10 ways to show gratitude to strangers

Nov 23, 2021

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Gratitude can be shown in many ways and to all people. We know we should show gratitude to God. We probably show gratitude to our family and friends. However, there are lots of other opportunities to show appreciation, care, and thanks. In fact, it can be a life changer when we take the time to show gratitude to strangers as well.

In this fast-paced, self-centered world, how can we possibly stop and show appreciation to people we don’t even know? Why on earth would we in the first place? Let’s dive into some encouraging ways (and reasons) to show gratitude to strangers that pass through our lives, and grow in our understanding of how this, too, brings God glory.

Psalm 9:1

Perform a random act of kindness

First and foremost we must remember that we are called to love everyone. And not just love as we understand it, but love as God defines love. We are to love because God is love, because God loves us, and also because God loves everyone else as well. A vital aspect of Biblical love is kindness. By simply being kind we can express love and gratitude for others.

14 Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8 CSB

Random acts of kindness are generally spur-of-the-moment opportunities to do something out of pure kindness and love for someone else. We don’t do it to benefit ourselves, but to purely show some appreciation for our fellow human beings struggling alongside us in this human life. It could be buying the groceries for the mom struggling in line with her toddler, grabbing a coffee or sandwich to give to the homeless man on the corner, or any number of other opportunities to show kindness to others on a whim.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a]6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truthLove bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Pay it forward

Another way to be kind is through generosity. Generosity is a beautiful way to show appreciation, and paying it forward is a great opportunity to express your gratitude to strangers. Paying it forward is doing something for someone else and then encouraging them to do likewise for someone else instead of them paying you back directly. There is no desire or expectation to be repaid, but instead for the generosity to be given to someone else instead.

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:42 ESV

This can show someone you appreciate them simply existing in the same world as you and can be life-changing if not simply day-changing. One thing I love about paying it forward is that it is done not knowing someone’s need but simply trusting God’s prompting to be generous, loving, and show gratitude to strangers. Don’t stop to wonder God’s reason, whether someone can afford it, needs it, or deserves it, but just trust God’s instruction to show this incredible level of gratitude to strangers He puts in your path.

17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 19:17 ESV

10 Ways to show gratitude to strangers
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Pay for the person behind you in line

An extension of paying it forward is paying for the person behind you in line. This is a fantastic way to pay it forward if someone has bought your order, but it is also simply a generous way to show some appreciation for strangers. This is done not knowing if the next person will pay it forward or not, but you do it knowing you got to love on someone and show gratitude to strangers with a simple act of generosity.

17 A man who is kind benefits himself,

    but a cruel man hurts himself.

Proverbs 11:17 ESV

I remember when someone did this for me. I was stressed out and having a rough day and decided to spend the few bucks I had on a comforting coffee when the people in the car ahead of me had paid for my drink. I literally cried. At that moment I had so badly needed someone to show some love, and that was the ticket. God showed me the love I needed at that moment through a complete stranger. It turned my entire day around and years later I have never forgotten it.

The point is this:[a] The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6 CSB

Hand out cards that highlight scriptures about thanksgiving

If you are creative or even a little bit introverted, a fun option could be making little cards, or even grabbing some cute ones from the dollar store. Giving thoughtful little cards can be such a nice way to show someone you appreciate them.

17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

1 John 3:17 ESV

When my kiddo and I go pick up groceries she loves to make handwritten notes to give to our grocery helpers that load up the bags into the car. It is always such a sweet exchange and clearly warms the hearts of our hard-working grocery workers.

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Adding something special like your favorite Bible passage, or even a little note saying “God bless” or “God loves you” can be a seed planter as well. These little opportunities can have such a huge impact. We may never know the impact it has but God does. In this, we can show our gratitude to God for the salvation and blessings we have received when we share it with others, as well as show gratitude to strangers He gives us the opportunity to bless in this small but impactful way.

Greet and smile at passersby

So simple yet such a needed reminder to smile at passersby rather than avoiding eye contact, acknowledge someone’s existence with a smile and a kind word. This can again show that you appreciate other fellow human beings just trying to make it in this world. As believers, we have our hope and joy in the Lord which should be reflected in how we see and treat others. We should absolutely show God we appreciate His creations and show His creations our gratitude for them as well by acknowledging them warmly and lovingly.

13 A joyful heart makes a face cheerful,
but a sad heart produces a broken spirit.

Proverbs 15:13 CSB

Don’t look away, avert your eyes, avoid eye contact, or act as if someone isn’t there. Don’t give the stink eye because they are in your way or you’re just in a bad mood. Show kindness and gratitude with a smile and a kind greeting, even if it’s for no other reason than God put that person in your path at that moment. Take it as an opportunity to share His love and show some compassion and thanks to a perfect stranger.

22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22 CSB

Give compliments

Compliments are such a strange commodity in our culture nowadays. People seem to feel it will be taken the wrong way or it’ll just be awkward and they throw the whole idea out the window. I’d encourage you to take little opportunities to pay someone a compliment every day. This not only shows others they are appreciated but can help transform your heart from judgment toward seeing people as God sees them.

23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!

