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Embracing the power of candy bars and ‘dad jokes’ on Random Acts of Kindness Day

As Rev. Sarah Samson makes her way around Memorial Hospital of South Bend, she carries a tool important to her role as a hospital chaplain: candy bars.

Each fun-sized Hershey or Crunch bar has a joke written on it. But not just any joke. A dad joke.

“It’s hard being the smartest one in the room,” reads one.

“I amaze myself,” reads another.

“Just try not to laugh reading a goofy dad joke out loud,” said Samson, M.Div., BCC, manager of Supportive Services at Memorial Hospital. “And it’s something not related to medicine. It’s not connected to an IV pole or a medical diagnosis. It’s a break in someone’s day.”

The candy bars are Samson’s second favorite act of kindness. Her first favorite, hugging, has been put on hold by the pandemic. But she said there are many pandemic-friendly options to show kindness to yourself and others.

A simple smile or a wave can brighten up the day of both the giver and receiver of the kindness.

“It’s huge,” Samson said, “because it’s a two-way thing. When you’re kind to me, it makes me feel better because someone is kind to me. But it changes your lens on the world, too.”

Kindness can also be much deeper than a wave or a candy bar. When the family of a patient enters the emergency room with a concerned expression, Beacon’s spiritual care team is here for them.

“You see the chaplain, and they tell you what’s going to happen next,” Samson said. “The chaplains are there to say ‘I will get this person and this person to help you’ or ‘This would be a great time to sit and call your dog sitter and get everything else sorted.”

Setting and managing expectations is part of Samson’s responsibilities as chaplain, she says. “In the hospital, it’s a lot of people who don’t want to be here. It’s a lot of letting people know how it’s going to go.

“It’s our job to say, ‘We’re going to make sure you’re safe and you’re OK. And if you’re going to have to have a difficult conversation, we’re going to get the right people there.’ Everyone feels better when someone has a plan.”

Samson encourages us all to remember how to be kind in our daily lives, whether that means serving as a shoulder to cry on or sharing something as simple as a candy bar and a dad joke.