Random Acts of Kindness


Random Acts of KindnessIt goes by almost unrecognized, but for some, it is a special day that reflects the way we should all behave, to everyone, every day. It’s called Random Acts of Kindness Day, and it will be celebrated in Collingwood, on Friday, November 1. Council has contributed by making downtown parking free all day, as we have the previous two years.

You’re welcome. I wish we could do more. I hope the community participates enthusiastically. Even small gestures can mean a lot.

It’s an odd day, that, while celebrated in many countries, isn’t always observed on the same day everywhere or with the same level of organization. Wikipedia tell us RAK day began in New Zealand, in 2005:

RAK day began in New Zealand, at a national level, in 2005, organized by by Josh de Jong, Marshall Gray, Megan Singleton and Reuben Gwyn. It is still celebrated nationally in New Zealand, on September 1:

Sunday September 1st is New Zealand’s Random Acts of Kindness Day. And to celebrate our 9 years (yes, 9 whole years where NZ has been the only country in the world to celebrate a national RAK Day!) we are launching this fancy new website.

On here you’ll find tons of ideas to get you started, a bit about why on earth we started this day in NZ, and some downloadable resources to print out little ‘You’ve been RAK’d’ cards and give them out with your own random act.

Some communities get very involved with the day and promote it widely. In Kitchener Waterloo, for example, it’s a big event that began with a volunteer effort back in 2008:

Step back to early 2008. At a strategic planning meeting for board and staff, a board member suggested that The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) help create empathy in our community. This suggestion contributed to the overall vision and strategy for The KWCF in its planning for upcoming years.

A few short months later, a volunteer of The KWCF brought the idea of Random Act of Kindness Day® forward to Rosemary Smith, CEO. The volunteer experienced an epiphany when, out of the blue one day, she had rushed to a meeting in downtown Kitchener. As she got out of her car to pay for parking, she was approached by a stranger. This stranger offered her a full day parking pass. Apparently his meeting had been cancelled and he didn’t think the parking pass should go to waste. The KWCF volunteer took the parking pass thankfully. Later, when her meeting was over, the volunteer vowed that she would return the ‘random act of kindness’ to someone else.

Reflecting on the incident, the volunteer felt good about what she had done. However, it wasn’t until a week or two later when she watched the movie ‘Pay it Forward’ that the volunteer had her ‘aha’ moment. She thought about how she had ‘paid it forward’ with the parking pass and how good she felt afterwards. She wondered if she could help others feel the same way by creating a celebration of kindness in her community.

In England, a group calling itself “The Kindness Offensive” organizes,

…large scale random acts of kindness for unsuspecting members of the public. The stated purpose of The Kindness Offensive is to ‘Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty’

The Random Acts of Kindness website lists November 17 as “World Kindness Day” and a “Random Acts of Kindness” week in February (Feb. 10-16, 2014). The site also offers many ideas for acts of kindness, including:

  • Send a Note of Appreciation
  • Clean Up Graffiti
  • Donate Used Books to a Library
  • Give Carepacks to the Homeless
  • Help a Child Learn
  • Give the Elderly the Gift of Music
  • Help Someone for Free
  • Help Someone Whose Car is Broken Down
  • Help Someone with Yard Work
  • Hold the Door Open for Someone
  • Let Someone Go in Line in Front of You
  • Pay the Tab for the Person Behind You
  • Read to the Elderly
  • Return a Shopping Cart
  • Thank Your Police or Fire Department
  • Write a Letter to Someone Who Made a Difference in Your Life
  • Visit an Animal Shelter
  • Pick Up Trash
  • Use Less Plastic
  • Be a Designated Driver

Another act I suggested at council, Monday night: let a driver back out of a main street parking space in front of you.

Here are a few others:

  • Take a box of cat food or dog food to the animal shelter.
  • Donate your used DVDs to the library.
  • Pay for someone’s visit to Centennial swimming pool.
  • Pick up litter.
  • Call a local grocery store and tell them if you find a shopping cart abandoned.
  • Buy a handful of poppies for Remembrance Day and hand them out to passers-by.
  • Tell a clerk or cashier they did a good job.
  • Post a piece of local good news on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Say please and thank you to the server when you buy coffee or tea.
  • Leave a tip, even for small services.
  • Walk your bicycle on downtown sidewalks.

So many of these “random acts” are simply the acts of civility and politeness that children were taught by their parents a couple of generations ago. It’s a bit sad that we have to make a special day to get people to act like they have manners, just for a single day (or a special week).

Wikipedia tells us:

A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.

One blogger put it well:

Random acts of kindness are a means by which we make a deliberate attempt to brighten or help another person or stranger’s day by doing something thoughtful, caring and concerned for them… Those selfless Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to reach across time and space to touch the life of another being. The power behind such act is extremely impactful and contagious.

Random kindness – not just on a specific day – are sometimes in the news, albeit seldom getting as much play as scandal, controversy or celebutante wardrobe malfunctions. Still, they sometimes get good coverage. On the CBC website, yesterday, for example, we read a story about an “act of empathy” when a stranger paid a single mom’s restaurant bill when she was taking her kids out for pizza.

There is a Facebook page for “Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere.”

Victoria blogger Kim Faganello’s ‘random act of kindness” video went viral – “How we do a drive-by in Canada” – on Youtube. He calls it a “random act of coolness:”

The point is that we need to show one another that we care. We care about each other, care about the community, care about people, about their lives and their situation. We shouldn’t need a special day to do that, a special day when we’re polite and civil then we can be rude and self-centred the rest of the year. We should practice this sort of behaviour every day, to everyone. But it’s a start, so let’s enjoy it.

I hope that others in town will agree and join in, Friday – and it will spread to every day.