No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted > At the time of writing this Blog there is an attractive girl standing outside our Tonic offices holding a placard reading ‘free hugs’. In a deluded moment I thought it was a personal invitation, but sadly she was taking part in a Random Act of Kindness event. RAK events now seem all the rage as though young people had suddenly discovered something new. There are regional promotions (RACSOC), national promotions and even societies and global organisations on missions ‘to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time’.
It is true that even the smallest act of kindness can make the world a brighter, happier place. I particularly like the way that such a small gesture can have a demonstrable impact on someone’s life*. The trouble for us reserved Brits is getting started. When it comes to reaching out to others we don’t score heavily on emotional spontaneity and, in fact, random acts of kindness aren’t really all that random, in that many need planning.
So if you want to give it a try it is probably best to start small. Trying letting someone go ahead of you in the checkout queue, saying ‘thanks’ more often or telling the refuse collector / postman / or whoever what a great job they are doing. You could then graduate to leaving small bunches of flowers on the doorsteps of elderly neighbours.
But what is sad is that we need to make the effort in the first place. We are living in a me-first society. We are taught from an early age to ‘look out for No.1’, resulting in us developing self-focused and self-possessed mentality. Evidence of bullying and abuse are everywhere, and all of us are guilty of moral sins such as ignoring a beggar or struggling disabled person, driving past a broken down car, and doing it all without a second thought.
This inward focus is unhealthy, especially as a person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small parcel.
Research confirms that people who perform acts of kindness feel positive emotions. A team of Japanese social scientists report that happy people become happier simply by counting their own acts of kindness towards others for one week, plus they became kinder and more grateful through this subjective counting*.
But as with all therapies there can be problems – holding ‘Free Hug’ placards could result in unwelcome acts! Also if you are determined to become a RAKtivist (the ghastly term for being a RAK Foundation supporter), a one-shot demonstration is unlikely to benefit you. Much better to practice kindness therapy with others in a volunteer organisation, which makes sustaining acts of altruism easier than being a kindness guerrilla working on your own.
All that aside there is no doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed friends can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
So if you want your kindness acts to be the gifts that keep on giving, set out to make concerted rather than random acts.
As for me, at the end of my Tonic shift I’m off to take up the offer of the placard girl. If it is too good to be true – then it must be true!
Footnote > * The warm feeling you get when you see a kind act is known as elevation and is one of the reasons kindness is so contagious. If you want to know more about such altruism therapy and progress beyond basic acts of kindness, you may find the Kindness UK or the GoodDeeds Organisation inspirational.