Random Acts of Kindness

By The Spiritual Explorer

Dear Spiritual Explorer: How did the phrase random acts of kindness begin? Rollo M., Dubuque, IA

Dear Rollo: I think a random act of kindness is spontaneously felt in the moment as a situation arises. For instance, a friend of mine saw two people who were very unhappy. They were not being able to attend a play that had been sold out. My friend convinced her husband to give up their two tickets. This couple is still amazed at their being able to respond in such a kind manner, but oh so proud.

Another, retired, friend of mine looks for a daily random act of kindness she can be be part of. She calls it doing her mitzvah for the day. A mitzvah is a good deed practiced regularly not only by everyday Jews. You will also find Orthodox rabbis who see it as a practice to be followed because of their beliefs that “the world is built on kindness.”

Random acts of kindness defined

The phrase of composing 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” contained in her book Random Acts of Kindness. In her book published in 1993,she spoke about true stories of acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness described

Random acts of kindness do not have to be accompanied by expensive or large sale gifts. It can be as simple as stepping into somebody’s universe at a moment where you see them having a hard time, perhaps sending moral support at a time. Or it could be if the person in front of you in the grocer line is having a hard time with her child and everybody is judging the child. You might decide to give her a wink or help her adjust her groceries, letting her know you are in sympathy with her difficulties.. Or how about allowing somebody looking to present their groceries ahead of you in line.

One of the best examples of a random act of kindness came from one of my friends who thought the position she was in would be the last place anyone would think she could offer any kindness. Marcia had open heart surgery and as luck would have it, shared a hospital room with somebody who became really angry at Marcia because Marcia liked to laugh a lot, a survival skill she recently learned. However, Marcia even though very uncomfortable and pained after her surgery, began to notice the pain her roommate was suffering also.

Marcia’s Random Act of Kindness

It appeared that this roommate had difficulty being bowel continent and the nurses had kind of given up attending to her the many times she needed so much attention. Marcia told me that when that woman’s doctor showed up, Marcia roused herself from her own discomfort, confronted the doctor of that woman and asked him to please speak to the nurses reminding them of their duty to this woman. A humble man, he told her he was grateful for her care and made sure that the woman was suitably addressed. Needless to say, this woman began to love Marcia, even though they were totally difficult on the political and social spectrum. She couldn’t believe that a stranger to whom she showed no kindness would still have responded on her behalf.

I know of someone who thinks she doesn’t contribute anything and in fact, every time she reads the newspaper insists on telling me how accomplished in charitable endeavors everybody is. She then supplements with the latest child prodigy who has invented something that can now feed or fill the water supplies of underdeveloped countries through their innovation.

While small projects seem meaningless in the face of extravagantly funded and well known projects, it has always been my feeling that God loves us for whatever we manage to do in any capacity that we have and doesn’t judge. It is we who judge ourselves.

I feel that an opening of the heart usually precedes a random act of kindness. And when one’s heart is opened, it is usual followed by a feeling of compassion for humanity in some form.

Random acts of kindness become necessity

In these days of  acts of violence and hatred,  random acts of kindness are not only wonderful but a necessity. We are truly mistaken when we think we cannot do anything to counter the violence or hatred in this world. It is our attempts to do these random acts of kindness that will be part of healing the world.

Keeping it simple, here are some random acts of kindness most anybody can do—and they add up.

  1. Smile at somebody.
  2. Pick something up off the floor and hand it to someone, seeing their gratitude.
  3. Let somebody know how important they are to you.
  4. Laugh at a joke somebody is gamely trying to tell, even if you don’t think it’s funny.
  5. Slow down your car and let somebody get ahead of you. Let somebody out of that intersection who is gamely trying to move ahead.
  6. A the supermarket take that extra dollar and help your community’s project.
  7. You’re with someone trying on clothes and they’re having a hard time picking out something. Help this person and give them some confidence in their choices.
  8. Apologize even if you secretly think you’re right, especially if that person is hurt.
  9. Show gratitude when someone does something nice to you.
  10. Hang a melon or mango on someone’s door.
  11. Hand a child five dollars and an adult ten dollars if you have it.
  12. Do some shopping for someone.

All of these seemingly small random acts can effect large significant changes on anyone. They can brighten someone’s day, keep them from falling into despair or encourage a movement forward. It’s really all about love; it’s feeling lack of love in any way that makes people feel discouraged. Love is the light; light shines the way; the way shows people the path and the path can bring people to themselves. A person brought to himself becomes joyous!


If you have a question about “random acts of kindness,” or anything else, write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer

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