It’s become a common read on the social media pages of seemingly caring individuals: performing random acts of kindness. I question the sustenance of these alleged kind acts. They reek of a pretentiousness, bittersweet taste, like Guinness with a shot of creamer. Here’s why.
If we were to randomly act, what value would are actions truly have? Of course it makes us happy to have the patron ahead of us pay for our coffee or our tab at the bar. But does that stick with us? When thinking of all you’re grateful for, do you refer to the handsome man in the red cap that paid for your parking? Or would you remember Mrs. Jones, your next door neighbor who spent countless hours with you after school practicing reading and writing so you’d start junior high at reading level? The later surely isn’t random.
When we consider the basic and individual definitions of the words random and kindness, we can begin to carve out avenues that neither align nor run perpendicular to one another. According to Google, kindness is an ethical, pleasant disposition and concern for others. It is known as a virtue and is very valuable in many cultures. When we hold any disposition, we must be mindful. There is no autopilot for ethical decisions or showing respect for one’s self and others. We choose that. And choosing requires thought.
Now let’s consider the meaning of random. Our friend, Google, defines random as an undefined proceeding, occurring without aim, reason, or pattern. Of course we can take a journey or take action without a definitive plan, and it could still be a meaningful experience. But we would need to take our brains with us and actually use them. So in reality, it wouldn’t be very random. It would be more loosely planned.
See, when we’re kind, we are mindful. It’s living with a level of awareness that requires character or familial training. Acting randomly kind is an oxymoron. To engage in and support random acts of kindness is indirectly upholding behavior that is unkind. It’s recognizing that selfishness is okay and when we want to build a following on social media, we can be randomly "kind." Kindness is not something to be done randomly, but continuously. Something more than a hashtag foolishly used when you desire to buy a tall latte for the patrons behind you at Starbucks.
When people act to serve others with purpose and intention, kindness is the result. Acting and speaking to serve rather than to receive some sort of recognition creates long-term effects that will not only better us as individuals, but our communities at large.