There’s nothing like unexpected kindness from unexpected sources to brighten your day and make you feel special. We expect kindness from those who love us and are kind to those we love (most of the time). But, sometimes the nicest gestures stem from complete strangers or passing acquaintances. Throughout my pregnancy I experienced enormous compassion that opened my eyes to what true kindness looks like.

One Saturday morning in late June 2010, around my ninth month of pregnancy, I looked out the window to find two of my neighbours pulling weeds in my sadly neglected and overgrown garden. Recognizing I was too big and awkward to kneel and tend to my flowers, they decided to help out. I was shocked at their considerate gesture. For some reason the unexpected kindness from “strangers” always amazes me, though I’ve yet to figure out why. I’m not a pessimist and haven’t lost my faith in humanity, so why does it take me by surprise each time?

I was again surprised when my fellow bus mates, whom I saw every day but exchanged no more than polite conversation with, threw me a baby shower one morning during our hour-long commute. Three of the ladies presented me with a beautiful pink blanket that they had slyly knit together while I was nodding off. I received several other presents, including a gift basket from an autistic man who later admitted his challenges with socialization; it was a huge step for him to engage with the group. I felt wonderful; the unexpected kindness from my transit community transformed me and inspired me to ‘pay it forward’ in the same manner.

This level of compassion is a value I intend to instil in my young daughter, through my words and my actions. Whether generosity comes naturally or whether you make a conscious effort doesn’t matter. What matters is awareness, seizing an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, and not expecting anything in return. I’ve realized that when I practice awareness, generosity comes quite naturally—I now see opportunities for kindness. And I’ve also realized that it’s not the size of the gesture that matters; a simple act of kindness can make a world of difference to someone, just take a home-cooked meal to a new mom and you’ll see the gratitude wash over her sleep-deprived face. Even though we’re all incredibly busy, I’ve learned it doesn’t need to be inconvenient or time-consuming to be kind, especially when it comes from the heart. The true likeness of kindness is seen in everyday interactions taken one step further: double the muffin recipe to take a dozen to a neighbour; in the check-out line let the person behind you with one item go first; bring flowers to a colleague having a rough time; oh, and maybe throw in an extra back rub or two for your significant other.

What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you? Maybe even more importantly, what is the kindest thing you’ve done for someone else?