Random Acts of Kindness

Last week there was a message on a celebrity’s Facebook page, in the reply section of one of her entries.  The person who posted this message offered words of encouragement to anyone who would read them, speaking of the reader’s ability to be an inspiration, wishing the reader happiness, and reminding the reader that it is beautiful to be human.  While it didn’t belong where it was found, not a single person objected, and many commented on the uplifting effect it had on them.  Would that there were more postings like that!

I follow several celebrities on Facebook and Twitter, attracted by their personal qualities and commitments rather than for their professional accomplishments.  (Most of them I’ve never heard sing or seen act.)  Several regularly promote and are active with charities devoted to a particular cause.  Some take a more scattergun approach and support charities and causes that have nothing to do with one another, but still, they are drawing attention to worthwhile efforts to alleviate the suffering of fellow humankind.  This is a positive use of the celebrity status.

Equally interesting are celebrities who have established charities of their own, or who have become Ambassadors for a particular need or population, and have pursued their responsibilities with utter devotion.  I won’t name the celebrities I admire—it would be far more useful for you to do your own research and make your own discoveries.

Another reason I don’t name names is that many of my ‘idols’ number among the Great Unknown.  You won’t find their names on Wikipedia or Google Plus.  Their accomplishments are done in privacy, and you wouldn’t know their names if you heard them.  Sometimes their kindnesses involve things like emptying a freezer of frozen food during a power failure, taking the food to the poorest section of town and giving it away.  One young woman only has to smile and say ‘hello’ to fill a dismal day with sunshine.  There is the single mother who supports an elderly neighbour with daily messages of inspiration and support and the occasional spaghetti dinner.  There is a young person I heard about a year ago who made a list of ways to offer acts of kindness to total strangers, sometimes without ever meeting them.  Encouraging notes were received by people whose names were in the telephone book, and others received loving messages in helium balloons launched from far away.  I wish I remembered the details—there is a lot to be said about her.

A Franciscan missionary took great pleasure in doing things for his religious community, such as restoring an ancient electric lamp to usefulness, without revealing that he was the benefactor.  His brother friars wondered who had donated this wonderful antique lamp—‘we had something like it once’.  There’s a store clerk who will tell you, ‘Don’t buy this from me to-day—go across the street, they sell it for less.  Next week, buy it here, because it will be on sale for less than they sell it now.’

When it comes to celebrities, it has been suggested it is unwise to meet your ‘idols’.  Such admiration often comes with an unrealistic expectation of perfection and nobility, and we forget that our idols are just as human, frail and flawed as the rest of us.

We can appreciate, and easily follow the examples of people such as these I have described.  Spending money, or investing huge amounts of time, doesn’t have be part of the act.  Kindness might be as simple as listening to someone, or accepting their fears without making them feel inadequate.  It might be a message in a balloon, or a posting on a Facebook page, a whisper, a smile and a nod at a stranger on the street….

It could even be judicious silence.

Acts of evil may please a few while they outrage and dismay others, but I’ve never heard of anyone objecting to an act of kindness.

Paul TN Chapman
ptnc2330@gmail.com

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Behind These Red Doors: Stories a Cathedral Could Tell : http://amzn.to/1iGMFUp
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