Thursday, September 8, 2011

A random post about kindness

My week of mindless activity continues, which means that my week of random thought also goes along its merry way. Today I was gnawing over the idea of Kindness.

Actually, scratch that. I began with Kindness and then segued briefly into why (or why not) women change their names when they get married. I brought that segue home with me, posted a question on Facebook/Twitter about it and watched the whole thing ignite. Answers were fairly evenly divided into the Ayes and the Nos, the hyphenated and the not, those with messy Medicare cards and those with a shared family name. I was left thinking 'now why didn't I write a blog post about that?'.

Moral to the story? Save your big questions for bigger forums.

Anyhoo, back to Kindness.

I read this post on Mamma Mia last week, about how kind words from a stranger can turn someone's day around. "Awww," I thought. I've long thought that kindness is an underrated human trait. Then, on ABC-TV's The Gruen Transfer last night, there was discussion of Kindness as a trend.

Advertisers are using social media to bestow 'random acts of kindness' (RAKs) upon people - usually people with large numbers of followers on Twitter or Facebook. In other words, people whom the advertiser thinks may be of some use in publicising said RAKs (and thus the advertiser) to their social networks. Call me cynical, but I think they need to come up with a new name. PMAM or Pre-Meditated Acts of Marketing comes to mind.

This idea of Kindness as a phenomenon, something people are talking about, interests me. Is it so rare in our world now that we have to broadcast it when someone is kind to us? It's not a new idea. Back in the 1970s, on those long family holidays in the back of the Kingswood Station Wagon, my sisters and I (the TICH was yet to join the Von Tait Family Singers) used to sing a song called 'Try A Little Kindness'. Heaven knows where we learnt it, or who sang it (I could Google it I know, but that would ruin the mystique), but I suspect it was a country singer of some description. It basically talked about how a random act of kindness would not only change someone else's day, but your own.

So now I'm wondering (you know me, always wondering). Have you ever been on the end of a random act of kindness? How did it make you feel? Or perhaps you were the purveyor of said kindness? Was it a spontaneous thing or did you specifically set out to be kind? If you set out to be kind, does that somehow add selfishness to the kindness mix?

Always with the big questions.


  1. You ask a lot of questions. But I have been very mindful of this since the small boy came along because I want to, you know, be a good role model etc etc. So for example giving a big tip to my Big Issue vendor so he can take his little boy to the movies was one of my "RAKs" (if only I'd known to use those trendy initials at the time!) but definitely there are selfish motives involved - makes me feel less guilty about being not poor (not rich, but not poor) and trying to teach the small boy stuff. Kind of like a PMAM but not quite so bad. I hope.

  2. I have been the recipient of two major random act of kindness. When I was 18 and finishing up Year 12 I wanted to attend a youth camp on the Gold Coast (I am from country Victoria). My family couldnt afford for me to go and I didnt have a job as I was focusing on my Year 12 studies. I came home one day and in the letterbox was an envelope with my name on it and inside was $300. Exactly the amount I needed to get to the camp. I have an idea who it was but I never asked them as I figured they wanted to remain anonymous. It was obviously someone who knew me through youth group and who knew I was desperate to be a counsellor at the camp. I was ecstatic and so, so very grateful to my mystery donor.

    The other act of kindness was after I had written a letter to the Herald Sun explaining that living on welfare benefits as a single mother wasn't the high life that a lot of people seemed to think it was. Some time after the publication of my letter I got a note from the post office asking me to come in. They had a huge box with my name on it and my town's name, that was all. Inside it was all sorts of household items and food stuffs. Obviously someone had thought I was doing without and so sent me a box full of household items. I was so touched. I have no idea who it was but I suspect it was an older person as the handwriting on the box was formal and shaky - like my grandmothers. I wrote to the paper thanking the person but they didnt publish that letter.

    Since then I have perpetrated random acts of kindness as a way of thanking those people who were kind to me in that way.

  3. Too many questions tonight?? So let me just answer with this. As you know, us bloggers can get the odd thing sent our way. I have been getting a few things lately and felt that is was just too much for me and my kids to get all this stuff. Lovely, but greedy.

    Most of it suits the mummy market so I emailed our creche and asked if they would be able to pass items on to some families they thought may be either doing it tough or in need of a little kindness. Of course I don't want to be named or to know of the families.

    They don't know what to do with my offer, they are finding
    the idea difficult. Giving away books, vouchers, CDs to some families that don't get much of a break is hard to do.

    And that other issue, on name changing, when my eldest asked about my different name, I asked her if she gets a boyfriend and marries him would she also like a different name? She said No. She likes her name just as it is. I hope she thinks that way in the future.

  4. I know, I know. I got carried away with questions today. But thanks for the wonderful stories @Bri - kindness really can make a difference.

    And I think that @Amanda is right in role modelling it for her young son. KIds do what they see, right? PMAM or not...

