Thursday, 14 March 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

I’m fully aware that ‘Random Act of Kindness’ sounds like a phrase that can only be pronounced with a cheesy American accent (for any readers from the States, this is not a bad thing, just an acknowledgement that in general, Americans appear far less cynical than us Brits when it comes to self improvement). But I like the idea of it. And I warn you before you read any further that I am going to wholly subscribe to the concept of it, without apologising, for the rest of this blog post. 

So, what is a random act of kindess? Wikipedia describes it as… 

a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people. The phrase may have been coined by Anne Herbert, who says that she wrote "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 or 1983.[1][2]

So far, so open to whatever I want it to be.

My idea to have ‘Perform a Random Act of Kindness’ as one of my Firsts in the Hat was inspired by people like this and this, who go out of their way to do amazing things for others in return for what appears to be very little (aside from the giant ego boost of being a generous person).

Unfortunately, these grand gestures are hard to come up with, and there are very few joggers to hand bananas out to in Harlow. It got to the point where some time had passed since I picked this particular first out of the Hat and I was still struggling to come up with something. So, as I do in any time I am in need of inspiration, I googled.

There are lots of sites out there with suggestions. Hundreds and thousands of suggestions. But none of them seemed very grand. Many of them were about ‘smiling at strangers’. Which is all very well, but I think it would be pushing it to write a whole blog post about grinning at one person I didn’t know.

How could a smile like this fail to brighten up your day?
By Naomi Ibuki via Wikimedia Commons

So, I decided I would instead dedicate a whole day to small random acts of kindness.

Here comes the really gooey stuff. No apology…

I was really surprised at the difference it made. Not to other people, but to myself.  Yes, I’m aware this calls the selfless part of the definition into question (and that’s a whole other argument about whether any act can ever be truly selfless). But I think when you have been grieving for some time, you do become very focused on your self and your needs. Because for a while, you do have to be. You have to give yourself time where you try not to worry about other people, even if this is just for relatively short periods. But it’s easy to become stuck like that. And I think doing this first has helped me see a bigger picture again.

 I think listing the things I did during the day would feel wrong, like I’m trying to claim extra credit for them, but I will say nothing I did was spectacular. It just felt nice to think about other people for a change and to see them appreciate small things. Even when you didn’t see the other person’s reaction, just thinking about ways to help people out or make them feel better about their day or the world in general was enough to lift my mood dramatically.

And it had a knock-on effect too. When I see opportunities now, that I probably would have ignored before, I have a ‘what would I do on a random act of kindness day?’ moment and it gives me the motivation to do something about it. Like running over the road to rescue a runaway dog (even though there were plenty of other people around and one of them would have probably done something if I hadn’t) to asking if somebody wants help carrying with their bags (I was refused. Might have had more success if I hadn’t crept up on them while in an underpass).

I warned you this blog would sound corny. But this is how it is. Although perhaps I  should have  just told a story about dressing up in a giraffe suit and handing out bananas…

No comments:

Post a Comment