Willy-Nilly Acts of Kindness

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” (Maya Angelou)

As Random Acts of Kindness Day approaches, I confess I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the notion of random acts of kindness. Heaven knows we need all the kindness we can get, so I’m not going to quibble or critique any kind deed. But, let’s remember how much power there is in intentional kindness.

Maybe it’s because I am a consummate planner that that the notion of doing anything random goes against my nature. Random, to me, feels so … random.

Merriam-Webster defines random as without definite aim, direction, rule, or method. That sounds rather hit-or-miss to me. It implies an indifference that discounts the importance of kindness, that shrugs its shoulders and says, “Whatever.”

I think if we are going to change the world and make kindness a priority in our interactions, we need to be intentional. We need to enter each encounter and every situation with the resolve to be kind. As we walk into a room or log onto our latest Zoom meeting, our thought should be, “I want to spread kindness here,” or “How can I bring kindness to this interaction?” or even “Who needs my kindness?” These aren’t random thoughts.

When kindness is front of mind, we will extend it. We will practice, repeat, and practice some more. When kindness is intentional, it is the lens through which we see life. When it becomes obscured—as it will occasionally—we spritz our viewfinder, give it a good polish and resume seeking and spreading kindness.

When I’m asked the difference between kind and nice, I often cite intention. We may undertake the very same action, and get the very same result, but when kindness is the intention behind it, it holds more power than niceness. It changes things. It just does.

I’m all for those random acts—picking up the tab for the guy behind us in the Starbucks queue, buying a bouquet from the street vendor and handing it to the lady on the park bench, allowing someone to get in front of us in the checkout line. Such actions brighten days. They brighten the world.

But let’s not let them replace deliberate and purposeful kindnesses. On February 17, RAK Day—or any other day—do a few random acts of kindness. Have fun with them and spread that stuff like peanut butter. But all year round, let’s also be sure to be intentional about our kindness.

Let’s astonish the world with it.

“The highest form of wisdom is kindness” (The Talmud)

18 thoughts on “Willy-Nilly Acts of Kindness

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