From My Perspective – Random Acts of Kindness

Or perhaps not so random. Today I received a beautiful gift. What made it even more beautiful was that it was so completely unexpected. Ironically, this past week was the Canadian “Random Acts of Kindness” week, an initiative dedicated to “building a kinder and more compassionate country and world” that started in Edmonton almost ten years ago. This gift had nothing to do with any particular celebration, however.

Through my articles in The Voice, I get feedback. Sometimes this comes via the editor or a letter to the editor. Other times, students take the time to write directly to me, something I greatly appreciate. Its hard to write an article every week, particularly when it’s sometimes about controversial topics, or things that make people angry. It seems lately I’ve had my share of angry feedback over articles I’ve written. On the other hand, I’ve had really positive feedback too.

Through that feedback I’ve come to know more about my fellow students than I would have known otherwise. Because I’m carrying an extremely heavy workload, including full-time work, full-time student, and President of AUSU, I don’t often have the luxury of visiting with my fellow students. I would love to interact regularly on the forums and in chat sessions; and as a founding member & CPA rep, I’ve often wished I could be more actively involved with other student members of the Psychology Association. I’ve never found the time to attend an Edmonton coffee group, even though I’ve faithfully marked the meetings on my calendar, week after week. I’m just way too busy, juggling responsibilities – taking time to stop and have coffee or visit with a fellow student always ends up on the back burner. When I do find the odd free moment, my family comes first.

I may not have the time to go out for coffee, but I do enjoy staying in touch with fellow students at any time of day or night through email. Some months ago after writing about seeing the miracle of my daughter’s ultrasound, I received an email from a fellow student. She wrote to me about what it is like being a grandmother; encouraging words; about how life-altering yet wonderful this experience would be. Since that time we’ve exchanged emails on a few occasions. I’ve learned a bit more about her life, and when I’ve written articles about feeling discouraged, she has emailed me with positive sentiments. But as busy as I am, our conversations have been few and far between. After I announced the birth of my grandchild, I was pleased to receive a congratulatory email from her.

Some days later I would discover that this was not the end of it. I went in to the AUSU office and discovered a fat envelope sitting in my in-basket. I opened it to find a beautiful hand-knit little red and navy sweater. The front was adorned with an animal wearing a little bell (my daughter and I debated whether it was a reindeer, but ironically it bears a strong resemblance to her dog!). Accompanying the sweater was a card expressing thoughtful sentiments – from one AU student & grandmother to another! I was amazed!

This student’s “random act” of kindness touched me deeply. It made me really stop and think about the importance of the “little things” that we do for one another. She doesn’t know me, and we may never meet in person. But this kind and incredibly thoughtful gesture has brought us close and taught me a valuable lesson. She could have just sent me the email, but instead, she took it a step further and gave a gift from the heart.

How often do we think of doing things like this for others? I know I think about it – but don’t follow through often enough. Spontaneously sending flowers or an encouraging card to someone who is going through a rough time; picking up the phone to give a kind word here and there; giving a small gift to someone for no particular reason; shovelling someone’s walk; offering a neighbour a lift on a rainy day; helping a fellow student figure out an assignment.

There are so many random acts of kindness we can do for others. When I stop to think about it, I realize that in any given week I may be the recipient of many such kind acts. They don’t have to take a great deal of time or effort, and they reap such great rewards. Not only do these acts make both the recipient and giver feel good – they have a cumulative effect, motivating us to behave in kind and generous ways towards others. In our busy, stressful lives, it is far too easy to become irritable and impatient with others. An unexpected moment of kindness forces us to stop and take notice – reminding us who we are and what life is all about.

Random Acts of Kindness week: