I read somewhere that this is Random Acts of Kindness Week. Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for random acts of kindness – paying for the person behind you in line, waiting for the other driver to pull out, leaving a good book on a table for someone else to enjoy. The other day, I watched some youtube videos showing people standing in European squares with signs saying, “Free Hugs”. The people who took advantage of the offer seemed genuinely pleased to do so. There is no reason to take issue with these small efforts to make another person’s day a little brighter.
The question posed in the title of this post isn’t meant to invalidate those acts. Instead, I’m wondering why we (and by we, I mean I) don’t focus more on kindness as a daily choice within our normal interactions. Most of us are not unkind, but we’re lackadaisical in our daily routines. We get hurried, stressed, defensive, tired…and suddenly, not meaning to, we behave in unkind ways. And those on the receiving end are rarely random strangers.
So this week, I’ve been trying to keep kindness uppermost in my mind. I have committed a few random acts, but I have also really made an effort to express kindness in my interactions with those I see every day. Its is early morning on Wednesday, so I only have two days experience to go on, but so far it has seemed to me that focusing on kindness has opened my days and my heart to experience greater compassion. I’ve given away more hugs, for one, because I’ve seen greater need for them. I’ve been humbled to discover that my first response in some situations has been ungenerous – my second response has invariably been kinder.
I’m not certain that the level of focus devoted this week is sustainable, any more so than any other “awareness campaign” might be. However, if the kindness quotient is raised even a little by devoting attention to it this week, both my world and my own life will be enriched by that. At least, that is my small, tender hope on this foggy Wednesday morning.
That best portion of a good man’s life; his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.
The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.
Robert M. Pirsig
Author of Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance