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Anonymous Acts of Kindness and Day-Brightening
August 8, 2010 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Random Acts of Kindness

Article that influenced me: here

Ideas
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posted by MrBCID (38 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pay It Forward Foundation / Movement

Be kind, for every one is fighting a hard battle. -- Rev. John Watson

I thought of that aphorism because of this bit:
"One of the sort of themes that I've noticed in these e-mails is that they all seem to find things on days when they're having a really bad day," she says.

Probably confirmation bias -- those who write were those who least expected a kindness that day. Still, it's likely that more of us are unhappy on any given day than not. Or close to it.

Forbes Misery And Happiness Indexes
Happiness Index
World Database of Happiness
posted by dhartung at 7:11 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm planning on some random acts too. The best cure for sadness is being nice to someone else!
posted by khaaaaa at 7:16 PM on August 8, 2010


I know this will sound bizarre, but where I live (Buttfuck, Ontario) people do this sort of thing all the time without thinking about it.
posted by unSane at 7:18 PM on August 8, 2010


Kindness - the anti-snark
posted by jcworth at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something that brightened lots of folks' day yesterday: I was performing in "The Secret Garden" at a local theatre. In the scene near the end where Archibald is singing "Where In The World" about how he doesn't want to accept that his Lily is dead and gone, all of us backstage heard a little girl crying. I was thinking, oh great, nothing like a little girl crying to screw up the finale of the show.

Later I learned that when Archie had gone down on his knees in his grief, the little girl told her mother, "He's sad. I'm going to go hug him." She was crying because her mom wouldn't let her hug him.
posted by bovious at 7:27 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


where I live (Buttfuck, Ontario) people do this sort of thing all the time without thinking about it.

Down here, we call those reacharounds.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:27 PM on August 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up. ~ Mark Twain

It seems we spend a lot of our early lives asking the big questions like, "What is the meaning of life?" or "Why am I here?" Within the past 15 years or so, I've begun to realize the answer to those great philosophical questions, at least for me. It probably sounds corny, and it is no great mystery or miraculous discovery, but for me the answer is simply helping others.

Most of my adult life, I was selfish, had tunnel vision, lived in the center of my universe. When I began treating my alcoholism, and reveling in the 12 Steps, after a couple years I reached that 12th Step. It's key: helping others... sharing your own experience, strength and hope with other alcoholics. It was, and is, amazingly rewarding.

Many years later now, I love the feeling I get from these simple random acts of kindness the post talks about—particularly when done anonymously. There is certainly still a lot of flaw in my character that I work on a little bit each day, but my attitude and outlook in general are so much better when I gratefully offer a helping hand to someone else.

Thanks for the post.
posted by netbros at 7:34 PM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think a lot more people do this than people notice. Once you realise it you can notice it every single day - I've rarely struggled with a pram up train station steps or paid for parking if someone has a day ticket left over, living in one of the unfriendliest places ever.

It sounds ridiculous but it's a really happy way to live. If you're feeling a bit down, paying for the person in front of you or helping someone figure out the cash machine is deeply rewarding. Noticing people helping each other fundamentally changed my life, no snark.
posted by shinybaum at 7:38 PM on August 8, 2010


Quick question: In 51 comments on this AskMe (What are some ways to "feel better fast"?), guess how many suggested a random act of kindness?
posted by vidur at 7:54 PM on August 8, 2010


I try to write thank-you notes to people's bosses, and I'm always surprised by how much they appreciate it, especially if it's somewhere like the DMV where normally everyone's really frustrated and unpleasant. If you just ask for the proper spelling of someone's name so you can write a note saying how helpful they were, it's really nice to see how most people light up. Normally your boss only hears when something goes wrong, and so I really enjoy how much something that's little for me can mean a lot for someone else. This sounds really sappy, but I do mean it. It's nice to be able to do something small that can make someone else's life better.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:09 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think a lot more people do this than people notice.

If you see someone come out of the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper on their foot, and you tell them about it, that's consideration. If you discretely step on it as they walk by, removing it without mentioning it, that's kindness.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:11 PM on August 8, 2010


If you see someone come out of the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper on their foot, and you tell them about it, that's consideration. If you discretely step on it as they walk by, removing it without mentioning it, that's kindness.

And if you accidentally stomp on their heel instead of the toilet paper, causing them to trip and fall face-first into a massive pudding, that's assault.

Am I the only one who pictured that?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:41 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who pictured that?

