Stories From California

Random Acts of Kindness

What would you do if a friendly lady in her mid-30s approached you--a big smile on her face, a colorful tote hanging from her shoulder, a ziploc-bag of cookies in her hands--offering you her treats? For free! Nothing expected in return!


Petra, a German lawyer living in Los Angeles, just wanted to do something nice for people, given all of the bad things that are happening in the world--earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear crisis, wars. So Petra baked some cookies and packed them in her shoulder bag. She added apples, tangerines and bottled water and set out for the beach in Venice. Her goal: to spread some positive energy, lighten things up and give people a break.

Everybody reacted to Petra with surprise. Most couldn’t believe she was giving things away for free. Some thought Petra wanted money for a charity, others expected the cookies to accompany some long-winded spiritual teachings. A few refused to talk to her--they shook their heads, looked away and kept walking. Students from Australia on rollerblades asked about the cookies’ ingredients skeptically, then settled for water and fruit. A tourist from Russia insisted she had to watch her weight and could not accept any food. One homeless man--who had come to California from the Canadian-U.S. border to find some work--could not thank Petra enough for the nourishment.

While chewing on cookies, some shared stories of their own random acts of kindness. One fisherman gives equipment and advice to families who are fishing on the pier for the first time. Another man lets homeless people store their belongings in his car when they go in for  job interviews.  One couple smiles and says hello to people, they yield in traffic and give up parking spots for others. A lot of people felt inspired to go out to do something similar, thanking the German lawyer for, “a good lesson.”

Petra went home with an empty bag and a big smile. “It was great to see the reactions, how open people were. I am very happy that people said they believe that if more would do something like this, we could get along better. That’s exactly what I believe.”