What will you do for someone else today?
We watched Evan Almighty the other day. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I have one issue. They used the acronym ARK for Acts of Random Kindness, or Random Acts of Kindness as, I believe, it was originally ordered. Humorist Danny Wallace published a book with this title. Being someone who is always searching for the right word, I think pairing “random” with “acts of kindness” is a mistake.
Good ole’ Webster defines random as, “lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern– made, done, or chosen at random.” I know random. It’s how I live my life. When I have a day to myself, I prefer to go off on a whim. I do make lists, but it’s a rare treat when I cross something out and usually I’ve scribbled my loose intentions in a slant on a napkin or a grocery receipt which I stuff somewhere. Occasionally, I find a nest of scraps and they’re only marginally comprehensible. It’s a challenge for me to put out persistent, concerted effort to acquire a skill of any kind. Putting my keys in the same place twice is a major accomplishment. Routine is not on my non-existent agenda. At a certain point in our family life, my husband stated that we would each have our own particular seat at the dinner table. I bulked. I already felt organized. I told him I wasn’t in kindergarten anymore. Left on my own, I wouldn’t even eat at set times, but forage throughout the day, nibbling on bits of whatever it is I’m craving at the moment. My kids love this about me. Once when my husband was working late, my youngest daughter walked by and asked, “what’s for supper” as children often do. Without looking up, I said, “Halloween candy.” Later, that same daughter pranced past with chocolate smeared all over her beaming face. “This is the best day ever,” she cried.
Have you ever lived with a random person? Did you find them charming or exasperating? If you asked my husband, he wouldn’t describe my randomness as a positive attribute. Can he rely on me? Yes and no. Can he predict my behavior? He’s given that up for health reasons. Does he find me interesting, amusing, or exciting, like an obscure, odd, colorful bird? An Emphatic Yes. So, random can be eye-opening and curious, but mostly it’s sporadic (“no plan, purpose or pattern”). I’m not saying it isn’t important for us to watch for those one-time opportunities to meet the small needs of people we encounter as we go about our day, but what if nothing presents itself? Am I off the hook? How many random acts of kindness do I need to accumulate in a day to really feel good about myself? I don’t want to make it a habit, do I?
Yes, I do. Kindness is not simply an act, but a way of being. It overflows from a loving, thankful heart. It often requires a sacrifice and it should be performed gladly without expectation. It’s not to be kept inside and doled out in a miserly fashion whenever it’s convenient or we feel up to it. It’s not enough to only show kindness one designated day or week of the year. The expression of kindness shouldn’t be limited to strangers or old people or street folk, but it should be given freely and lavishly. Spontaneous is good, but deliberate and thoughtful is better. Write a well-crafted love letter. Throw an elegant birthday party. Volunteer to be a Stem Cell donor. Use your skills to enrich the lives of others. Commit intentional, regular, meaningful acts of kindness. Become an expert and you will alter the world one kindness at a time.
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