There can be little doubt that helping others creates an effect that ripples outwards from both the giver and receiver. Often the opportunity turns up unannounced and there is only a split second to decide whether or not to act and allow those ripples the chance to spread….
This is my latest article in Perception Ezine and the first in my new capacity as their Random Acts of Kindness columnist. I highly recommend subscribing, not just because it increases my readership, but because I personally know some of the regular contributors. It is packed full of meaningful and workable insights into the difficulties that we humans face, thrust as we have been into modernity without giving evolution the courtesy of having time to catch up.
And so, with appetite duly whetted, read on…
Personally, I’m a big fan of Paying It Forward, a concept which has been discussed in previous issues under the Random Acts of Kindness section. To me the key difference between Paying it Forward and Random Acts of Kindness is that Paying It Forward is more deliberate and to some extent acknowledges the benefit to the giver a little more; there’s nothing wrong with a little inner glow.
For me, there’s always been something about a Random Act of Kindness that brings on an expectation of pure altruism whereby the act should be solely for the benefit of the receiver, almost as if feeling good about being a giver of kindness somehow negates its intention: were you performing the act for benefit of the receiver or simply to make yourself feel better? Surely that would be selfish, wouldn’t it?
So there I was, pondering what to write for this issue’s Random Act of Kindness section, not least because in the previous few weeks I hadn’t to my recollection, been particularly altruistic and no wonderful stories of goodness leapt out at me. Surely as a therapist, I ought to be distributing Random Acts of Kindness left, right and centre every day of the week. After all, if a therapist isn’t routinely altruistic, then who will be?
This left me with a dilemma. Do I write about something from my past? Maybe a story about someone else’s Random Act of Kindness? Or do I wait and hope that the opportunity to perform some noteworthy kindness jumps up and bites me so that I can incorporate it here and spread the word? I figured that the latter would be best as oftentimes recent personal experience carries more weight than stories from the dim & distant. As it turned out, it wasn’t that simple.
In the intervening three weeks nothing has cropped up that I would deem worthy of this section. In fact opportunities have been few and far between, so I took to actively seeking them out.
Walking back from the village post office, I dutifully offered to help an elderly lady with her wheelie-bins but was politely refused with a look of mildly confused distrust.
After a full day in London I was boarding the train home and a woman with two young children was lifting two heavy suitcases through the door. My Galahad-esque offer of help was curtly turned down with barely disguised suspicion. I walked on.
It’s as though the Eisenberg Uncertainty Principle is being applied to Random Acts of Kindness. Perhaps the very act of looking takes away the randomness and kindness. It seems that in order to work, spontaneity is key. Perhaps I’m just not especially random.
That said, I often let people through doors ahead of me; I slow down and let cars in at junctions and slip roads; I smile happily at drivers who look as though their progress depends on the ferocity of their glare, (mostly this breaks their state and they grin back); I’m having several blog-related conversations with people who live in constant pain, offering advice and guidance on pain management techniques. I’ve even gifted several of them a copy of my chronic pain relief download to try out. Perhaps they’ll spread the word, you never know. Mind you, they might not like it at all and spread entirely the wrong sort of word. To be honest, I don’t really care. That’s wasn’t the point.
In the past others have helped me and I’m now in a position where I can help in my own way. It’s enough to pass on something that just might turn out to have been of help even though I reckon I’ve long since paid it all back, or is it forwards, if you see what I mean. And I feel good about it. It’s becoming a habit.
Perhaps spontaneity and altruism aren’t key components of Random Acts of Kindness after all. Perhaps that inner glow is there for a reason, encouraging both the giver and receiver of the kindness to seek out more warmth by spreading it further. Perhaps, what I think of as Paying it Forward is someone else’s Random Act of Kindness. Two sides of the same coin?
Think about it, if you’re fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a Random Act of Kindness and if that makes you feel good enough to want to do the same for someone else, then in essence that’s not a Random Act, you’re Paying it Forward. Or perhaps I tend to over complicate things that are really quite simple.
Anyway, here’s my next Random Act of Paying Kindness Forwards. And I feel pretty good about this one, so maybe that altruistic fire is burning after all.
On behalf of Perception I’ve set up a brand new Twitter account called ‘@RAK_UK’ which we’d love you to follow. If you’re not yet on Twitter, you might find it was worth joining in, just for this. Even Tina, our hard-working editor overcame her Twitter-phobia to become the very first follower!
You’re invited to share anything and everything you come across about Random Acts of Kindness or Paying it Forward.
Why not join in? This really is the gift that keeps on giving.
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That’s not random
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013