A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a wonderfully great initiative called “Random Act of Kindness Week”. The name speaks for itself; it’s a call to action to show kindness, in some capacity, for 7 days. There is a foundation in Denver that spearheads this directive. Its charge is to take this week to step out of your normal routine or comfort zone and attempt a new random act of kindness each day of the celebratory week. I thought it was profound so I wrote a blog post about it in 2012. I wanted to inspire others to embrace this endeavor. I encouraged people to do something nice for a stranger, make a new friend, and give sincere compliments to everyone. The only problem? I didn’t walk the walk. I may have thrown around an extra compliment or two, smiled a little more or told a buddy how much I valued his friendship, but I can honestly say that I was sitting firmly on the sidelines.
That’s why I added number 52 to my new life list: “Actively Participate in Random Act of Kindness Week.” I looked up the dates for 2014, marked it on my calendar, and completely forgot about it. On February 10, I received a reminder notification on my phone that said simply, “Happy RAK Week!” It was here, and I was unprepared. That sounds kind of strange, huh? Unprepared to show kindness? Yep! Guilty! I was at a complete loss about what to do. At one point, I even asked myself, “What IS kindness?” You would have thought that someone told me that C-A-T now spelled dog. I sat at my desk, stared at the floor, and hoped for all the answers to magically appear. I sat there for a long time. No magic. I re-read my 2012 blog post, but the calls to action were so vague. I became even more confused.
Then, I prayed: “Heavenly Father…I don’t mean to be an idiot, but I need you to open my heart and educate me about kindness. Show me how you want to use me this week.” I looked up from the floor and heard a profound whisper: “How do you experience kindness? What has to happened in your life to feel kindness from another person?” Then the whisper turned into a loud, stern command: “Start. There.” So, I did. I put together a 7-day plan of attack and executed it:
MONDAY: Reach out to someone who positively impacted your professional career; express your appreciation on how they influenced your life. My RAK: I sent e-mails to two men who gave me a chance to live out my dream of “coaching” college football. Everett Todd hired me as a volunteer coach at Blinn College in 2001 and Mike Sinquefield hired me as recruiting coordinator at TCU 3 years later. I told both of them: “I know it might sound a little weird, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without YOU! Thank you!”
TUESDAY: Let someone know that they’re in your prayers. My RAK: I reached out to a high school buddy and his wife. Their 4-year-old son, Jackson, is in a backyard brawl with Leukemia. I’ve been receiving his updates on Facebook, and I’ve been inspired by his strength and courage. I wanted his parents to know that prayers were coming their way. I also shared a wonderfully great story of another family friend whose granddaughter stood toe-to-toe with cancer and whipped its butt. I told them that I thought it was important that they heard stories like that.
WEDNESDAY: Do something for a complete stranger. My RAK: I bought groceries for a random person. Confession: I strategically picked this person because her basket was pretty light. I wanted to do something nice and unexpected for someone without taking out a loan. So I purchased some milk, creamer, bananas, a Valentine’s card, and some other things. I told the woman, “I’d like to buy your groceries today.” She responded, “I’ve heard of this. Pay it forward, right?” I handed her one of my "Live the List" business cards. On the back, I had actually written “Pay. It. Forward.” I also wished her a happy Random Act of Kindness Week. She was very appreciative and she promised that she would pay it forward.
THURSDAY: Let your family know how much you care. My RAK: I sent flowers to my sisters with a simple note, expressing how much I loved them. They are such amazing sisters. I told them that I don’t tell them that enough.
FRIDAY (Valentine’s Day): Do something nice for your spouse. My RAK: I played hooky from work and gave my wife an entire day to herself. She could do anything she wanted to do while I held down the fort with the kiddos. I try to give her a couple hours during the week for a “Mommy Day Out,” but life sometimes throws a wrench into our plan. She wrote a Facebook message: “There were no roses delivered to me today, no sparkling jewelry, and no crazy stuffed animals, but I got the best Valentine's Day gift I could ever receive. My honey took off work today, took the kids, and gave me a full day to myself!! Can I say I have the most AMAZING hubby ever?! So I grabbed my yoga mat, a good read, and my breast pump! Ha! Sorry if that’s TMI (shrug) but a baby’s gotta eat! And headed out! Feeling refreshed!”
SATURDAY: Embrace the power of presence. My RAK: My mom has a 90-year-old cousin who lives in Glen Rose. I spent a little over an hour with her on Saturday morning, discussing local politics and family history. She is sharp, funny, and opinionated, which are all of the things that I miss in my two grandmothers. As I was leaving, we decided it would be nice to do it again soon. She promised to remember to offer me coffee next time.
SUNDAY: Express gratefulness to your parents. My RAK: I simply wrote my parents a thank you note expressing my appreciation for them being the greatest parents and grandparents in the world. I closed my note by writing, “I love you guys so much. I never want you to question my gratefulness.”
Confession: I had a hard time writing this post. The last thing that I wanted to do was scream: “I’m. So. Awesome. Look. At. Me.” That definitely wasn’t the point, so I kept asking myself, “Why are you sharing all of this?” I never came up with a good answer. I just kept writing. Then it hit me. Maybe – just maybe – one of my random acts of kindness will inspire someone else. Maybe they will reach out to a person who inspired them and say thank you, tell their siblings how much they love them and/or express their gratitude to their folks. I realized throughout this process that I don’t do this enough. For some tragic reason, it is out of my “normal routine” and outside my “comfort zone”. For me to show kindness WAS random. Again, when I added #52 to my current life list, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I do now. This endeavor made me realize that it’s not that difficult to step out of the spotlight and put the emphasis on others. That’s all kindness is: putting others before yourself. After 7 days of executing my plan of attack, I made a vow to myself to remove the “randomness” from my acts of kindness. I promised myself to be more intentional about it.
That’s my charge to YOU: Be intentional about showing kindness. Again, it’s not difficult. It can be a note, e-mail, or letter. It can be a kind word or smile. It can be a helping hand. It can be 5 minutes of your undivided attention. How do you accomplish this? Just start! Do something kind for another person RIGHT NOW! I promise it will completely change your mindset and positively impact your day. Then what? Do it again tomorrow.