Random Acts of Kindness
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
In 1928, James E. West, the “Godfather” of the Boy Scouts, said, “...the Daily Good Turn is an important factor in the development of a habit of service and attitude of mind which offset a tendency to selfishness.” The Boy Scouts refer to good deeds and random acts of kindness as “good turns” and focus on the benefit of helping others by a selfless act. In fact, selflessness (not selfishness) is a common characteristic of both successful and happy people with benefits extending far beyond displaying mere selflessness itself.
A random act of kindness is something said or done to make another feel good while expecting nothing in return, not even gratitude. To be most effective, this act of kindness is done for someone just met or someone never met, thus the word “random.” A random act of kindness is neither a favor done for someone who asks, nor is it ever performed with resentment or hesitation. It is an act performed strictly for the good will of others in which the only reward to be expected is the good feeling generated from helping others.
Does the idea of performing one random act of kindness each day sound too idealistic? Why should you spend your valuable time helping someone else when you need help yourself? After all, you have to look out for yourself and your own family, right? Kindness does have its critics; there is no question about it. Since random kindness is so rare of a quality, many people suspect ulterior motives—the “What’s in it for you?” attitude. Others may respond negatively to a random act of kindness. I remember a scene in the opening credits of the ’70s sitcom, “The Odd Couple,” where Felix (Tony Randall) offers assistance to an elderly woman crossing a busy street, only to be hit by the woman in protest. There is risk involved in random kindness, and perhaps this risk keeps most people from performing random acts of kindness. However, successful people know how to manage risk and understand when the benefits outweigh the potential negatives.
Why spend your time performing random acts of kindness? Here are just some of the reasons:
- Gives life purpose and meaning. Many people believe our main purpose on this earth is to make the world a better place. Performing random acts of kindness is doing just that.
- Abolishes worry and self-pity. One of the main reasons people worry so much is because they have so much time to think about worrying! Get in the habit of thinking about others and feel your worries disappear.
- Does away with guilt. Being human, we all do things we later regret and many times we never forgive ourselves. Restore your faith in yourself and prove to yourself that you are a good person. Build your self-confidence back by doing good for others.
- Good begets good. As you begin to create more good in your life, there is less room and less time for the bad.
- Improves overall health. Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders—both serious and minor, psychological and physical.
- Manages stress. Stress-related health problems tend to improve after performing acts of kindness. A drop in stress may, for some people, decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.
- Contributes to emotional well-being. Helping can enhance feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience, and vigor, and can reduce the unhealthy sense of isolation.
- Improves attitude. Chronic hostility, which negatively arouses and damages the body, can be reduced.
- Gives a sense of increased self-worth. An increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness, and optimism; as well as a decrease in feelings of helplessness and depression, is achieved.
- Results in greater happiness. Regular club attendance, volunteering, entertaining, or community group attendance is the happiness equivalent of getting a college degree or more than doubling your income.
A random act of kindness can be as simple as a quick praise or as grand as a million dollar donation. Here are a few of the several forms that a random act of kindness can take:
- Sincere praise. Telling a waiter his first day on the job what a great job he is doing. Commenting on another’s well-behaved children. Showing your admiration for another’s shoes.
- Gratitude. Thanking the postal workers for delivering your mail on time each day. Showing appreciation for the employee that goes out of her way to help you. Expressing gratitude for the police officer or firefighter who puts himself at risk for the safety of others.
- Good deed. Picking up trash on a street, even though both the trash and street are not yours. Volunteering your time at a senior center. Coaching a children’s sports team.
- Money / material. Donating money to a non-profit organization. Giving cash to a complete stranger in need. Giving clothes and other items to a charity.
Perform at least one random act of kindness each day. At first, it may take effort, but very quickly it will become a habit and way of life. Living in this way will have significantly positive effects on your physical body, your mental and emotional well-being, and your very own success and happiness.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)