Random acts of kindness. Pay it forward. Different phrases that pretty much mean the same thing: To give of self in a way that the recipient doesn’t know it’s you.
What distinguishes these actions from the typical New Year’s resolution is that “the opportunities are endless (because) these are things that come from the heart,” explained local resident Andrea Grimes, who recently challenged her friends on Facebook to incorporate random acts of kindness into their personal goals for 2013.
Grimes and her husband were “talking about how blessed we’ve been this past year, and about blessing other people, about how we could do that,” she said, adding that the conversation then turned to encouraging others to embrace this giving philosophy so that there would be “more who would be blessed.”
So far, the response to her post has been positive.
“A couple of people have replied, saying they do this all ready, but we’re hoping to plant a seed within others who read this and have a desire to try it,” she said.
Recently, 26-year-old Lindsay Morris of Jacksonville was the beneficiary of a kind deed that turned out to be a pleasant – if unexpected – surprise, inspiring her to do the same for others.
She had ordered a meal at a fast-food drive-through, and when she pulled up to pay, “the woman said I didn’t have to pay for it because the man in front of me paid for my meal. And the guy in front of him paid for his meal,” she said.
“It was neat that it wasn’t just the one person, but several people” paying forward the thoughtful gesture, she said. “It was really neat … a nice surprise.”
A 2010 published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” researchers from Harvard and the University of California in San Diego revealed that “cooperative behavior is contagious and … spreads from person to person,” according to an article on the ucsd.edu website.
“When people benefit from kindness, they ‘pay it forward’ by helping others who were not originally involved,” the article states, creating “a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.”
Inspired by the stranger's generosity, Morris said she paid for the meal of the person behind her.
“Personally, it's very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don't know or have never met,” said James Fowler, the UC San Diego political science professor who helped conduct the study on the spread of cooperation in a social network.
“We have direct experience of giving and seeing people's immediate reactions, but we don't typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”
Morris, a firm believer in supporting charitable causes, said she's looking forward to incorporating random acts of kindness into her lifestyle.
“I haven’t really come up with anything yet, but just thinking about someone other than myself – and that I like doing for others – it’s a good feeling,” she said.
Nichols Intermediate instructor Jackie Warren suggested different ways of performing kind deeds for others that share the gift of self.
“There are so many different ways to do that, and it doesn’t have to involve money – take a friend to the doctor, bake a cake or a meal for someone,” she suggested. “Just do it for someone who isn't expecting something being done for them.”
“When you get down to it, we should be taking care of each other, whether it's our family, our neighbors or strangers,” she said, something she draws from Christ's mandate to “love God, and love one another.”
However, she stressed, it’s not an act that is meant to call God’s blessings upon the one giving, but “to bless others.”
“The goal is to be kinder to each other,” Grimes said. “We need to be kinder to each other, because we are all we’ve got. And we’re not kind to each other, who will be?”
Being part of a giving movement “is exciting,” Warren said, herself a recipient of an expected benevolent gesture.
“It's been fun,” she said.
Random Acts of Kindness Week will be observed nationally Feb. 11-17, while Pay It Forward Day will be celebrated across the globe April 25. For more information, visit the websites www.randomactsofkindness.org and http://payitforwardday.com.