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What IS a Random Act of Kindness?

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Lesley McCall

Summer 2018

What is a true Random Act of Kindness?


If you google Random Act of Kindness be prepared because your computer will explode with explanations, theories, examples and ideas about what a Random Act of Kindness is, surveys about who does them and why and lengthy blogs about how therapeutic it is to do them… aaaand breathe. So what qualifies as a Random Act of Kindness and why?

One online definition I found was ‘A Random Act of Kindness is a non-premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world’. Excellent! Well, that clears it up then! :O

To be fair, it’s hard to define precisely what constitutes a true Random Act of Kindness as there do seem to be grey areas.

Is it only a Random Act of Kindness if it is on the spur of the moment? Non-premeditated?

What about planned Random Acts of Kindness? Don’t they count? If not, why not?

In previous articles, I expounded on the joys and mental health benefits of a daily Random Act of Kindness, ‘An RAK a day keeps the therapist away’. Actually, ‘An RAK a day won’t solve everything, but is an excellent thing to do anyway’ is closer to the truth, but doesn’t scan as well. Many therapists will say that doing a Random Act of Kindness a day is helpful to mental health… so plan one into your day. So does that devalue it? Because it’s planned? Intended? It won’t affect the happiness of the person giving or the person receiving, and the person receiving it will still not expect it so surely it’s still random?

Buying food to put in a food bank at your local supermarket is still planned, but kind and could count as a Random Act of Kindness, I would think.

Is motivation important?

If the motivation behind a Random Act of Kindness is a selfish one, does that mean it’s not kind? There are plenty of companies who do Random Acts of Kindness for customers. One example is Beauty and the Boutique, a company who do daily Random Acts of Kindness for their customers, for instance sending flowers. On one occasion, a customer posted pictures of three generations of women wearing their makeup. Beauty and the Boutique printed up a black and white copy of the image and sent it in a beautiful frame to the customer. Now, we could say what a lovely gesture, but it’s also quite a good publicity stunt. We all know how powerful word of mouth is and I am sure the recipient of the framed photo posted their thanks online. So for the cost of a frame or a few flowers, they get free publicity.

On the other hand, how do we know who had the idea in the first place and what their intentions were? Maybe they just thought it was a lovely gesture? Perhaps the CEO was merely in a position to nice things for people and he wanted to create a company that went that extra mile?

In many ways, most Random Acts of Kindness are selfish anyway, they give you a lift, making someone happy makes you happy… so we always get something out of it. Does that matter? Do the customers who get their flowers care? Does it stop it making their day just that little bit sweeter? Is it the intention or the result that matters?

I suppose the closest we could get to a genuinely unselfish random act of kindness would be something like the example I heard of recently. A friend opened a parcel from Amazon to find a ten-pound note tucked in with their delivery, no explanation given. They chose to assume that somebody had put it there as a surprise gift, if so, how lovely is that?

Passing a Random Act of Kindness on

An idea I love, which I think is again true to the spirit of what a Random Act of Kindness should be is passing on a kind act or unexpected luck. I have mentioned this in this series of articles before, but it is a lovely example of impromptu kindness. One person in the front of a queue for the motorway toll booth was told that the person in front, a stranger, had paid for him, so he paid for the car behind him. It was reported later that this went on for dozens of cars – the attendant in the toll booth counted.

Maybe the truest Random Act of Kindness is given with no thought of reward. Like the Sunny Soup Project which makes soup with leftover food from the big supermarkets and leaves it in a free frozen section for people in need to pick up.

Does difficulty or the degree of self-sacrifice make a difference?

If the Random Act of Kindness is particularly challenging or involves some personal sacrifice, does that make it more worthwhile? Indeed, it is harder to donate a kidney than a tenner and obviously requires more self-sacrifice, but what if the tenner was the only money someone had? Does the degree of sacrifice make the Random Act of Kindness greater?

Does it count if the Random Act of Kindness was towards animals? (The correct answer, by the way, is a resounding YES.)

The following story has many of the factors of a Random Act of Kindness. It was spur of the moment, prompted by nothing but the urge to do what was right, involving a fair amount of personal and physical sacrifice and was an incredibly brave thing to do.

A friend was visiting a garden centre and ended up being arrested! It started when she saw a man hitting a puppy in the car park. Being an animal lover, she rushed over to remonstrate with him. She was told to f*** o** in a very aggressive manner, but instead of retreating and leaving the puppy to its fate, she not only called the police, but stood in front of the car to prevent this disgusting example of humanity from leaving before the police got there. At this stage, it got even worse because the man reversed into her legs causing severe bruising, but amazingly she stood her ground. Thankfully, there were people in the car park that came to her aid and stopped the man leaving. When the police arrived, the man said she had assaulted him, so the police took them both into the station. All this because she wanted a few bedding plants!! The puppy was confiscated and the CCTV video showed the man reversing into her, so he was charged. When the police raided his house, they found several more dogs in a pitiful state which they rescued. The man is now being charged with animal cruelty and will never own an animal again.

To me, my friend did an amazing act of kindness in saving those dogs and at personal cost to herself. How she was so brave, I will never know, but if a Random Act of Kindness includes stepping in to right a wrong, then that’s what it was.

Frankly, Random Act of Kindness or not, my friend was amazing, and I wanted to give her a shout-out anyway.

Whatever constitutes a Random Act of Kindness, whether big or small, they make our world a better place, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and do one!!!