I am not a thoughtful person. It pains me to admit it, and I’m certainly not proud of it. But it is an ugly reality. And when I say that I’m not thoughtful, I mean exactly that. I do not think.

When I know that a friend is having a rough time, I will listen. I will pray. I will offer words of encouragement. But I rarely think to actually do anything. I let birthdays get by me. I forget to send get well cards and congratulations. I continually miss opportunities to show the people I care about that they are on my mind. Of course they are, and I tell them that. But too often I forget to show them.

I have always chalked my thoughtlessness up to love languages. Gifts and acts of service are not my love languages, so I’m not inclined to rely on those things to show others how I feel. But last week when my friend Tonja surprised me by leaving a pumpkin scone in my mailbox at the high school where I teach, I realized that this little gift (which was also an act of service because she baked it herself) meant a lot to me.

I was delighted, and more important, I was honored. 

Not only had my friend baked me a scone, she had gone out of her way to drop it off at my school, and she did so because she remembered that I am crazy for all things pumpkin. With this one act of kindness Tonja had literally made my day.

She also got me thinking. When was the last time I surprised someone with a gift? When was the last time I remembered to share a treat with a friend or go out of my way to cheer someone up? When was the last time I made someone’s day?  

I’m not saying that scone was a burning bush, but I realize that God was using that pastry to get my attention. How like Him to use the kindness of a friend to gently remind me that I need to be more kind.

Not one to ignore a sign from God, especially one that has a crunchy nut topping and a sugary glaze, I’ve made a list of simple ways to make a friend’s day.

Bake something

Okay, obviously I got the idea from Tonja, but baking for someone is a charming way to let a friend know she’s on your mind. We all have countless recipes pinned to our Pinterest SWEETS (or bulletin) board. Making a treat to brighten someone else’s day is a wonderful way to start actually trying out some of those recipes. 

Remember her favorite

Giving another person a gift, no matter how small, is thoughtful. But giving someone one of her favorite things is extra special because it shows that you know her. You’ve been paying attention. And you’ve made the effort find something she loves.

Give a little luxury

Even if you don’t know your friend’s favorite scent or how she likes her coffee or whether she prefers chocolate or cinnamon, you can still make her day. Most of us are too busy to pamper ourselves, but surprising a friend with little bottle of hand lotion or a fun new nail polish, you can make her feel special.

Give a unique compliment

Not every gift has to come from a store. Someone once told me I had an infectious laugh. I’ve never forgotten it. We all like to hear kind words, but when those words shed light on a quality that is unique or that we didn’t realize we had, they can really have a lasting impact. 

Compliment her children

As much as we all like to hear good things about ourselves, we love to hear good things about our kids. From now on, when I see a child being kind or thoughtful, using his manners or being polite, I am going to remember to tell his mother. That’s the sort of thing that will brighten any mom’s day.

Make her life easier

Once when I went to a movie with my friend Jonie, the girl at the concession stand took my money, gave me change, and then used that same hand (the hand that had touched everyone else’s money, too) to pick up an unwrapped straw and drop it in my drink. I could not bring myself to drink that Coke.

What did Jonie do? Not only did she not judge me for being a mild germophope, but the next time I saw her, she presented me with a box of 500 individually wrapped straws. 

For years, I kept a couple of wrapped straws in my purse at all times. Last week, the same day that Tonja gave me the scone, Jonie presented me with another box of straws.

Write a note

Oh, the joy of receiving something in the mail! In this day of texts and emails, it’s a rare treat to get something that isn’t a bill or a catalogue. From now on, I don’t plan to wait until it’s someone’s birthday to send a card (not that I was doing a great job of that before).

Post a photo

Most of us have experienced that terrifying moment when we receive a notification that we’ve been tagged in a photo.

What photo? When was it taken? What was I doing? How do I look? But when it turns out that the photo is fun (and flattering), it’s a real treat to suddenly get to relive an old memory on Facebook or Instagram – and to know that a friend is reliving that memory, too.

Even if, unlike me, you are naturally thoughtful, I hope this list inspires you. If so, then Tonja’s pumpkin scone has created ripples of kindness. Either way, it was amazing with a cup of coffee.