Why Kindness Multiplies, Joy Rebounds, and Generosity Goes Viral

Last week, I wrote about a pub in Colorado, where you don’t have to pay your tab when you eat. If you don’t have cash, they send you home with a Karma Envelope, and they trust you’ll send your payment in when you can. Because they believe kindness multiplies, joy rebounds, community is contagious, and generosity goes viral.

They claim a 97% collection rate via Karma Envelopes.

Joy rebounds, indeed.

Readers around the world wrote in, saying the post made their day and restored some of their hope for humanity. The Channel 9 News in Denver called to ask for details about the story, and I did an interview with a radio station in Montreal. But my favorite part of the week, by far, was hearing about other businesses around the world who operate on the assumption there is something good at the center of people.

Here are just a few:

There’s a sandwich bar in Basel, Switzerland that works on the honor system—you eat as much as you want and declare at the register how much you ate. About a decade ago, the owner ran an ad in the local paper, granting “amnesty” to everyone who “forgot” to pay for sandwiches when they were young and broke. And he offered this: if you now wanted to settle your tab, you could contribute anonymously to a fund, and the money was then donated to a local association for the blind.

The sandwich bar donated a lot of money.

Because kindness multiplies.

There’s a pizza place in Philadelphia where patrons are feeding the homeless. When a customer buys a slice for a dollar, they can pay another dollar to buy a slice for a homeless person. Then, they’re given a sticky note on which to write an encouraging message, and they stick it to the wall. When a hungry person enters the restaurant, he or she pulls off a note and eats for free. The walls are filled with multi-colored notes—encouragement from customers with money, and the responses of gratitude from the homeless.

Because community is contagious.

There’s a small general store in Castell, Texas, where strangers can pay by cash, credit card, check, or by “mailing them a check.” The owner of the store says the collection rate on the last option is 100%.

Because generosity goes viral.

There’s a resort in the Lake of the Ozarks where guests leave payments in a bucket at the store and the fishing hut. When asked why he runs his business that way, he replied, “I believe that if you trust people, they make themselves trustworthy. I’ve made enough to live on every year, so it must work.”

There’s a vegetarian restaurant in Australia where guests “contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their own financial ability.” Why do they run a business this way, and why is it thriving? Because they “believe in the power of humanity to create stupendous change.”

Why did my story about the pub in Colorado strike such a nerve? Because we all need to be reminded of what’s underneath our underneath. What I mean is, we all walk around with our personas in place, looking like we’ve got it mostly together and doing and saying what we’re supposed to do and say. But we all know there’s a shadow underneath our façade. It’s the darkness in us. The things we do when no one is looking, and the things we think that we would never tell anyone.

But there is something underneath the underneath.

There is a good and beautiful thing at the center of each of us. Call it your true self or your spirit or your soul or whatever. But it’s there. And when we believe in it, it comes to life and it comes to the surface. Our façade dissolves and love solidifies.

Why does joy rebound?

Joy rebounds because it is always humming at the center of all of us.

Underneath the underneath.

That is very good news, and it is very good business, too.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.