Hardly.
posted by vidur at 8:46 PM on August 8, 2010


My best friend, a buddy since junior high when we both went out for track and battled for last place in every event, once said to me "There's only one rule: be kind." It struck me as the truth and I have tried to follow that rule as best I can (although failing with regularity).
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:51 PM on August 8, 2010


vidur: "… guess how many suggested a random act of kindness?"

Maybe that's because many of us don't have to elevate them to a conscious status of "things we do for others in order to make ourselves feel better"? Myself, I just do such things mostly because it's the polite or right thing to do, with absolutely no thought as to whether it makes me feel better or not. Yes, I say 'please' (and mean it), I say 'thank you' (and mean it), I help little old ladies and mothers with strollers on the train, I stand up for old folk to sit (and feel guilty if I'm sitting and it's impractical for me to get up to allow them to sit) - but I do it because it helps them, not because it because it makes me feel better.

Take the whole "Pay it Forward" thing; I don't see how that's not all about "hello random person, look how nice I'm being! Aren't I a nice person?! Now, you do it too or else you're not as nice as me!". Indeed, one of the websites linked upthread explicitly says :
"It begins with doing a favor for another person ~ without any expectation of being paid back. Indeed one would request that the recipient of that favor do the same for someone else ~ ideally, for three other people. The unconditional favors can be large or small."
and
"This is when you do something nice for someone else while expecting nothing back in return. Rather than paying the favor back, one is supposed to pay the favor forward."
Supposed to? "Unconditional"? I don't think that word means what they think it means…
posted by Pinback at 8:51 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Save yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.” – St Seraphim of Sarov
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved this post. Talk about age- old truths:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others "

-- Phillipians 2: 3-4
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:24 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Take the whole "Pay it Forward" thing; I don't see how that's not all about "hello random person, look how nice I'm being! Aren't I a nice person?! Now, you do it too or else you're not as nice as me!". Indeed, one of the websites linked upthread explicitly says :

A million billion times this.

This whole thing is simply being a good neighbour -- for values of 'neighbour' that extend beyond simplistic physical proximity. We create the kind of world we wish to live in. That is all.
posted by unSane at 9:49 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." -- Kurt Vonnegut
posted by tspae at 9:52 PM on August 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


love cannot be coerced.
maybe kindness can.

is that all?
posted by philip-random at 11:04 PM on August 8, 2010


I recall last year, we were driving though the flattest of the flat lands of Manitoba.

In the middle of nowhere, there was a billboard, white with black letters, that just said

BE KIND


I have never looked for its origin. I am normally a bit cynical, but I would prefer to think that it wasn't part of some kind of marketing campaign, or anything other than what it was. I want to hold onto my belief that someone purchased the space just to say something really, really important.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:56 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I say 'please' (and mean it), I say 'thank you' (and mean it), I help little old ladies and mothers with strollers on the train, I stand up for old folk to sit (and feel guilty if I'm sitting and it's impractical for me to get up to allow them to sit) - but I do it because it helps them, not because it because it makes me feel better.

Depending on which of the links you decide to read, people seem to be doing quite different things - one of the links makes suggestions like "Make eye contact when you talk to someone" which I agree is probably something fairly normal.

On the other hand, one link is about someone who purchased 1,000 umbrellas and handed them out to people in the rain. I think we can both agree that this is out of the ordinary.

Take the whole "Pay it Forward" thing; I don't see how that's not all about "hello random person, look how nice I'm being! Aren't I a nice person?! Now, you do it too or else you're not as nice as me!".

I guess they're enjoying doing nice things for strangers and suggesting those people could do nice things for strangers too? God, what monsters :-P
posted by Mike1024 at 3:32 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is all very sweet, but why the heck do all the little gifts have to be left in public restrooms? Especially with notes like:

You've been working hard, you deserve a coffee and some fudge!

(And you'll notice the title of the post is "Kindness from Down Under"... Random acts of kindness, or an evil mastermind manipulating people into participating in a giant private joke?)
posted by Mooseli at 3:54 AM on August 9, 2010


I've always loved this aphorism, which google tells me (fwiw) is a Hindu proverb: Help your brother's boat across and your own will reach the shore.
posted by Sublimity at 4:10 AM on August 9, 2010


Lexi would have liked this. Thanks.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:30 AM on August 9, 2010


The day I read the article you took inspiration from on CNN, the two top sidebar items on CNN were about an airline killing several pets by accident on a recent flight, and some sort of professional athlete in a murder/love scandal with three women. All I could think of was how every one of us struggles to just get through a freaking day, that there is so much anger and hate in this world, and what we need more of are people who put kindness first, or other people first. So thank you for the reminder that there are indeed agents of good out there, everyday regular people doing things like holding the elevator door and giving directions to lost tourists. I think something I need to work on is making the "random acts" more of a habit.
posted by librarianamy at 5:15 AM on August 9, 2010


A number of years ago I took an elderly aunt on a short overnight trip. She had big mobility issues after suffering a stroke but very much loved to travel.

