Blogger Arthur Rosenfield was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks. The man in line behind him was getting impatient and angry, leaning on his horn and shouting insults at both Arthur and the Starbucks workers. Beginning to get angry himself, Arthur chose to keep his cool and change the negativity into something positive. He paid for the man’s coffee and drove away. When he got home at the end of the day, he discovered that he had created a chain of giving that had not only continued all that day but had been highlighted on NBC News and within twenty-four hours had spread around the world on the Internet.
We first heard the saying practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, when we visited Findhorn, the renowned spiritual community in Scotland. It struck us as being the most obvious thing to do, that practicing kindness and beauty should be a natural expression of who we are, yet we pften need to be reminded of it.
Although wonderful in its intent, there is some confusion, particularly the practice random acts of kindness part, due to the idea that the receiver might not appreciate the kindness, that it might even make them apprehensive or distrustful. Sadly, this speaks more about the suspicious world we live in than about the nature of kindness. If true, then what is needed are more acts of kindness and done by more of us, not less.
Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have! — W. Clement Stone
Wikipedia says that a random act of kindness is: “…a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual… There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile or be happier.”
Perhaps the word random is misleading, that it would be easier if we used the word spontaneous or impulsive instead. Spontaneity means we are acting on an impulse, in the moment, freely; particularly, that we are moved to do something for someone without any thought of receiving something in return. Such behavior is surely the ground of a healthy society and such an act is happily received.
What stops us from freely giving? Invariably it is our insecurities, lack of self-esteem and self-love, doubts and inadequacies. And the same qualities also stop us from being able to freely receive. For instance, if we feel unworthy then we believe we have nothing to give; if we don’t love ourselves then we don’t trust why someone would be kind to us. We may fear that if someone gives without reason that they actually want something from us, or that they have an ulterior motive. If we can appreciate the beauty of spontaneous kindness then it enables us to let go of focusing on ourself and to freely reach out to each other. We can both give and receive. Such egoless moments are exquisite!
Can you imagine a world where no one gave to each other? Where we all just looked after our own needs but ignored everyone else’s? This would surely be a miserable place to live, for ultimately, whether spontaneous or planned, our deepest happiness lies in being kind, by giving and caring for each other.
Random acts of kindness are essential to our wellbeing, as they liberate us from self-obsession, selfishness, and isolation; they are the result of an open and loving nature. True generosity is giving without expectation, with no need to be repaid in any form. This is the most powerful act of generosity, as it is unconditional, unattached, and free to land wherever it will.
We may feel we have little to offer, but whether it is a few pennies or a whole bankroll, a cup of tea or a banquet is irrelevant—it is the act of giving itself that is important. As Mahatma Gandhi said, Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.
Senseless acts of beauty speak for themselves, for beauty gives life depth and meaning.