    @Clairey perhaps there is a local women's shelter you could donate the items to? I'm sure they'd make use of them. :-)

    Thanks for making it all the way to the end of my questions.

  5. I gave a mother I didn't know an onion once. This might sound odd, but she needed it for dinner and she was going to have to go to the shops with two overtired kids just to buy a single onion. There was no way I was going to make her do that if she didn't need to. So, I gave her an onion. And, seriously, she looked at that onion like it was the best present she'd ever received. Since then, I've given another mother a can of chickpeas she needed. I think it might be my kindness thing. I'm the pantry kindness girl.

  6. Strange, I posted about impulsive acts of kindness yesterday at Alice Becomes...I didn't know I was on trend!

    I wrote about a Telegram I received from another blogger, it arrived on one of "those" days and it turned my day around. I used to sneak scratch n sniff stickers into my friends' bags in primary school. Perhaps I should start that up again

    Does it matter if you do something with the intention of being kind? Not to me. If it makes you feel good and someone else feel good why not go for it?

  7. I've always believed in RAKs and my thing is money -- I'm really selfish with my time but I can give money away no problems if I have it.
    As a single mum, before life got so expensive, I used to give when I could, even if it was just $20 stuffed in someones' coat pocket while I was giving them a hug.
    And when Fabio and I married, I found out he's a giver too -- we like it, it makes us feel good, and it keeps us from getting (too) greedy.
    Just DON'T ask us to help out at a school busy bee or coaching the local under 9s. We are SO miserly in that way!

  8. I always try to be kind...randomly or intentionally. I try to do little things that I appreciate. Letting someone out in traffic, letting someone with only one item go ahead of me in the check-out line. It is a good habit and it's second nature to me now to just be considerate of others. But it really aggitates me when others aren't considerate.

  9. I think our society has become numb to each other. We are reluctant to reach out, for fear of being knocked back or appearing rude or needy.
    I think we should all stop acting so cool and occasionally let other people know that we are fallible, and kindness is always welcome.

  10. I really treasure the moments when folks at Church approach me afterwards and be supportive. the Sundays when the children are NOT well behaved.
    I husband is particularly tuned into giving random acts of kindness, I really love that about him, and I love that with that role modeling my children will do it.
    To your last question, not at all, often you may not really want to, are not comfortable etc so you have to overcome your selfishness.
    You really have me thinking now.
    PS I remember that song.

  11. Glenn Campbell. The song was by Glann Campbell. It's good to know that someone else suffered the same road trip torture as me.

    As for kindness, it's a fad - it will never catch on.

  12. It always troubles me that people may do things to help others only to make themselves feel better....

    I seriously don't think most people do this, and naturally a lot of people are concerned for other peoples well being.

    I could go on and on about my feelings on this.

    Instead here is a link to a story about, a boy, a lion and africa....

  13. I don't think I'm really a fan of RAK's..they're a bit hit and miss..but I love CAK's..considered acts of kindness! I like to really think and pray about what a person may like or need and then give..the fun is in hearing that the gift matched the person..a good fit. There isn't much fun in just acquiring more stuff or helping and then finding out it was misinterpreted or even caused offence. An intention to be kind is a good thing..a good motive, just as setting out to be a person of integrity or to be an honest person would be a good thing..good for you and everyone around you!

  14. Well, I believe I can firmly say that yes, I am a kind person - I was raised kind. I may be a lot of other really awful things, but kind I most definitely am. I totally get off on it and it makes me feel good about the world to help others. I think most days I do something small that's randomly kind and more not-random-at-all kindnesses. I can never understand why more people aren't in on the secret - being kind makes you feel really, really good. x

  15. Lovely post Al. I was brought up to be kind, thoughtful and respectful of others and will instill this our children. That should be the way of the world.
    Although when things do get on top of us in this busy world it is nice to be conscious of being kind and doing something to help another. Sometimes even a little smile can be enough to lift someones day. x

  16. I love random acts of kindnesses. I love that they can be big and generous ... or something as small as a kind word. Even the little kindness where someone at the checkout sees you have one item so they let you go ahead of them. The tiniest tiniest little things can just make someone's day!

  17. I don't think acts of kindness should be random. I feel kindness should be a way of life, and not just to make yourself feel better, and pat yourself on the back. It comes down to the old saying "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself."
    And I don't think this just applies to physical actions. It's a way of thinking. Trying to keep an objective mind and avoiding being judgemental or prejudice.
    I believe I am a kind person, and when I have to resolve issues with my girls, my husband, my family, anyone, I try to do it with honesty, understanding and kindness.

  18. At a maternal health center one day another mum came up to me as said "I was you in the supermarket the other day will all your kids and I wanted to tell you want an amazing job you were doing." It was lovely that she took the time to tell me that. I have learnt from her, so when I see mums out, I try to acknowledge what a great job they are doing too. Everyone loves recognition.

