It’s been a very long time since I reported from Gretchen’s Happiness blog. I’m still following it, but she’s such a prolific writer that I don’t find the time to read all of her posts. This one caught my eye though, because it’s a pass-time of mine to practice random kindness and I don’t want to know that it’s not appreciated!
However, I don’t think I’ve ever put money in other people’s meters or given flowers to strangers. Don’t think I’d ever do that. Even before reading this article I suspected that people might find that suspicious – and also, it seems more like an act of demonstrative kindness than just mere kindness, doesn’t it? My pet random kindness is one I get to practice almost every day – kindness in traffic. When you let people out from side roads with a cost of maybe 4 seconds to your own ETA, it’s such easy points and it’s such a pleasure to see the relieved smile on the other person’s face. I should mention to the Danish readers that the English motorists are much, MUCH better at this than we Danes are. Actually, it’s quite embarrassing! Which is also why acts of kindness in traffic give more bonus in Denmark than they do over here! There are of course many other kinds – lots of things you can do in the supermarket for instance, in the bus or on the train. Even on the plane! On my last trip to Denmark I sat next to an elderly lady who was clearly in pain, probably arthritis. When we landed I took out her stuff for her from the overhead compartment, really a very small act of kindness, which I wouldn’t recall today if it wasn’t for her suspicious gaze and check on her bag to see if I’d opened it! When she saw that nothing had been tampered with she got a really guilty look on her face and muttered apologetically that “you don’t know who to trust these days”… And I’m no hooded teenager, I’m a middle-aged woman!
I think it’s a sad sad state of affairs that small acts of kindness, which usually, one should hurry to point out, come at no cost to the purveyor, have become so rare, that they are treated with suspicion! Can’t we reinstate kindness as a preferred way to behave? When it doesn’t cost you anything and it makes you fell good, what’s there to loose?
My older son likes to help elderly ladies with their shopping, picking up stuff they drop, helping them across the street or up stairs or whatever. He does it for fun, he says. Because he doesn’t exactly wear a shirt and tie, has unruly curly locks and often wears a hoodie, some of the elderly ladies are genuinely shocked, because young men who look like him are not supposed to behave like that. They are supposed to mug elderly ladies, not help them. So he’s quite used to meeting suspicion, when he acts kindly.
Why not go out tomorrow and do a random act of kindness and then go home and tell me about it. I’ll do one too and report it. It’s not bragging, it’s purely scientific. How did it make you feel? What are your preferred random kindness tactics? Have you experienced suspicion?