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.
I love your story and I hope to do a shortened version of this at my office this coming February. February 17 is Random Act of Kindness day and I am going to challange my 30+ coworkers on this, in some form. Thanks for the inspiration!
I can relate to the description of your journey. I have a lot of good ideas, but have trouble putting them into play. I liked your idea of making your plans very specific in order to act on your ideas.
This is an amazing story, keep being kind even in darker times, Amazing Job of being kind !!!