baked your team cookies, to the partner who taped a funny cartoon on your locker when they knew you were down...  You know how you felt by the display of kindness; appreciated, cared about, surprised, but most importantly, happy. 

Ideas for 50 Random Acts of Kindness

Most everyone reading this article has performed random acts of kindness; probably many.  You may believe that you do not have a lot to offer, but you do.  From giving a compliment about a peer to a supervisor, offering water to a victim, or leaving your leftover dinner for the homeless man on your beat, you can make all the difference in the world to an individual.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.”

  1. Volunteer at an agency that needs help.
  2. Donate blood.
  3. Write something nice about your waitperson on the back of the bill and leave a generous tip.
  4. Slip a $20 bill to a person who you know is having financial difficulty.
  5. Put extra change in a vending machine.
  6. Collect goods for a food bank.
  7. Volunteer at an agency that needs help.
  8. Clean graffiti from neighborhood walls and buildings.
  9. Give toys to the children at the shelter or safe house.
  10. Send a gift anonymously to a friend.
  11. Roll a neighbor’s garbage cans back up the driveway at the end of trash pick-up day.
  12. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  13. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway or mow their lawn.
  14. Fill a parking meter.
  15. Remember the bereaved with phone calls, cards, plants, and food.
  16. Call or visit a homebound person.
  17. Transport someone who can’t drive.
  18. Adopt a homeless pet from the humane society.
  19. Pat someone on the back.
  20. Write a thank-you note to a mentor or someone who has influenced your life in a positive way.
  21. Plant flowers in your neighbor’s flower box or at a park.
  22. Tell your boss that you think he/she does a good job.
  23. Tell your employees how much you appreciate their work.
  24. Make a referral to the volunteer patrol for an isolated, lonely individual
  25. Help serve a holiday dinner at a homeless shelter
  26. Coach a little league team
  27. Drop off a plant, cookies, or donuts to the fire department.
  28. Open the door for another person.
  29. Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-through.
  30. Write a note to the boss of someone who has helped you, praising the employee.
  31. Call an estranged family member.
  32. Volunteer to fix up an elderly couple’s home.
  33. Give toys to the children at a shelter or safe house.
  34. Renew an old friendship by sending a letter or small gift to someone you haven’t talked with in a long time.
  35. Invite a new employee out for dinner.
  36. Buy a roll of brightly colored stickers and give them to children you meet during the day.
  37. Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.
  38. When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in with a wave and a smile.
  39. Give a bag of groceries to a homeless person.
  40. Laugh out loud often and share your smile generously.
  41. Plant a tree in your community.
  42. As you go about your day, pick up trash.
  43. Visit a nursing home on your beat with smiles and friendly conversation for patients.
  44. Thank a veteran for serving your country.
  45. Give a warning.
  46. Bring your significant other breakfast in bed.
  47. Join the peer support team at your department.
  48. Bring in treats for the department’s support staff.
  49. Hug your children for no reason and tell them why you love them.
  50. For one week, act on every single thought of generosity in your mind and notice what happens as a consequence.

Law enforcement officers are some of the kindest people I have ever known.  From giving up personal sick time for another officer, to collecting teddy bears at Christmas, to volunteering in the community...  They consistently give of themselves in the workplace and elsewhere. has a forum thread in which officers have given examples of the random acts of kindness they had demonstrated.  I encourage you to read it and add your own story.


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About The Author:

Pamela Kulbarsh, RN, BSW has been a psychiatric nurse for over 25 years. She has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past ten years. She has worked in patrol with officers and deputies as a member of San Diego's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) and at the Pima County Detention Center in Tucson. Pam has been a frequent guest speaker related to psychiatric emergencies and has published articles in both law enforcement and nursing magazines.