Is there a practicality to kindness? A friend of mine (a guy who is always kind, giving, and absolutely practical) popped up on facebook with a fantastically kind idea - "Thank You" cards (the size of a business card) that he can give to people in customer service. These cards say thank you, and state that the person is amazing and that the recipient is making the world a better place (similar to what I have written on my possible card above). Such a brilliant, practical idea, and one that I am keen to try out. An idea I will try out once back in the UK - Moo Cards here I come!
Embracing the Scouting motto "Be Prepared," these cards are causing to me to consider, what does it mean to prepare and organise for kindness? And if we prepare for kindness, can we actually still practice random acts of kindness? According to Dr Susan L Smalley, in her article, "There are no random acts of kindness" ..... there is no such thing as a random act of kindness, 'I think that the non-random nature of kindness is key to its value. It reflects a conscious choice on the part of the actor, to give, to help, to share and to soothe.' In her article Susan speaks about how current research into kindness and the benefits it has for ourselves is growing. Studies done by Stanford University show that students who received a "loving kindness" talk felt that strangers were kinder, and a Duke University study showed that people who show "self compassion" (essentially kindness to self) were better able to cope with negative pressures of life. Essentially being purposeful in our acts of kindness we cultivate the benefits, and as there is no such thing as random acts of kindness, then according to Susan we have to practice, consciously, being kind every day.
Since I have created the intention to follow 12 months of Character, my virtues will be intentional in purpose, and because they are intentional, my kindness this month has been very mindful. I am addressing each moment as an opportunity to be kind - sometimes the kind act reveals itself, and othertimes I am realising that what I consider a kind act may not actually be the most appropriate action for that person in that moment. Therefore there is definitely intention and purpose in my kindness this month ..... but it does make me want to know if kindness can be random? And if it is random, is kindness part of someones nature?
Having read a number of articles about random acts of kindness, and especially exploring Random Acts of Kindness (a website for the Random Acts of Kindness Week that is run from the 12th to the 18th February), I am finding that the concept of a random act of kindness is actually rooted in a very intentional act. Even for the Random Acts of Kindness people acting kind is 'Being good to others. Kindness really does start with one—one person, one act, one place, one city, one county, and one movement with one goal in mind: To make our world a kinder place one act at a time.' Simply living and being present to the people around you is giving you an opportunity to be kind ... or not - ultimately it is a choice that only you can make. When you pass a homeless person in the street, do you ignore them, or buy them a cup of coffee? When a friend is in hospital, do you make time to visit them with flowers, or do you focus on your own worries and stresses? Your spouse comes home after a particularly hard day at work, they are tired and cranky, and you feel the temptation to snap at them because of their attitude, or you could cook them a yummy dinner, pour them a glass of wine, and be a listening ear to allow them to vent?
What appears to be emerging is that kindness is intentional, kindness is about choice, and kindness if about being present and mindful to what is going on around you. What do you choose?