Although I enjoyed her company to the point where I didn't think about the considerable work involved in caring for her, it was amazing how she affected others. Everywhere we went, people came out of the woodwork, anxious to hold open doors, assist me with her wheelchair or even just greet her with a big smile and a hello.

On the way home we stopped at a popular restaurant for dinner. It was a buffet, and I had to do a lot of jumping up and down to get everything we needed. I noticed a gentleman nearby of roughly my age who had brought his elderly, chair-bound parents to dine; he had to fill both of their plates before getting his own. As my aunt and I were settling back after eating to chat and enjoy the view, this man came over to our table and tapped me on the shoulder.

"God bless you," he said with a big smile. "Hey, God bless you," I replied, grinning back. Our eyes met and clearly, he knew. The blessing was in the acts themselves... Later, I watched as strangers helped the man's parents into their wheelchairs and aided him in getting them out to his car. Others helped my aunt and I, and when one big strapping dude popped the wheelchair into my trunk with my thanks, he said firmly, "no, thank you for letting me help. Helping others helps me, too."

I'm pretty cynical by nature, but it was clear to me that these people were grateful for an opportunity to be kind. I know these were not quite random acts, but they were indeed acts of kindness. As usual, Mark Twain had it right.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:18 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What vidur said about seldom struggling with prams - I took a vacation to Florida with a stroller & wee one. Both in Orlando and the hours I had a stopover in Atlanta, people would hold doors open on elevators, move out of the way in shuttle-buses, hop in to help when pavements or steps made life tricky, and there were lots of smiles, waves to wee one, and "let me help you, little mother" phrases uttered. By the end of my vacation, I was high as a kite on all this politeness.

It hadn't really dawned on me how motherblippin rude Swedes are, when it comes to general politeness.
posted by dabitch at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2010


A: I like to help people with no expectation of reward. It makes me feel better.
B: A-HA! It makes you feel better, so you get a reward! You keep saying you do it without expectation of reward but you're a feel-betterholic who's using people to feed your habit!
A: (Pats B on the head and looks around for a cookie.)
posted by bovious at 6:04 AM on August 9, 2010


"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you've got to be kind."
— Kurt Vonnegut
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:05 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once did a thing, spontaneously and expensively (for me, at the time), for a stranger, and I have never been quite sure if it was a good thing I did or a bad thing I did. The entire situation upset me. It still does, every time I think about it. I've never been certain if I should use that event as a benchmark or a warning.
posted by adipocere at 7:54 AM on August 9, 2010


Most Good, Least Harm, and yes the author is a friend of mine from high school.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2010


Wow, @adipocere, I'd like to hear about that. How long ago was this? Do your feelings surprise you? What was the cost? I assume you're speaking in terms of monetary expense - yes?

I'm not trying to hate on you -- I'm genuinely curious about a spontaneous gesture that now bothers you and seems to have been bothering you since it occurred. I've done things after great thought and lived to regret it -- I've also spontaneously done things and lived to regret them, but the latter at least have the advantage of seeming like "good ideas at the time" which I don't need to waste a lot of thought on now except to say, I'd probably have done differently if I'd thought it through or known now what I knew then.

Wha hoppen?
posted by bovious at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2010


Anne Herbert is responsible for the phrase "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty".
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It doesn't count unless you blog about it so you can get lots of credit for your acts of kindness.
posted by rusty at 9:47 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rusty, maybe we can rig up some sort of 4square-esque checkin system where you can earn badges and auto-post notifications to Twitter and Facebook.

"Fred just unlocked the 'Tollbuster Badge!" Fred has kindly picked up the tab at over a dozen tollbooths!
posted by mikepop at 7:05 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read that as "Fred just unlocked the Trollbuster Badge', which I would like to have.
posted by unSane at 6:47 PM on August 10, 2010


mikepop: Is "do-goodr.com" already taken?
posted by rusty at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2010


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