Proverbs 15:23 ESV

Another thing my kiddo likes to do when we get groceries is telling the grocery helper that they look nice. Man or woman, young or old, she tells them sweetly “you look nice today”. I love it. We get a variety of helpers and even when it’s the same person they never fail to show they appreciated the compliment every time, and in turn, my kiddo gets to show some appreciation for them as they tackle the challenges of their job.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

    who conducts his affairs with justice.

Psalm 112:5 ESV

There are countless opportunities to acknowledge something you appreciate about random strangers. Compliment their smile, their eyes, or their name. I love to find things that are not material or that may be something they seem to feel self-conscious about but you want to encourage them about. Whatever you compliment, it is a great way to show gratitude to strangers as well as to God.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

    be acceptable in your sight,

    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 ESV

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Tip generously

This is likely to be the most controversial idea on the list, but nevertheless, I highly encourage you to show gratitude to the people serving you by tipping generously. Being generous should always be done out of a heart of giving, love, and thanks and never grudgingly. Giving can change our heart and perspective, and communicates to service workers that their work is appreciated.

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38 ESV

Not only are we showing them our appreciation, but we get to worship God through an act of generosity, being a good steward of what God has entrusted us with. It is not ours, but God’s and He calls on us to be generous. Next time you get that takeout, pick up a latte, or get your hair cut, give the tip God lays on your heart to give and show those who have helped you some gratitude.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

    who conducts his affairs with justice.

Psalm 112:5 ESV

Volunteer or donate to a Godly cause

There are endless causes and charities that always need help and support. From animal shelters to missions trips in third-world countries. Your church likely has a need for volunteers, and the foster care system needs Christmas gifts for the kids in their care. I loved going to nursing homes around Christmas growing up and singing Christmas carols, serving the elderly dinner, and visiting with them.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2 ESV

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:9 ESV

I also used to find ways to help the homeless in my area, make blankets and scarves, donate my old but still usable clothes to a women’s shelter versus a thrift store. Find ways to give of your time and the variety of resources God has blessed you with, and show gratitude to strangers as well as to God. Your time is precious, and the strangers who benefit from you spending some of your time to show them love and care will appreciate your appreciation and acknowledgment of their needs.

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40 ESV

Be kind and respectful

One thing all of these ways to show gratitude to strangers have in common is they are all acts of kindness and respect to our fellow human beings. All people are created by God, loved by God, and should be loved by us. Kindness and respect are often considered things to earn or it is not shown, but we certainly have no right to that claim.

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

God tells us to be kind to one another, to never tire of doing good, and He also tells us to do unto others as we would want them to do unto us. This is not what the world teaches, but is what God instructs. Showing kindness and respect to other people is a powerful way to encourage them and make them feel appreciated. We can never earn the love of God, and we should never treat others as though they have to earn it from us.

31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

Luke 6:31 CS

Show gratitude to strangers by simply being kind and showing them respect, no matter how they have treated or done to you. Love others, even your enemies, those who persecute you and mistreat you, and be the light in those moments as well as the joy-filled times that are easier to be kind and loving. Be grateful for the other people God created because He created them in His image and with a purpose and path as well.

Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10 CSB

Be a graceful example of Christ

In all of these ways to show gratitude to strangers, we get to be examples of Jesus Christ. By treating others with kindness, love, respect, and appreciating that God put others alongside us on this earth we are able to grow in gratitude to God, to the people closest to us in this life, and strengthen our ability to appreciate the strangers who walk in and out of our days.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

With a heart of gratitude toward all people, we are better able to display the fruit of God’s Spirit and pour out the love of Jesus on the people we pass. All that we do should be done as to the Lord. We should remember that we are working for God out of love and gratitude to our Creator and Savior. Let God’s love pour out of you into the lives of others as you allow yourself to be filled with and show gratitude to strangers in your life, as well as to God and your family and friends.

35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 ESV

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Why show gratitude to strangers?

No matter how you are treated, no matter how you have been made to feel, show gratitude to strangers and share the love, mercy, grace, and kindness of God with them. Every little chance we get should be taken with a grateful heart and used to serve God and draw others closer to Him. We should appreciate the salvation and blessings we have received in our own relationship with God so much that we cannot help but show gratitude to strangers and plant seeds to draw them closer to the Lord and share in the blessings.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9 ESV

All people are made in the image of God, His beautiful creations whom He loved so much He sent His only begotten Son to die as payment for their sins as well as yours. Jesus died for your salvation, and He also died for every person on this earth, which includes your family, friends, and even strangers. Show God that you appreciate His creations and gift of salvation for all who accept Christ, and help draw others closer to God in the ways you treat them on every occasion.

16 For God loved the world in this way:[a] He gave[b] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17 CSB

How can you show gratitude to strangers and encourage others to do the same? In what ways would you appreciate others to show you some gratitude as you go through this life alongside them? Let’s exhort one another, encouraging each other to do good, and love others as God has called on us to do.

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Have you accepted the grace of God?

If you have not accepted the grace of God and chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to pray to God now and invite Him in, accept Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins, and repent of your sins. Submit it all to God, lay it at His feet, seek the forgiveness of God, welcome Him into your life, and believe that Jesus died and rose again to save you from your sins.

If you would like to learn more about salvation, you can find a couple of studies that may help here:

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