Surprise your patients with kindness to make a difference

When we offer our service in an unexpected way magic happens


Bill Murray remains one of America’s most beloved celebrities. Over two decades have passed since he stole the show as the bumbling grounds keeper in "Caddyshack" and again as the wise cracking scientist in "Ghostbusters." Though "Groundhog Day" might have been his last runaway hit he remains an iconic figure and an in-demand entertainer.

After a long career delivering some of the most memorable lines in movie history, you might imagine that Murray has retreated behind high walls or, at least developed a bit of Hollywood aloofness. Instead, he’s made a different choice.

Murray has decided to have fun with his celebrity status. Google "Bill Murray encounters" and you’ll find a long list of individuals detailing their bizarre and often completely hilarious encounters with the mega-star. He plays soccer with random people in the park, sings karaoke with complete strangers and crashes parties, photoshoots and weddings. He’s walked up to people in McDonalds, eaten fries off their tray and said, "Nobody’s ever going to believe you."

Murray decided that, instead of being a regular mega-celebrity, he was going to be a mega-celebrity triple dipped in awesome sauce. Not by making grand gestures of charity, but by looking around him at a given moment and deciding on something unique and unexpected to do right then and there.

He chooses his moment to behave completely counter to people’s expectations, with the simplest of gestures. And, as far as I can tell, he has a ton of fun doing it.

Murray isn’t the only celebrity that uses his fame to make people’s day. Taylor Swift shops for, wraps and delivers presents to her fans. Johnny Depp is fond of visiting sick kids dressed as Jack Sparrow and Robert Downey Jr. does the same thing in full character as Tony Stark.

Small gestures we can make
The other day my partner and I were heading into a grocery store when we passed a wide-eyed boy looking at us and our medic unit.

We weren’t planning on giving any vehicle tours. Actually we were in a bit of a hurry. The day had been busy and we were scheduled to cook for the whole crew. But it occurred to me, that through a small gesture, we could totally make this kid’s day.

I smiled at his mom and asked, "Is it OK if he has a look inside?"

Her reaction betrayed her initial surprise that we would stop what we were doing and return to our vehicle to show it to her son.

Inside the medic unit it took our new friend a little while to warm up to the idea of being the center of attention, but once he felt safe the questions started flowing. I talked with him about the importance of helmets and why we always wore seatbelts. When we were done, I could tell he would be telling the story of his new paramedic friends for a long time to come.

It might be easy to dismiss the opportunity to make small gestures of kindness as something reserved for individuals with notoriety and fame. But in many of our communities we are the local celebrities. Kids are an obvious choice because they’re so open about their admiration for our work, but I find most adults to be just as appreciative.

We can spontaneously choose to interact meaningfully with just about anyone at any time. Like celebrities, we have a license to break through social barriers.

Eight-year-olds like to hear their heart beat, 80-year-olds like to know their blood pressure. The interaction is different but the tools are the same and so is the appreciation for our time. And when we offer our service in an unexpected way, that’s when the magic can happen.

Do something generous
Medics John Grass and Matt Runge have likely run hundreds of trauma calls. Yet, they never once appeared in the national news, until the day they returned to the patient’s house to finish doing his yard work. The Wisconsin firefighters who shoveled the snow off the driveway of a heart attack victim weren’t expecting anything more than a polite thank you, but when a neighbor posted a photo of them online their generosity went viral and launched the "shovel it forward" movement. Three Kansas City, Missouri, police officers were stopped to play a game of pick-up basketball with some neighborhood kids.

These simple acts of kindness have a few things in common. Not only were they kind and thoughtful, they were unexpected. And they could have easily been passed over if the individuals hadn’t been looking for opportunities to make someone’s a day a little better. It may seem strange to give national recognition to paramedics for raking leaves or returning wreaths to gravestones, but to me it makes perfect sense.

Unexpected kindness resonates with people.

I offer you this challenge. Find an opportunity on your next shift to make someone’s day in an unexpected way. It can be anyone and it can be anything. The opportunities are endless once you start to look for them. You may find it’s the most rewarding moment of your entire day.

Surprising people with kindness and joy is inherently rewarding. Who knows, if you really enjoy it, you may start looking for opportunities everywhere. Much like Bill Murray, you may become known for spontaneous acts of ridiculous kindness.

I wish you luck and ask for this favor. Leave a comment and let us know what you did and how it went. Share, not for the attention you might receive (and deserve), but so your experience may inspire others. 

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