During the holidays it’s always nice to do for others. Random acts of kindness are a special way of giving back to your community, as Lisha Perry Fink knows. Read more from Lisha Perry Fink on her blog, The Lucky Mom.
I remember the first time I saw the slogan. I was living in Texas at the time, and was in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding. We were at the local hangout, and it was plastered on the wall behind the bar:
I was amazed by its simplicity. I was inspired by its power. I committed it to memory.
Now, this was the 1980s. There was no internet to fuel such a concept. It was a grassroots movement, forced to travel by bumper sticker and magazine article. By word of mouth. By deed. It was slow going. If it was going to catch on, I was going to have to do my part.
I went back to work the next week and remember being excited by the concept, and sharing it with co-workers. A few thought it silly. A few thought it weird. A few thought it was as wonderful as I did.
And so began my journey.
Over the years I’ve paid people’s tolls, bought coffee for strangers, paid for the groceries of a young couple with a baby in the stroller. I’ve given blankets to a homeless man, and picked up hitchhikers (I don’t do that anymore). I remember sitting on the side of the road on Christmas Eve with an old lady who had car trouble. (Before cell phones. You had to get someone to drive to the next exit to make a phone call for you.) I sprinkled flower seeds in the empty field and watched them bloom. I cleaned the statue outside my church. I carried candy around at Christmas and left it in the tube at the bank drive-up with a note.
But mostly I just tried to be nice. To as many people as possible. A genuine smile, a cheerful hello, a simple “How are you today?”— while making eye contact and waiting for a reply. Learning to be friendly, learning to listen, learning to care.
Talking about it seems a little strange to me. One of the hallmarks of a Random Act of Kindness has always been anonymity. (Touting them here is only for the purpose of explaining the concept.) When the recipient of one of my Acts tried to thank me, I always asked for the same thing: for them to pay it forward. To be kind, or generous, or helpful to another. I had this reverse pyramid scheme in my head that one day people would go about their business – being nice to one another along the way. My version of Utopia.
Twenty five years later, I’m trying to keep up the momentum. I’m also trying to teach my children the practice. Because if the three of them make this a lifelong commitment, then I’ve done my part building the pyramid.