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Random Acts of Kindness

Little could Anne Herbert have known that her back-of-a-placemat “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” scrawl back in 1982 would have turned into a global kindness movement; and boy am I glad that it has.  

As Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is wasted”, and I happen to think that random acts of kindness – the selfless act of being kind, with no expectation of reward or recognition and often anonymously, whether spontaneously or planned in advance, for no other reason than to help or cheer someone up and ultimately just to make them feel happier – may well be the best kind.

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I remember once arriving at a baby osteopath appointment with my screaming, reflux-suffering 10 month old. I’d encountered a horrendous journey and was juggling a mountain of baby paraphernalia, carrying said banshee-screaming child, as I swung open the reception door just in time for my darling daughter to projectile vomit over the entire entrance, herself, and for good measure, me. As I stood paralysed, not just from the embarrassment but from the awful shock of not even knowing what to do next, an angel appeared in the form of a senior practitioner who I’d never met before. Without a second thought, she calmly took my shell-shocked, sick-covered baby from my arms, arranged a cleaner, ushered me into the staff loo with paper towels, soap and sanitiser and played with my daughter until I was clean enough to take her back. She disappeared before I’d even had a chance to say thank you, and I never saw her again.

I have never forgotten how kind she was or the difference she made that day, and it has become part of my own inspiration to be kind to others – a way to pay it forward.

Making someone feel better, feel grateful and feel happy will not only stay with that person – as that stranger’s kindness has with me – but being kind to others is actually good for you.  

Studies by the University of Sussex have found that the ‘warm glow’ feeling is real; even when your act is entirely altruistic, you will in fact feel happier by making someone else happy. Scientific research has shown that performing kind acts can boost your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that partaking in kind acts can result in everything from reducing stress, lowering cholesterol and better blood pressure – even alleviating depression and increasing life satisfaction and wellbeing. So being kind to others will also make you kind to yourself.

From those humble placemat beginnings, there is now a global kindness movement, with a growing army of ‘RAK-tivists’ celebrated most notably on 17th February: Random Acts of Kindness Day.

In celebration of this most wondrous of days, here are insideKENT’s suggestions for you to carry out your own random act of kindness. Sometimes the smallest act will make the biggest difference, and believe us, you’ll love it too!

EVERYDAY KINDNESS

Smile – every day to everyone. Make a point of smiling at strangers; it heightens mood, aids happiness, will often result in a smile in return and hopefully will inspire them to smile more that day too. Say thank you (and mean it) and make a point of a saying a special thank you every week to someone such as your delivery driver, refuse collector, or your childcare provider.

Hold open a door and give up your seat, be it on the train, the bus or even in a waiting room. When it comes to driving, give up your parking space and be polite on the road or take time to help someone who is lost. We’ve all been in the wrong lane, edged out at a dodgy turning and done the circuit for the best spot at the car park – even when you may feel in a rush you can afford to give up a few minutes of your time.

Be kind to your server, cashier and waiting staff. Manners cost nothing, but when you can afford it, leave a generous tip to recognise good service and make a difference to your server. Pay for coffee for the next person in line, or add one to the tab for someone who couldn’t afford one otherwise. Next time you dine, anonymously gift dessert for a neighbouring table.

Compliment generously by leaving a positive comment on a blog post you have enjoyed reading. Tell a parent how well behaved their child is, congratulate someone on how well they look. Don’t be afraid to compliment a stranger – tell them you love their hair, coat, shoes etc. Praise a local business online, and better yet, don’t write that angry Facebook post or tweet – let it go instead.

When dining out, eat local to support local producers and providers; when dining in, cook an extra portion of dinner to share with a neighbour or freeze for someone else, or invite someone over to dine with you. Share a favourite recipe; make two lunches and give one away, and when shopping, buy extra dog or cat food and donate it to a local rehoming or rescue centre.

Leave a pound taped to a trolley, or by a pay & display machine; return a shopping trolley for someone who is loading up their car or let someone go ahead of you at the checkout.

Give your time and volunteer to read at a local primary school, visit a care home and play a board game with a resident, or take out a neighbour’s rubbish bin. Litter pick next time you are out and see rubbish on the streets, and put an end to the selfie by offering to take a photo for someone.

