Throughout the month of March I challenged myself to commit a random act of kindness (RAKs) every day, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my experiences.
Good manners or an act of kindness?
When you do good, like make a colleague a cuppa, or do the washing up can you class it as an act of kindness or just you being courteous? My thoughts…
If you make a stranger a cuppa this could be seen as an act of kindness, though make a colleague three cuppas in a day and the act dilutes and is ignored. If you organise a surprise party for your wife this could be seen as an act of kindness, though buy her an anniversary present every year for 30 years and this is seen as an expected commitment. What I’m starting to realise is the first time you do something for someone they remember it and you both get the feel good factor. Now repeat the act time and time again and that act dilutes to nothing more than a passing gesture. Once this same act is repeated, the gratitude received back becomes less and less, though the act of kindness may still stay the same. Now good manners seem to come from years of repetitive acts, helping and giving to others time and time again. The more you give, the less you get back. You may not agree with this but it is in my experience how human nature rolls. If the receiver of an act of kindness gets too used to receiving without giving back then this exchange of good feelings can start to diminish. Once this relationship starts to break down it takes time and energy to rebuild it back up. Luckily all it could take is one memorable act of kindness and the world is at peace again. That’s why I took a whole month out to really focus on giving something back.
Everyday Acts of Kindness
These are the most important acts IMO and the ones that may dilute in impact overtime:
- Make someone a cuppa – This month I made over 150 brews, I stopped counting half way through the month.
- Cook – I have taken on the roll as head chef in the household. I get home earlier than my partner and try to create a tasty meal in time for her arrival home
- Empty the trash – Yup, I’m now the bin man. I used to pile it high until it emptied itself but now I empty it.
- Driving – I have to drive through stationery rush-hour traffic every morning. This month I made a real effort to let cars out at busy junctions, averaged about 4 a day for a month. I didn’t get much thanks back but knew it helped these travelers get to where they needed to be that little bit quicker.
- Smile – I’m busy and stressed like a lot people and it’s hard to break away from a task and smile at a potentially rude intruder. This though I did, and found it helped to build relationships. A welcoming smile is your greatest asset, you should use it more
- Listen – If you listen to people you learn a lot more than from just hearing your own voice. You make them feel more important and they feel better for it.
A one-off Act of Kindness
The really important, memorable and even life changing acts. This month I set up an act that reminded me of my childhood. When you grow up you tend to remember the small things than others would never notice but one that may have impacted you.
I remember being in a hardware shop with my father when I was about 10. It was one of those scenarios when my dad had the sudden urge to put some shelves up and took me down to the store to buy some plugs and screws. It was the summer holidays and I was bored daily, my friends were either out or on holiday on the Costa Del Sol and there was never anything to do. At the time I was into micromachines in a big way and I used to nag my parents for money all the time. Unfortunately we were never blessed financially, my friends used to get £5 a week pocket money but my parents couldn’t afford it. At best I had copper in my pocket but then I used to lose it while out playing football or something. Now back at the store, while my father was looking about, I wondered around. I pondered down an aisle, past two men and stopped to look at something. It was at that point that I saw, shining and glittering in the summers sun, a pound coin, just laying there. My eyes and mouth open in awe. I looked around and it seemed like a big black hole had opened up and swallowed up everyone in the shop, there was no one around. I took the opportunity to slide my foot over the coin to hide it and made my way down to “scratch my ankle”. I grabbed it! It was mine I thought! It made me soooo happy, yet a little guilty that someone dropped it.
That moment stayed with me, over all over memories. I made that pound last me an unfathomable amount of time. It gave me independence momentarily and gave me options at the pick and mix stand.
Now I wanted to setup a similar scenario, to do a secret act of kindness that would hopefully stay with someone as long as this stayed with me.
I went shopping as usual, got a trolley and put a pound in to release it. On the way back to load up the car I noticed a family nearby doing the same. The boy asked if he could take the trolley back and his mother said yes. I thought this is perfect. I’ll take my trolley back first and leave the pound in the slot for ‘someone’ to find. I did this and retreated to the car, closing the door behind me. The boy moments later pushed the trolley back, with some difficulty, to the trolley park and maneuvered the trolley into place behind mine. It was at that point that he went to release his pound and noticed mine. I remember his expression clearly, it was exactly the same as mine, and he secured the pound as I did, sneakily putting it into his pocket. He went back to the car and the family drove away.
Now I don’t know what happened next, if he told his mum or if he kept it a secret but the expression on his face is memorable enough to stay with me, a clear repeat of a fond childhood memory of mine. You may say a pound is nothing today and that kids are spoilt, but sometimes it takes the smallest things to change us and to stay with us forever.
Simple good manners or a memorable act of kindness? Who cares? Remember, never give to receive, don’t do something for someone because you expect the same back, you’ll be disappointed. Instead do it to make an impression, that way you gain what you set out to achieve, personal feel-good satisfaction. Enjoy the rest of your day and thanks for reading, take care.