Monday, January 30, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness

Have you ever read the book or seen the movie Pay It Forward, in which a young boy proposes as a class social studies project that each person do something kind to three people and encourage those three to do the same? In a discussion at Romance Divas the other day, Kristen asked, "Have you ever committed a RAK (Random Act of Kindness)? Ever let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line just because? Ever paid the toll for the car behind you?"

This was the catalyst for RD's RAK week, beginning today. The object? For the next week, be randomly kind. Hold a door open for someone behind you. Pay for the meal of the next person in line. Share your umbrella with a stranger while waiting for a bus in the rain. Ante up the change someone is short at the grocery store, or let someone at a 4-way stop go when it is your turn. Bake cookies for a neighbor, or soup for a coworker who is ill. There are a million little ways in which to help someone in any given day, if we only look for them.

The challenge this week is to find little ways to be kind. Don't be afraid to blog about it, either. Just because you performed a RAK doesn't mean you shouldn't get the occasional pat on the back, and you might give someone else an idea of how they can help somebody. If you have a website or blog, challenge others to commit random acts of kindness as well, and keep paying it forward.

For my own part, last night I slid a coupon under a neighbor's door for 75 cents off the Sunday paper. I know she only buys the Sunday edition, and 75 cents is half off -- enough for her to get a cup of coffee or a donut to go with it. I've also sent out more homemade cards to troops for personal use. Sending cards to troops is something I've been doing for a couple years now. I know it's appreciated, even if I don't receive personal thanks, because it's not like they can walk into the local Hallmark store to find a birthday or holiday card to send back home.

It started with a website where I was able to get monthly lists of upcoming birthdays. We all know what it's like when a friend or family member forgets a birthday. It's even worse when you're halfway around the world and no one seems to care. So...I started sending handmade birthday cards, at least 50 a month, sometimes double that. I never expected to hear back from any of them, and sometimes I wondered if it really mattered at all -- but then I would hear back from someone who was surprised that so many people took the time out of their busy lives to wish someone they didn't know a happy birthday.

Last year that site changed some of their operating rules, so I was no longer able to send cards to individuals. That's when I met Sue, through another site we both frequented. She sends care packages to a few different troops overseas, and was looking for people to help make cards for their personal use. I've been sending her a batch of cards every couple months now -- father's day cards, 4th of July, Halloween, and more than 100 Christmas cards all went her way last year. Earlier this month I sent about 50 Valentines Day cards. As it turns out, my timing was impeccable -- she had just been given contact info for a new group in Iraq by a returnee we supplied last year. My cards arrived at Sue's just in time to be included in their first care package, which they didn't know was coming. I'm currently working on amassing Easter and Birthday cards to send them by the end of next month, and also just sent a packet of handmade cards for personal use to another small group stationed in Afghanistan.

I never expect to hear back from anyone I write to, or to whom I send a package, but it never ceases to make my day when I get a postcard or short letter from someone to thank me for making their day or week. Going back to those birthday cards I was sending out two years ago...a couple weeks ago I received two letters within days of each other from two mothers, thanking me for supporting their sons who are now back home and finishing college. Sometimes a single act affects more than just one person, and in this case the joy I gave away came back to me via a second party.

Which just goes to show that the value of a postage stamp is so much more than what is printed on it.

Related Link:
Pay It Forward Foundation

1 comment:

Jana said...

Hmmm...well, I've never paid for anyone's anything (well, other than friends) but I'm always one to hold the door open for whoever's behind me. That southern hospitality thang, you know.

Will have to actually start paying attention to the folks around me so that I can be randomly kind. I rarely ever notice anyone I don't know and unless they're already walking with me or yell out my name and silmultaneously throw something at me I might not notice folks I know. Depends on what I'm thinking about. hehehe