Donate what you can: old books or toys to your local hospital, or clothes for your local charity. Take flowers into a care home, hospital or hospice, staff will know of someone who doesn’t receive visitors and pass them on or place them in a relative’s room. Create a care package for the homeless, fill an old handbag with women’s hygiene products or a new pair of socks with a toothbrush and deodorant.

Leave positivity wherever you can – leave a positive message or inspirational quote on post-its or notecards somewhere public, in toilets, traffic light buttons, a supermarket shelf or inside a library book.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY KINDNESS

Text someone ‘good morning’ and start their day with positivity; make a handmade card, send a postcard or gift an inspirational book that you think they’d enjoy.

Write down a friend or family member’s best qualities and tell them what they are, or create a ‘why we love you’ jar and fill it with notes about what makes them great, one for every week or every day. Write your partner a list of everything you love about them, or leave ‘I love you’ or ‘have a great day’ post-it notes on a pillow, car seat or in a lunch box for your partner or children to find. Create an appreciation day for your family member – have a day that celebrates everything you love about them, and they get to do their favourite things, eat their favourite dinner or go to their favourite place.

Spend time with your elders – reminisce, map out your family tree and write down their memories. Create a scrapbook and then gift it to someone in the family or create a care package, perhaps to a relative who is poorly, just started university or a new job, or a friend who has moved abroad.

On Mother’s / Father’s Day, check in with those who have suffered a bereavement, contact someone you haven’t seen in a while and arrange to meet face to face, or send flowers or a card for no reason.

Cook a meal or go and do someone’s housework or laundry or bake a cake – all the more perfect if they’ve just had a baby or have been ill, and offer to babysit (for free). Help a friend to get active and send daily motivation; try and make a loved one laugh every day; tell a joke, share a meme, send a picture.

Create a new kindness generation, inspire your children to be kind, purchase gifts for someone less fortunate, donate toys and books to charity or the local hospital and join in charity or school fundraisers.

WORK KINDNESS

Bake a cake or bring in doughnuts, or fruit for your colleagues. Keep an extra umbrella at work to loan when it rains. Refrain from interrupting when someone else is speaking and take someone out for lunch rather than just eating lunch at your desk.

Talk to someone you haven’t spoken to before and ask their name; learn something new about a coworker, and refer back to an interest, event or family member at another date.

Spread positivity, send an encouraging email, endorse a skill or leave a positive recommendation on LinkedIn, compliment a colleague to their face, or better yet, tell it to their boss, and compliment your own boss too!

Offer your skills, experience or time, tutor a colleague, lead a CPD session, mentor a new member of staff or start an office fundraiser for charity.

ENVIRONMENT KINDNESS

Be constantly conscious: use your travel mug for coffee, turn off your plugs overnight and step away from standby mode; use just a single piece of paper, better yet go paperless for accounts and receipts;  feed the birds; recycle and upcycle everything, even when it takes you more time; and do all your errands in clusters including volunteering to do errands for neighbours to make less trips.

GRAND GESTURE KINDNESS

Every once in a while, try and find the time and/or money to pull off a grand gesture of kindness.

Donate as much as you can afford to charity one month, even gift every pound of your disposable income to a good cause. Perhaps you could undertake a charity event such as running a marathon, skydiving or trekking the globe, donating all your proceeds to charity? Start a family piggy bank and then donate all you’ve saved to a good cause. Organise a community clean up at the beach, woodland or playground; start a community garden or community food bank project, plant a tree and offset your carbon footprint.

Volunteer more by hosting a stall at a charity fair, giving up your time to do a charity or community group’s admin, finance or marketing, or join the PTA and give back to your child’s school.

Sponsor a stranger’s charitable endeavours – if you can afford a donation, make one. Adopt a pet or volunteer to foster pets waiting for their forever homes. Host a charity or community dinner for those who are lonely in the community. Go to a restaurant and pay for a stranger’s dinner or pay for the shopping for the next person in the queue. Buy gift cards and carry them with you, give them out at random to people who you feel need a treat or recognition of achievement.

And lastly, always remember, in a world where you can be anything, be kind.

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