What Polite Gesture Never Fails to Impress You?

Holding doors, offering a seat on the bus, writing thank-you cards by hand—these small courtesies add grace notes to every day. Here, readers share the thoughtful acts that resonate most with them.

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Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

Navigating through heavy traffic is never pleasant. So little acts of kindness make a difference. In particular, I love it when someone gives me the “thanks” wave for letting him merge in front of me. Being acknowledged helps remind me that other cars are not just barriers in my path. We’re all just people trying to get somewhere.

Kristin Allender

Long Beach, California

A lot of people say, “What?” or “Huh?” when they fail to hear or understand you. I appreciate it when someone says, “Pardon?” or “Excuse me?” instead. These words are kinder and less terse, which makes me feel more comfortable repeating myself.

Olivia Batty

New York, New York

Bringing food to someone experiencing a stressful life situation, like a new baby or a loved one’s illness, is always welcome. While a home-cooked meal is especially comforting, you can also grab takeout from a local restaurant. That generosity will mean just as much.

Jennifer Dunaway

Atlanta, Georgia

After using the sink in a public restroom, a friend of mine wipes down the wet counter with a paper towel. Ever since I first saw her do this, I’ve followed her example.

Jenifer Sako

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

If I’m waiting in a grocery-store checkout line to buy one or two items, I’m always grateful when the customer in front of me allows me to go ahead of him. It’s astonishing when a stranger is observant enough to notice me and patient enough not to mind delaying his own checkout.

Jaclyn Sharpe

Downington, Pennsylvania

Years ago, when I was a single mother, my children and I often spent time at the home of a family who lived nearby. Whenever we were ready to leave, our hosts would escort us to our car—even in a downpour! This small effort made me feel safe and cared for.

Nikii Frank

McLean, Virginia

I adore any airplane passenger who takes the time to help others place luggage in the overhead bin (or remove it). When I’m struggling to lift a bag on my own, I grow anxious because I know that people are watching and waiting. Hearing the phrase “Let me get that for you” brings me instant relief.

Amy Andrews

Detroit, Michigan