Random Acts of Kindness
Have you noticed that kindness seems more significant when it occurs randomly?
Maybe it’s due to expectations. We expect people we know to be kind or we wouldn’t continue the relationship. Or maybe we expect others to be kind because we think that’s what we deserve from them.
But strangers are another story. We don’t know them, therefore we have zero expectations. Or worse, we have such a low opinion of those we don’t know that it wouldn’t occur to us they could be kind, too.
Kindness is a virtue most of us appreciate and many of us aspire to. You may have heard about the practice of random acts of kindness as a “thing.” The practice supposedly began in 1982 when a woman named Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, not only is February 17 dedicated annually to celebrating random acts of kindness, there’s actually a foundation devoted to spreading the practice: www.RandomActsOfKindness.org. Their goal is to “help make kindness the norm.”
I confess, my faith in humanity is dissipating faster than water through a sieve. The belief that people are basically good at heart can be a bit naïve these days. The Bible tells us no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). Even if I didn’t believe what the Bible says, all I have to do is observe humanity in action. Consider how some behave when they think no one is looking and consequences won’t follow.
Still, just when it appears kindness has died out, it rises like a mythical phoenix from the ashes when it’s most needed. Natural and manmade disasters can bring out the worst in some folks with everything from looting to price-gouging. But those same disasters also bring out the best in others, as communities come together in widespread acts of kindness and encouragement.
What about believers?
So where do Christians fit into this conversation? The Bible mentions the word kindness more than 300 times. And it’s true that Christians are often at the forefront of meeting others’ needs in a disaster or in situations of ongoing social and economic deprivation. Christians frequently step up when others step back.
We know the Bible tells us kindness is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). This means that the more we surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, the more kindness will mark our relationships.
But lately, kindness has not marked many of our conversations or behavior in the area of politics and morality. Christians are often more known for what we are against than what we are for. Many of us have lost the ability to stand firm for biblical values without trying to demonize and destroy those who disagree with us.
What would happen if Christians spoke the truth…in love (Eph. 4:15)? If we were so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that our “fruit” attracted those hungry for food that feeds the soul? These days, we often associate a random act of kindness with paying for the drive-thru order of the car behind us. But what about acts of kindness that are free? Imagine the domino effect of smiling as you pass a stranger on the street. Or waving to allow the driver of that car to merge into your lane? Or even declining to make an argumentative comment the next time you see a social media post you disagree with?
What would happen if kindness wasn’t just something we practiced with other Christians, but something we practiced regardless of whether the recipient looks like us or holds the same beliefs we do? Can you imagine the result if random acts of kindness became the norm that marked followers of Christ?
Perhaps it’s time to find out.
How will you mark Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17 . . . and February 18 and 19 and every day going forward?