In the spirit of the holiday, we decided to write briefly today about acts of kindness we have been meaning to perform, and have
recently finally performed. If, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we took a few steps heavenwards this week by following through on our good intentions. We met in January to discuss our editorial calendar for the next few months, and thought that planning this post would put into motion all of our good intentions when it comes to committing random acts of kindness. Resolutions met! Here are some other wonderful stories of random acts of kindness.
For two years I’ve been carrying around a bookmark from The Children’s Book Bank, a charity close to my heart, but, apparently, not close to the top of my to do list, because for those same two years I’ve had bags of books waiting, waiting, waiting to be taken to them. The Children’s Book Bank collects and distributes gently used children’s books and distributes them free of charge to children who might not otherwise have a chance to own their own books. Today, they are getting a few dozen more to distribute.
Since Valentine’s Day also happens to be International Book Giving Day, won’t you please join me in hauling a bag of books to your local book bank, school, shelter or charity? It will make my terrible procrastination feel a bit less weighty if I know I have at least added to my haul by encouraging others to give, too!
I find the term “random of acts of kindness” difficult to define. Buying an unsuspecting person a cup of coffee is both random and kind and not to mention surprising for the recipient. I am sure that the receiver goes about their day with an extra spring in their step, not from the caffeine but from the generosity of a stranger.
But in my books most random acts of kindness fall squarely in the “be a good human” column and sadly, being the receiver of a “good human act” is often just as random, kind and surprising as someone buying you a cup of coffee.
Being a kind human isn’t that difficult. It’s the little things: shoveling a neighbour’s walk, bringing in your neighbour’s trash bins, sending an out-of-the-blue email to a friend letting them know how fabulous you think they are or waving a polite thank you when someone gives you the right-of-way. These are the things that make people feel appreciated and feeling good is contagious.
In the midst of the polar vortex, with the sidewalk slick with inches-thick ice, I happened upon an elderly woman pushing her grocery buggy tentatively on the sidewalk, using the handle for balance. I pulled my car to the side, much to the confusion of my son, and rushed to the woman’s side. Together we navigated the buggy to a stretch of cleared sidewalk where it was safe for her to make her way home.
The woman was shocked that I had stopped my car to help her and her thank you was so genuine, it reminded me of the weight those words can carry. However, it was what she said next that filled me with a deep sense of gratitude: God bless you!
I am not an overly religious person, but it was the way she said those words, with such feeling and authenticity that made me feel worthy, appreciated and valued.
I’m into honesty (maybe a bit too much), so I’ll tell you that I googled “random acts of kindness” when 4Mothers decided to write about it. At first I considered this a testimony to how lost the art of kindness may be, that I needed to “research” examples. As it turns out though, most suggestions for performing random acts of kindness is just a long way of saying “good”.
To put a little extra intention into “good”, I took into account the distinction of today, and tried to think of who might benefit from a good valentine but wouldn’t ordinarily receive one from me. Two people came to mind: a friend whose husband has gone overseas to say goodbye to his ailing sister, and a friend whose long-term relationship is ending and for whom the day will not be especially celebratory.
With the help of my oldest son, I made a three-layer peppermint bark (not nearly as well as the first time I tried it, I might add), but with enough heart that I hope it’s decent enough to be given away. I have no idea whether this sugar treat will be eaten by the intended recipients, although their children may enjoy them well enough. But it almost doesn’t matter; in truth, it’s me who needs to give them something, and whatever its contents, I hope the package tells them that someone is holding them in their thoughts.
It’s this that makes me wonder whether an act of kindness can ever really be random. What creates the kindness is the intention behind it, whether it’s long pre-meditated or spontaneous. It’s the difference between good luck (also nice) and a good turn.
And the icing on the peppermint bark is realizing consciously and joyfully how much kindness is sent my way, be it an unexpected card in the mail, the woman at the restaurant who commented on how well-behaved my boys were (true story), the pediatrician who cast no impatient glances when those same boys crawled all over her office and my youngest threw a slipper at (and hit) her, and the driver who didn’t honk even though I probably shouldn’t have made that turn.
With this in mind, we wish you lovely valentine vibrations that we hope will carry you through the day and well beyond. Happy Valentine’s Day!