By Cody Lee Pey, MA (in process)
Random acts of kindness, ironically, are intentional. There’s nothing random about setting time and space aside to do something genuinely meaningful for another person. Of course, the aspect of randomness probably refers to the person receiving the act – it’s seemingly random: Why would someone do this? For me, of all people? Or the randomness can also come from the person who is
performing the act – they are sincerely surprised and pleased with themselves!
But random acts of kindness, I advocate, should be refashioned to intentional acts of kindness. Is that
differentiation necessary? I mean, it’s a bit semantic and pretentious. But it’s needed, I believe. Let’s define acts of kindness. Typically, they are isolated moments where a person expresses gratitude to another person. These moments might include paying for a person’s coffee at the drive-through, writing and sticking a post-it note – with words of encouragement, of course – on a car windshield, or helping an older woman cross the street. These are the typical acts of kindness we often consider (and potentially never perform). But it’s a new year. It’s time to be creative and truly inspiring.
We’re human. Most people might be strapped for money, time, and/or energy. Most people might be enduring some pretty difficult circumstances and thus do not have the mental capacity to acknowledge other people. And that’s okay. And they shouldn’t have to carry any additional burdens. In fact, they might be the ones who could benefit from seemingly random acts of kindness. However, for those of us who have the bandwidth to share some kindness, let’s think about where to start.
So, what can you do? First, you should consider your talents. What are you good at? Are you good (or at least passable) at baking, knitting, cleaning? Maybe your talents are more invisible – you’ve got a good ear and a bottle of wine in the fridge. Maybe you’re really good at giving high-fives.
Whatever your talents are, it’s important to start small. Perform an act that’s within your capabilities
and slowly work up. And before you know it, kindness will be an integral part of who you are. Oftentimes, when we’re trying to help people, we get stuck in a thought spiral: are they going to appreciate it, are they going to appreciate me, maybe I should’ve done something more, maybe something less. These are normal thoughts. It’s okay to question. But, more likely than not, in my experience, people are genuinely thankful that someone noticed them. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Five “random” acts of kindness you might consider trying:
1) Create a playlist of ten songs (or share only one song).
2) Bake and leave cookies (with a note of ingredients) on a doorstep.
3) Volunteer to tidy up the work space.
4) Write and share a haiku about the uniqueness of a person.
5) Ask a person to share a neat fact from their past.
At the end of the day, people only want to be seen and loved, even in the tiniest ways. Like I said, there’s nothing random about kindness. It’s an intentional practice, hopefully leading to greater change and more empathy.
Cody Lee Pey is a therapist at The Center for Mindfulness and CBT who is accepting new clients. They specialize in sexuality and gender identities; romantic and intimate relationships; and mindfulness, among others. They are passionate about fostering a creative and social justice-informed space for their clients.