October 30, 2013

Kindness Day generates random good deed ideas

As published in The Erin Advocate

The quality of kindness, like that of mercy, is not strained, but rather drops as the gentle rain from heaven. As Portia so wisely observes in The Merchant of Venice, it blesses the one who gives and the one who receives, being a quality of God himself. Or herself, as you please.

‘Tis surpassingly strange then that two days hence, we will mark Random Act of Kindness Day. What will be next, a special day to nice to our mothers?

While it is obvious that charitable behaviour ought to be our daily business, there does seem to be a streak within human nature that craves special days to remind us of themes in the collective consciousness. Thinking about the whole thing all at once is considered too daunting.

And since we have clawed our way into a secular age, in which holy days have become mere holidays, there’s always a market for creative new artificial events like Random Act of Kindness Day. (I won’t even get into Good Deeds Day, on March 9 – www.gdd.goodnet.org.)

Retailers and greeting card publishers have not yet found a way to spin Kindness into a big money affair, but it has still raised an eyebrow or two among the cynical – with whom I occasionally consult.

Here’s the rub. It is one thing to use your imagination and take the risk of being more charitable, but quite another to seek gratification in being seen as holier than thy neighbour. If doing a good deed on one day simply eases your conscience for the rest of the year, then you’ve clearly missed the point.

Should we pursue our altruism in a quiet, private way, or try to inspire others by setting a good example in public? Should we push other people to pay it forward?

There are no easy answers, and no regulations in the world of kindness. If it makes you feel good to do good, no one can deny you the pleasure. Is it more important that the deed be done than to figure out why? Is cynicism just a crutch, an excuse for doing nothing?

Doing an act of service when it is convenient is a good start. It could be a reminder that it is possible to build a lifestyle around that idea. But to become a regular servant of others who are not members of our own family, especially when it is not convenient, that is a difficult goal in our me-first, mind-your-own-beeswax, consumer culture.

Thus ends a convoluted preamble to a simple community announcement: This Friday, November 1 is Random Act of Kindness (RAK) Day and East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) is urging people to get involved.

Suggestions include everything from showing courtesy on the road to buying someone else’s groceries for them. Download a fact sheet and a list of 101 ideas at www.eastwellingtoncommunityservices.com.

“It’s not about fundraising or giving money – just a day to celebrate kindness,” says the EWCS release. “The opportunities to do something nice for someone else happen every day but this is a special day to really celebrate all the small things that make living in our communities so wonderful.”

EWCS is supporting the Guelph Community Foundation which organizes the annual event. Last year, more than 200 organizations participated, including schools and businesses.

Some 50,000 RAK Day cards will be printed, encouraging holders to perform a simple act of kindness for someone then hand over the card to that person, encouraging him/her to do the same.

“Do something kind, make someone’s day, hand over the card, feel great…Repeat,” says the group’s fact sheet.

Also, EWCS is starting to organize its annual Christmas Hamper and Adopt-a-Family program. For more details about becoming a sponsor or a recipient, call Alyssa Cunningham, Care Coordinator for EWCS, at 519-833-9696.

Well, that’s my good turn for the day – just obeying General Baden-Powell’s Law like a good Scout. I’m sure it will not go unpunished.

And while I’m trying to think up something for tomorrow, I’ll give the last word to Portia: “How far that little candle throws its beams; So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”