Random Acts of Kindness

On the radio this morning, Richard Madeley was discussing random acts of kindness. He had listeners calling in with acts they had either encountered or performed, and I was touched by many of those described. They ranged from putting the toilet seat down (basic good manners, surely?) and chasing after a fella who’d left a £10 note in the cash machine (ummm, baseline honesty, no?) to buying a car-parking ticket for someone about to recieve a fine (a sure kindness) and paying the toll for the car behind every morning en commute (astonishing anonymous generosity, performed by more than one benefactor on various routes). One fella emailed in saying that when he saw an old lady doing a basic shop at the supermarket, he always paid her bill as he felt to live on a pension was a disgrace. Clare argued that this could easily backfire, as you wouldn’t know whether the person you were paying for was your average pensioner or a millionaire, but I would argue that this is exactly what makes it an act of kindness, and not of charity.

The programme made me think about the last time I performed a random act of kindness. I used to go out of my way to help those around me on a regular basis, but then I began to commute. It must be 18 months since I paid for a couple of students’ drinks at the bar and told them to pay it forward (my last random act) and since then I’ve seen people struggle to dig out enough change for the bus without proffering my own pennies in supplement. Don’t get me wrong – I still open doors, help with buggies and lift luggage – but these to me are common decencies, not acts of kindness. Acts of kindness, I suppose, demonstrate a generosity of spirit. Or funds. Often both…

So, I have made a promise to myself to find a way to perform one act of kindness each month. Whether paying for the person behind me on the bus or the students across from me at the bar, buying a bunch of flowers and leaving in a conspicuous place for a random passerby to find, or anonymously popping a cup of tea on a colleague’s desk. I might even make cookies for everyone in my building! One way or another, I’ll find a way to give back.


8 thoughts on “Random Acts of Kindness

  1. I really like the idea of anonymously leaving a cup of tea on a colleague’s desk 🙂

    I could definitely do better on the random acts of kindness front. I do make a conscious effort to engage people in conversation and to find something to be complimentary about when, for example, I’m paying for my groceries or I’m standing in a queue. Nothing on the scale of paying for another commuter at the tollbridge!

    • Well, I currently make a pot of tea and coffee every morning first thing, and wash everyone’s mugs so that as they come in they can grab their cup of caffeine of choice. But they know that was me, so it’s not so random.

      I do that at the checkout too – engage the person behind the till, as I know how much a chatty and polite customer could brighten an otherwise horrible day from my own extensive hours in retail. Sometimes it’s a thankless task – particularly in the Leamington ASDA I find – but sometimes you manage to animate someone and it all seems worthwhile.

      I think paying for another commuter is the perfect RAK for me, as it’s entirely anonymous – you can’t even expect any thanks for it. It’s more like these that I’d like to cultivate.

  2. I remember I was on the train home from London, standing, surrounded by runners from the London Marathon. One poor girl had a fairly grim cut on her leg, and was trying to stem the flow with a small bit of tissue. As soon as I noticed, I carefully opened my suitcase and riffled around to find some plasters and a proper tissue – all while standing in the sodding space between carriages. I gave the tissue and plasters to the girl, who just said, “Ta” and continued to talk to her friend. She barely broke her stride.

    I do try to be kind for the most part, but that girl was lucky to not end up with a kiss of the Wigan variety, let me tell you.

    • Yes, I can see how that would be frustrating, and I have become really disenchanted before by (for example) women with buggies who stare at you as if getting up from your seat halfway across the restaurant, untangling their pushchair from a chair and clearing their path to the counter of furniture were your duty rather than a favour… But then I think, well, maybe they’re just so unused to anyone being remotely helpful for helpful’s sake – and that makes me sad! If more people were kind, perhaps there’d be fewer pinch-faced women with buggies in our fine eating establishments (read: Wetherspoons)!

  3. My cousin sometimes gets coffee from a drive-through place on the way to work, and will buy one for the person behind her in the queue: I was so impressed when I heard that, and it made me want to do similar things, but I’m always a bit worried I’d get the same kind of reaction as Carys, which would just make me grumpy! I do think more random acts of kindness would make the world a much nicer place, though, so it’s something I really should do!

    • See, I think that’s right up there with the tollbridge in lovely generousness – but I think the reason that these two examples work so well might be their thankless nature. Anything that’s “drive-thru” leaves the recipent no opportunity to a) embarrass you with their grateful thanks or b) disillusion you with their indifference. We just need a few more ideas along these lines to make RAK work…

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