The Prompt: Tell us about the time when you performed a secret random act of kindness — where the recipient of your kindness never found out about your good deed. How did the deed go down?
This is a tough one for me. I’ve certainly participated in many projects anonymously, mostly behind the scenes as a worker elf, but it wasn’t a random act. It was work or a project or planned. I hope it stemmed from my kindness, but the line is a little blurry.
I’ve engaged in random acts – passing along food to a stranger, donations, helping someone crossing the street or with directions or sending a card or flowers. I try to be charitable. I’ve never paid for someone’s drive thru order or groceries or anything like that. And that wouldn’t be secret, would it?
One time I bought $5 gift cards for a local coffee house and put them in the door slots of our neighbors on our block. Only one person figured out who did it, but most of the cards were redeemed per the owners of the business. So while that was nice, it wasn’t truly secret.
I gave a man $5 in Squirrel Hill last week after he asked for a quarter. I knew the 5 was in my bag and I had no idea where it had come from so it seemed appropriate. But the kindness, I believe, was that I stood and listened to him for a few minutes as he told me how I could find Jesus in him and other like him who didn’t intend any harm, they just needed a hand. That kindness was FOR me though because it was a good lesson and what he said was true, it resonated. My favorite part was when he said “I am Jesus, my name is Jesus – well really it is Phillip – but I am Jesus.” We laughed together.
One of the things I find most appealing about this concept is the engagement – not to make myself feel good for doing a good deed, but to remind the other person that they are visible and acknowledged and that they matter. They deserve kindness because we are neighbors whether they live on my block or in a shelter or across town.
Truth be told, I feel more like a kindness negotiator or middleman than a random actor. I see a need and turn to my network to find someone to fill it. It might be socks for a shelter, it might be a petition to be signed to support an injured party or it might be a sadness weighing someone down. I try to fix it by finding someone to help.
I believe that helping our neighbors does bring value to our lives – it feels good, it builds our resiliency and it strengthens our ties to one another. It is a bit sad how quickly we forget that lesson, lose touch with the joy of giving and the power of empathy and compassion. And kindness.
The interaction also matters.I am trying to attend the community potluck at Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ Community Center each month because simply being with others in the community helps me, sustains me, gives something to me far beyond what I give to the community center. This is a kindness to myself.
Being kind to our neighbors, friend and stranger alike, is good for us as well as them. There’s nothing random about that.
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