Unfortunately, during the economic depression of the past five years, the trickle-down effect battered the establishment. “My husband gave me the authority to try anything to turn the business around,” Lisa said. “So I gave out handwarmers.”  Come again?

In the opening scene of "The Godfather," aggrieved local undertaker Amerigo Bonasera visits Don Corleone and asks for vengeance upon his daughter’s boyfriend who had beaten her beyond recognition. 

Bonasera had been previously reluctant to ask a favor of Corleone for fear that he would be held to a debt that he could not repay. Corleone, of course, was offended by the request. This man had never before offered a hand of friendship or respect, yet on the day of his daughter’s wedding, Bonasera begged for justice. 

Corleone consented under the following timeless stipulation…
 
“Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”
 
While he was obviously sympathetic to the request of Bonasera, Corleone’s empathy clearly was not without an agenda. And this gets me wondering ... In today’s dog-eat-dog society, do we have the capacity to do something for another without expecting something in return? Do random acts of kindness really exist? Or are we being conditioned to be unkind?
 
Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California-Riverside has studied human happiness for 15 years, and she thinks practicing kindness is inherent.
 
“It’s rooted in our genes,” Professor Lyubomirsky told me. “Our early societies couldn’t have endured otherwise. They depended on each other, and they needed cooperation to survive.”
 
But do people today care about kindness?
 
“Everyone has signature strengths,” Professor Lyubomirsky said.  “Leadership, ingenuity, perspective. For some people, it’s kindness. Doing something to benefit another makes people feel like they are doing something positive in their community. And it makes them feel good.”
 
And that’s exactly what Lisa Metwaly was betting her mortgage on. Literally.
 
Lisa’s husband, Jimmy, bought the Q Café 20 years ago during a bustling commercial cycle in St. Paul, Minn. And business was good. Lunch lines grew long as word spread amongst the building occupants about the quaint little shop downstairs.
 
Unfortunately, during the economic depression of the past five years, the trickle-down effect battered the establishment. Surrounding businesses folded, and the little café’s customer base disappeared.
 
And that’s when Lisa stepped in and proved that, although it is nice to be important, it is more important to be nice.
 
“My husband gave me the authority to try anything to turn the business around,” Lisa said. “So I gave out handwarmers.”
 
Come again?
 
“I told our customers to use them for as long as they were outside. But the moment they went inside, they were to give them to someone else. They had to pay it forward.”
 
Obediently, that’s exactly what the grateful recipients did. The couple re-branded the shop as the Q Kindness Café, and they rebuilt the struggling business based on people’s generosity to each other.

Teenage gangs were created to practice random kindness. Initiatives were established to create momentum. And one big idea started from one small café soon flooded the community of St. Paul.
 
“We try and instill in our customers that we are all part of something bigger. That there is a greater purpose. We had one man walk through the door and leave $300 to buy breakfast for an entire youth hockey team.  Anonymously! And we asked each of those young boys to pay his kindness forward.”
 
On the frozen fields of St. Paul, Lisa planted the trees of kindness. And by allowing others to share the shade, her forest has grown, and her little café is once more the talk of the town.
 
“I look at it this way: Maybe I’m the rock that created the first ripple. But that rock is nothing without the water. We needed others to carry this forward. We needed passionate people to create the larger ripples. We needed others to understand that our gifts are meant to give.”