The other day at the gym I overheard a snippet of a conversation. “For Lent I’ve decided to practice random acts of kindness.”
Now, I’ve heard of people giving up chocolate for Lent. I even heard news broadcasts about a man who had given up beer for Lent, and another man who said he gave up everything EXCEPT beer.
But doing more random acts of kindness as a resolution? What a great and relevant idea!
I decided to research the topic and came across the “official site.” It’s owned by The Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation, a small nonprofit that invests resources into making kindness the norm. While there were no suggestions about using this as a Lenten activity, it did provide a host of kindness ideas. I also learned you can sign up to be a RAKtivists®, short for ‘Random Acts of Kindness activist.’
The definition of Random Act of Kindness
Wikipedia offers the following definition:
A random act of kindness is a nonpremeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world. The phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It was based on the phrase “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty”. Herbert’s book Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty was published in February 1993 speaking about true stories of acts of kindness.
Random Acts of Kindness in the News
With all the bad news we hear all the time, it’s nice to take a step back and focus on some of the good stuff.
Here is a partial story from Channel 5 News in Seattle, Washington:
Police departments across the U.S. are challenging one another to surprise people with random acts of kindness in a campaign coined “#OperationPayItForward.”
It started when a stranger surprised two LAPD officers by paying for their food at a restaurant. The two officers wanted to pay it forward, so they filmed a video of themselves paying for three cars behind them at a fast food drive thru window.
LAPD posted the video on its Twitter account, challenging the New York Police Department to perform a similar act of kindness.
NYPD followed through, posting a video of two of its officers treating customers to free pizza, “cause everybody knows we got the best pizza,” one of the officers said.
The random acts of kindness challenge continued to police departments across the country.
Here’s another human interest news story from the Champaign, IL News-Gazette:
Volunteer, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen
“A woman came into the Soup Kitchen, distraught because she had lost her shoes. It was a cool autumn day, and she was wearing only a thin pair of socks.
“She insisted that her shoes, a pair of pink Crocs, must be somewhere in the building, although she also thought that someone might have stolen her shoes.
“One of our volunteers quietly began talking to the woman and calmed her down. The volunteer then checked our lost-and-found box, and she even searched the bathroom with the woman.
“Finally, she was able to settle the agitated woman down at a table with a plate of food, a steaming bowl of soup, a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. What I noticed next was heartwarming.
“After she ate, the woman without shoes walked out the door wearing a new pair of shoes and smiling broadly. Shortly after the woman left, the DBSK volunteer walked to her car — wearing only her socks.
“She was smiling too.”
What can you do?
An act of kindness doesn’t have to be large or impressive (although it can be). And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time (although that’s okay, too). It must just be sincere. Here are 20 ideas that may have been posted on various websites (or that just sprung into my head).
- Pick up litter
- Hold the door for a person carrying boxes
- Stop to allow a pedestrian or bicyclist to cross the street
- Compliment a stranger
- Bake cookies for the elderly
- Surrender a good parking spot
- Include a shy person in your conversation
- Forgive, even if it’s hard
- Listen without judgment to those who disagrees with you
- Give people the benefit of the doubt
- Offer to help
- Volunteer at a local nonprofit
- Send a thank-you note that’s deserved but not expected
- Smile at others, even when you don’t feel like it
- Give up your seat on the bus
- Babysit for free
- Be a Good Samaritan
- Engage in a conversation without reaching for your phone
- Relinquish your spot in line at a store or restaurant
- Hold the elevator
Obviously this is list is incomplete. Since these are random acts, there can ‘t be a full list. The point is, try something. Then keep the kindness flowing.