  19. my act of kindness (along with my husband and son): helping a young girl remove untouched dishes from her tornado-whipped kitchen in Joplin, Missouri, USA... we didn't plan it, think about it.. we just helped her....
    I always hope my acts of kindness are paid forward...

  20. In the last schools hols I visited Taronga Zoo with my 10 year old. Just as I was about to pay a woman in front offerred me a free pass. She was a member and didn't need the seond ticket for her toddler. She even waited with me while I waited for a friend who was running late so I could go through the entry gate with her and be eligible for the free pass. That RAK made me smile for weeks afterwards when I thought about it. In a city where everyone often seems to be out for themselves it was lovely to meet such a thoughtful person. Every random act of kindness inspires another. Great topic.

  21. This is a great question Allison. Sometimes I think that kindness, good deeds, politeness and helping others all gets rolled into one. Though each of them have their own exclusive qualities. I would say I am a kind person and I believe I experience random acts of kindness towards me quite regularly too. I had a lady put her hand into a slimey, murky fish tank in the pet shop the other day, because 'somehow' my Mr3's Guido car figurine (from Cars 2) ended up in the bottom of it! She didn't hesitate, just smiled, put her lovely clean hand in and fished it out for him. I thought that was rather kind, as she had seen the look on my face at the thought of having to put my own hand in there. Just quietly, I was working out an alternative way to winch it out with something other than my hand ;o)

  22. I'm always being kind, without even thinking about it. At work I'm known as "the nice one". I have the odd bitchy moment, but really, that just isn't me. I'm nice, end of story. At AusBlogCon, a bloggy friend also referred to me as The Nice One.

  23. My acts of kindness tend to be very random, as I tend to think before I speak. I blurted out to another mum I saw at the shops the other day, 'O wow you look gorgeous!'. She did - she was pushing a pram but just looked lovely - not in a trying too hard way, but in a really pretty and happy way. She got tears in her her eyes. I went red and hoped she didn't think I was trying to hit on her. Then laughed. It made my day. Hope it made hers.

  24. I'm so tired. That was meant to be speak before I think. Obviously I type before i think too. :-)

  25. Funny you posted this! I have been the recipient of 4 random acts of kindness this week! 3 people randomly gave me a huge stash of vintage fabrics and trims (I make children's clothes from repurposed materials) and another lady is sending me bunting (extra's just for me) from my Bunting Swap.

    I think kindness is essential to a happy life. I try to teach my kids about giving and being kind in all situations - even if the other person is not being kind. As far as giving is concerned - I think it's important to not expect anything at all in return - "give with your left hand, so you right hand does not know". Rach x

  26. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. How sweet of you!

    I see kindness all over, especially in my work. Children are such kind creatures a lot of the time. It's a pity us grown up's like to focus on the 'Lord of the Flies' aspect of childhood and ignore the sweet side.
    In the words of the great Mr T: I pity the fool (s)!

  27. What an interesting question, I am a great believer in treating people how you wish to be treated, so for me there is no such thing as a random act of kindness. I make an effort to be kind in my every day life. I also do not feel the need to tell people that I have done this. Karma is a great thing

  28. Hi Allison!

    Loved your post! And I have chosen you to recieve The Versatile Blogger award.

    Please come visit my blog at and pass on the love.


  29. As an expat I always try and be kind on a daily basis. The Danes can be quite private people, but it never ceases to raise a smile when I hold doors open, let them go before me if they have less shopping etc. etc. It's the little things isn't it! Emma :) Ps. found you via the blog hop!

  30. Hello

    thanks for stopping by my blog

    I think you were looking for this

    Enjoying your words as we speak. Bit jealous of the book but many congratulations x

  31. I just like to think of it as kindness, whether it's random or well-planned and thoughtful. It's just about acknowledging that we all need to be shown some empathy from time to time.

  32. I think the fact that I knew it was Glenn Campbell says it all about me - argh!

    Hope this idea of PMAM doesn't really take off. I think kindness is at its best when it's genuine. I often wish I was a naturally kind-natured. I often have kind thoughts, but rarely put them into practice - I feel too busy or overwhelmed, or I get all stingy. I have found though that if I do at least DO some random acts of kindness, it helps build my inner kind-naturedness... Like the old adage, "fake it til you make it".

    I don't know, but it seems to be working at least a little bit!

  33. You have reminded me that I have to get onto my Pay it Forward projects. Those marketers doing RAKs (and the fact that there is an abbreviation) makes my skin crawl. Be kind because you want to be, not because it is 'trendy' or because the social network will go wild spreading news of your fabulousness! Makes me a bit sick actually. As for that song... thanks for the ear worm :-)

  34. I feel an academic treatise coming on : The Commodification of Kindness.

    Bloody hell. Though no surprises from someone who used to make their living from this kind of thinly veiled crud.

  35. Finally a trend I wouldn't mind following. I hope it continues and people stick to it.


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