Random Acts of Kindness. November 2017

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an act of kindness – how did it make you feel? Likewise – have you ever shown a random person kindness and felt good about it? What are the reasons behind showing kindness in this way?

An article published in the Evening News last week reported on the recent exploits of Lothian Transport who were focusing on doing ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ (RAOK) for their passengers. You can find the article here: http://bit.ly/2y6zf6M. Gloves, sweets and free day tickets were all distributed and there was someone there, perhaps from their own media team, poised to capture these moments!

The article is peppered with the responses of the recipients and how it made them feel. Now I don’t want to spoil the article for you but, as you can imagine, these acts of kindness made them feel good! Towards the end of the article, the journalist delves in to some of the psychology behind the showing of kindness. For me it was welcome reading against a news cycle that is often quite dark and heavy going. It did get me thinking as to what the reasons behind such actions might be.

In response to the questions at the start of this blog I can say that I have been shown kindness and have likewise made an effort to show it to others. Sometimes the simplest of caring acts has left me feeling uplifted, much like those that were those helped by Lothian Transport. I am not ashamed to say too that when I have helped others I certainly felt pleased with my actions.

This mentality chimes with what is shared in the Evening News article. Paraphrasing the journalist’s exploration of the psychology of kind acts, it can be said that people who are feeling low are more likely to do good deeds as this brings a boost in mood. The converse is that those who already feel good are less likely to help others, as they are less in need of a boost. With this, I start to wonder if we need to acknowledge and/or disclose our motivation behind these acts. Are they indeed that random at all? Might there even be a hope for something to come out of them?

Writing as someone who can be somewhat cynical. I find myself wanting to scoff at the fact that for the cost of some gloves, sweets and bus tickets, Lothian Transport have shrewdly gained some free advertising! But then, are my acts of kindness really that random and am I as transparent as I ought to be about my motivation for wanting to help other people?

Writing form a Christian perspective, perhaps I should be more open to disclose that the kindness I show is motivated by my desire to bless others. One of the key sections of Jesus’ ethical teaching comes from the Sermon on the Mount which is in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus says “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”. It would be fair to say that we don’t always get it right in terms of ‘good deeds’. Sometimes we miss the mark completely and do more damage than good e.g. people feel patronised. But can we at least say that the RAOK that we do are perhaps not so random in their intention?

A couple of questions to close – Do you think that showing someone an act of kindness is really all that random? And, if a person of faith showed kindness to you would it make you as cynical (like I am about Lothian Transport), or would it make you want to explore what motivates them to act in such a way?