The phrase “random acts of kindness” used to really bother me. I thought, an act of kindness is not random; it is need-based – you see a need and you fill it. Shouldn’t we all be doing this, all of the time?
Perhaps, I thought, the “random” refers to the fact that the need is random – you randomly see that someone with a bunch of luggage needs help opening the doors at the train station, for example – your act of kindness, then, is not random – it is purposeful; it is a choice… as would be your reaction if you chose not to help the person in need.
Then I thought, Perhaps it’s okay that the phrase exists – if you randomly give a flower to a
stranger on the street, and you don’t see that they seem to “need” a flower, I guess that qualifies… maybe the phrase is just too-often misused (and therefore overused).
Then I began to think, Perhaps I’m just looking at this the wrong way – maybe I’m being a “Debbie Downer”. I decided to do some more research. Wikipedia says that 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,” and that sounds like a fine thing to me – although, Hello, it’s me again: Ms. Know-It-All – Wikipedia’s definition does kind of prove my whole “need-based” point.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
Then I came across this great post at QueensU Be Well, a health blog for Queens University students, that helped me realize that the semantics of the phrase (which, according to my original thinking, should actually be something like “Kind responses to random needs,”) don’t matter – what matters is that we are all encouraging each other to simply be nice to one another. I know, I know, we should all be nice all of the time – maybe we shouldn’t have to be encouraged – but our pesky human nature prevents us from living ideally; or perhaps the nature of ideals prevents us from living them (after all – they can’t exist; that’s why they’re ideals). Pushing philosophy to the side along with the semantics, the bottom line is that kindness, random or not, should be spread. If I behave nicely toward you, rather than behaving meanly, it’s good for both of us: it makes us both feel good, and we’ll share those good feelings with others. So whether I want to call kindness a choice or a random act, doesn’t matter.
Did you know there is a Random Act of Kindness Day? In the US, it is celebrated on February 17. Perhaps on that day, I will hold the doors for two people at the train station.