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May, 2016

Random Act of Kindness or Deliberate Decision?

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Random acts of kindness.  We spend a lot of time at Suspended Coffees talking about random acts of kindness.  I read an article today on Psychology Today that made me think differently about these acts.  The article by Dr. Susan Smalley is titled There are no random acts of kindness: the non-random nature of kindness is key to its value.  Read the excerpt from the article below:

I think it is a misnomer to describe acts of kindness as random; kindness arises with an intention to “be kind” followed by an action. While the acts may be directed toward anonymous people or animals, the person’s act of kindness is anything but random — it is deliberate and directional — non-random in nature.

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. It seems to me that it is in the conscious choice we reveal our role in shaping our own humanity and even our evolutionary future.

The other day I saw my daughter preparing a “sack lunch” for her boyfriend who is in a rather rigorous 5 day a week 8 hour a day school program. She wrote his name on the bag — just like I used to do for her and her brothers when they were little. It was such a sweet act of kindness, and it made me think about all those sack lunches that will be prepared in the next months as the fall school season begins.

The preparation of a sack lunch for a loved one is full of kindness; it is intentional and directional. I remember writing little notes and including small “surprises” (e.g. Hershey kiss) for my kids in their lunches when they were little. A sack lunch can carry a lot of love within it.

But there are many non-random acts of kindness around us all the time. When we meet a homeless man or woman on the street, we may offer a cup of coffee, give some change, or just wish them well with a smile and hello. That is anything but random — we choose to place our attention on them and we choose how to respond — with kindness or not…

I think what we really want to practice are more non-random acts of kindness – directed to those we know and to those we don’t know – as much possible.

I am sure it will make our lives happier and the world a kinder place.

I’m not ready to throw out use of the term random acts of kindness just yet.  I think it is still probably the best way to describe the deliberate acts of kindness aimed at random recipients, but I believe Dr. Smalley makes a great point.  Acts of kindness are a deliberate decision.  We choose to act.  We choose to take a moment out of our lives and do something kind.  Have you made that decision today?

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