Did you know that this past Sunday, February 17 was “Random Acts of Kindness” Day? (This day annually falls on February 17.) And did you also know that there is even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation? I didn’t until I started writing this article, because, to me at least, the point of a random act of kindness is that it is, well, random—a spontaneous action that is a result of a series of events in which you feel an overwhelming urge to act upon a thought you have.
• It’s when you are standing in line at the grocery store and you notice the person in front of you becoming increasingly upset because they don’t have enough to pay for their groceries, so you pitch in whatever small amount is needed.
• It’s when you notice that someone is lost and offer to walk them to their destination.
• It’s when you get in a cab in DC and realize you don’t have enough cash and the cab won’t take a credit card but because it is late and freezing cold the driver says “no problem” with a smile on his face and actually means it.
Those are random acts of kindness.
But, if you are stuck in a “I’ve been there and done that” mode, the “RAK” site has lesson plans to help promote kindness and empathy in schools, ideas for kindness acts you can perform, and tools to help you organize a flash mob, all of which is decidedly un-random and actually controlled.
In fact, my oldest son said, “It’s not really random if you actually plan to do it.” And he’s right. While I like the notion of randomness, of having an extra quarter to put in the meter so the next person has 15 extra minutes of parking time, or, as happened to me, being the recipient of a free bag of coffee at the local coffee shop just because of a polite hello to the gentleman in line ahead of me, I recognize that those random acts of kindness are few and far between.
So perhaps what we all need to do is be more mindful in our acts of kindness, to actually plan and prepare to do kind things. Taking a moment and reflecting about how it felt when someone did something nice for us, whether it was random (like the bag of coffee) or purposeful (like doing research for us for a blog post or project)
In fact, it seems as we get more caught up in the details of our lives we actually pay less attention to what our life should be about. Yes, we need basic fundamentals of life: shelter, clothing, and food; but we also need a purpose, a mission, a dream, and a goal. We need something that inspires us to get up out of bed every morning and face the challenges of the day. And we need to know that the something we have purposed ourselves to do, has value and worth.
For example, I am a runner. I don’t always run fast and I don’t always run with grace, but I get up off my couch every day and move. And while I run, I practice a purposeful act of kindness by turning on my Charity Miles app on my phone and running for a cause I believe in, Shot@Life. See, my 4.38 miles today translated into a monetary donation that supports my cause. So while I run, Shot@Life benefits and children in other countries will receive much needed vaccinations. Kindness counted.
So, whether your act of kindness is random:
• Giving a “just because” hug or card (my youngest child’s idea)
• Doing the dishes (laundry or chores) without being asked (my middle child’s idea)
• Ordering an extra pizza and give to someone who is homeless (my oldest child’s idea)
Or your kindness is purposeful:
• Responding to an action alert from an elected official in support of an issue or cause you believe in
• Picking up the phone and calling a friend you haven’t spoken with in some time
• Scheduling a time to volunteer with your children at the local animal shelter
• Cleaning off your bookshelves and donating the books to a local homeless shelter
The point is you should do something. And not just because it is an officially recognized day to do something (which is so not random) but because being kind is always the right thing to do.
“A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.” – John Ruskin