Rev. Yme Woensdregt
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker about doing random acts of kindness. It’s a wonderful concept. Being kind does two things: it makes us feel good about ourselves; and it helps someone else.
Being kind does a third thing: this is how we change the world. I know, it sounds like an outrageous claim. But I believe it to be true.
Last week, at a workshop, the speaker told us about Cesar Chavez, a labour leader and civil rights activist. He is best known for founding the National Farm Workers Association and organizing the grape boycott in California, which resulted in higher wages for mostly immigrant workers who worked for grape and lettuce growers.
Chavez was asked once how you start a movement. His reply? “You talk to one person; then you talk to another; after that, you talk to another.” The reporter persisted, “Yes, yes, but how do you organize a movement?” Chavez replied, “You talk to one person; then you talk to another; after that, you talk to another.”
The same applies to how we can change the world through random acts of kindness. Be kind to one person; then be kind to another; then be kind to another person.
As we begin practicing kindness in this way, we become more aware of what we are actually doing. We become mindful of how we behave from moment to moment.
I was reading a blog the other day, in which the writer mentioned that as he was fumbling for his boarding pass at the airport, he dropped a dollar (presumably an American paper dollar). A woman told him, “Sir you dropped a dollar.” “Her son picked it up, and I told the boy he could have the dollar. Another guy comes up to me after and said, ‘That was really nice of you—that kid will remember that the rest of his life.'”
The writer Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We have the ability to radically change someone’s life for good by making them feel good, either by a kind act or word.
In this way, random acts of kindness can change the world.
We are so addicted to “stuff” these days, but the sad reality is that “stuff” disconnects us from the people around us. I want to suggest that laughing with a friend is more important and ultimately more satisfying than buying a better car to impress your friend. Saying something pleasant to a stranger is more beneficial than buying a new pair of shoes for yourself. Making a person smile is more lasting than filling our lives with more stuff.
Recently, a friend alerted me to the “1,000 Acts of Kindness Challenge.” You can find it at 1000acts.ca. It is “a social movement that encourages people to end hate by spreading kindness — one generous act at a time!”
It was initiated in 2009 by the LUSO Community Services program in London, Ontario. It challenged people living in London and surrounding communities to complete 1,000 acts of kindness during October. The movement took off, and over 50,000 acts of kindness were recorded. Since then, the movement has spread throughout Canada and the USA.
Perhaps this year it can reach Cranbrook, not just in October, but every day.
What kind of acts of kindness? Simple things. Inexpensive things. Wonderful things.
Buy someone a cup of coffee. Smile at someone. Say thank you to the cashier at the grocery store, and call them by name; after all, they’re wearing name tags for a reason! Open a door for someone whose arms are full. Offer to rake leaves for your elder neighbor. Offer a hug to someone. Help a new mom in your neighbourhood. Be grateful. Don’t cuss at the driver who’s trying to cut in front of you; just let them in. After all, it will only delay you 3 or 4 seconds. Encourage someone instead of criticizing them. Be present. Drop a can of soup in the food bin for the Food Bank.
I guarantee you that as we all begin to do this, we’ll also become more mindful of our actions and we all will pay it forward. As we do that, we’re going to change the world.
Can you think of a better thing to do than that?
You can start today! It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s satisfying.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook