I got a notice today reminding me that February 15-21 is Random Acts of Kindness Week. Included were a list of kind acts one can do, but doesn’t that take away the randomness of being kind if you have to plan to be kind? Isn’t the purpose of being kind simply . . . being kind? And not just one week out of the year, but every week.
It reminds me of that scene in Road House where Patrick Swayze tells his bouncers to be kind. Not matter what anyone does, be kind. If they get in your face, be kind. Well, he actually said to be nice, but this isn’t a post about being nice — it’s about being kind — though there isn’t much difference between the two concepts when it comes to behavior. Being nice is about being pleasant and agreeable, and being kind goes beyond simply being nice to being benevolent. Either way, it’s about treating others with respect and graciousness.
So many of the suggestions for unrandomly committing random acts of kindness are neither particularly nice nor particularly benevolent, especially if you are doing it for the purpose of being kind to make yourself feel good about being kind.
For example, leaving a note on someone’s car telling them to have a nice day. Have you ever had a nice day just because someone told you to? Doesn’t it irk you more than it evokes kindness, especially if they lifted your windshield wiper to secure the note? A better act of kindness would have been for them to keep their note writing to themselves.
Another idea was to place a quarter in a new purse in a store because it will be a treasure to the person who buys the purse. Um, no. First of all, in no way can a mere twenty-five cents be considered a treasure. And second of all, it would probably trip all the metal detectors as the person left the store, creating an embarrassing situation. Well, probably not, since the detectors only detect theft-detection devices, but still . . . leaving a quarter is not really being kind. It’s better to save your quarter for the person standing in front of you in the check-out line who is fumbling for cash, irritating the hell out of you. So, be kind. Even if you don’t give the person the quarter, be kind. Getting irritated and impatient does no one any good.
One popular suggestion is to bake cookies for an elderly neighbor. So not a good idea! The elderly person might like or even want the cookies, but are they allowed to eat them? After all, they could be diabetic or prediabetic, or on a diet, and your foolish act of kindness could derail their attempt at better health. Besides, with The Bob running rampant, I certainly wouldn’t want to eat anything someone made just so they could feel kind, so for sure I won’t make anything for anyone else, and that, in its own way, is a kindness — it shows I have their best interests in mind.
One thing I do agree with is to only say nice things. That ties in with the Swayze quote. But not just for that one week, but for every week. There is seldom a reason not to say nice things unless people are being larcenous toward you or creating a dangerous situation.
For example, one of the suggestions is to help an older person cross the street. Um, no. If you lay hands on me, well, that’s my cue to NOT be nice.
So, before you do something kind, make sure people welcome your kindness, otherwise it isn’t kind; it’s merely self-serving, and being self-serving generally falls under the category of not being kind.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator