Editorials, Opinion

Random acts of kindness

We think everyone can agree that we need something good in our lives. So here’s something good for you: Random Acts of Kindness Day is Friday, Feb. 17.

A small history lesson: In 1985, California-based writer Anne Herbert published an essay in the “Whole Earth Review” titled, “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty,” later adapted into a children’s book of the same name.  Then, in 1993, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was formed to “make kindness the norm.” It put on the first Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17, 1995, in Denver, Colo.

And it’s grown from there — into an entire week dedicated to being nice for no reason than to be nice. Random Acts of Kindness Week begins Tuesday, Feb. 14, and ends Monday, Feb. 20.

In Herbert’s original essay, she wrote: “I used to have fantasies of positive vandalism. Breaking into the school and painting a dirty room bright colors overnight. Fixing broken glass in people’s houses while they’re gone. Leaving full meals on tables in the struggling part of town.”

Many of us have had similar fantasies: Paying the grocery bill for the mom trying to wrangle multiple kids; offering to load the car for the elderly gentleman in the store parking lot; buying a meal for the homeless person you pass on the way to work; or pulling over on the busy interstate to clean up the cardboard boxes littering the side of the road.

But then we just … don’t. Sometimes life gets in the way. Or it seems too forward, too invasive. Or you can’t afford to fulfill your fantasy of kindness.

Let Random Acts of Kindness Week be a reminder to get out of our own heads and just do the nice thing. As Herbert wrote, “Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Don’t await a reason. It will make itself be more, senselessly.”

Acts of kindness don’t have to be grand gestures. They can be small, simple.

If you have a few dollars to spare: tip waitstaff and food service workers a little extra; make a donation to your favorite charity or nonprofit; treat a friend to lunch.

If you don’t have extra cash but do have things to share: donate clothes and items to charity-run consignment stores; contribute food items to a local food pantry, or to a neighborhood “blessing box” or “little pantry”; add some gently loved books to a nearby “free little library.”

If you don’t have things but do have time: volunteer at a shelter or a nursing home; have a conversation with someone who looks lonely; help put together care kits; take a shift for a food delivery program (like Meals-on-Wheels).

And if you have no money or things or time to give: Toss out compliments and encouragements to everyone you encounter like you’re throwing out candy to kids at a parade. Tell a friend or family member you love them. Tell a coworker you appreciate them. Tell a stranger they have a great smile. A few kind words can make a person’s day.

And as you’re doling out random acts of kindness this week, don’t forget to save a few for yourself: a little treat, a pat on the back, a few extra minutes of sleep.

Kindness is free, so there’s no need to be stingy.