Last night was the first time I ran in an ungodly amount of time. Circa: before my kid was born almost four years ago. I came back to the house red and splotchy, huffing and puffing, dripping in sweat and basically half-dead. I sat on the floor of my dad's house filled with pride and severe chest pain. "Somebody be stankin' over heeere," my Dad said to my little girl, Annie. And they both looked at me like I was road kill.
Annie walked over to me, a bit concerned, and examined my pathetic existence.
"You're hot mom."
"I know," I said, "Look at the water falling off my back!"
She circled around me and watched the sweat beads dance down my back. And that was enough for her.
Without saying a word, she walked back in front of me, lifted up her dress as high as she could and began to shake it up and down as fast as her little hands would let her.
She was fanning me.
My heart melted.
Every Action Counts
It wasn't huge or life changing. She didn't give me a new car- one with less than 200,000 miles that doesn't vibrate. My college loans weren't paid off. She didn't reach out to me in a moment of utter brokenness and heartache to cook a meal or send a card or sit and cry with me. It was way less complicated than any of that. She just stripped half-naked and used her own clothes to cool me off.
It was a small action- but it was filled with love. And my heart glowed all night from her simple, random act of kindness.
I have been amazed at random acts of kindness. In particular, Max Sidirov, the 25-year-old from Canada who started an IndieGoGo campaign for the bullied school bus monitor, Karen Klein. His original desire was to raise $5,000- enough to send her on vacation and give her a reprieve from her harsh reality. But no one could have imagined what happened next...
People from all over the world (over 80 countries) sent in money, cards, flowers and well-wishes to a complete stranger, simply to remind her that there is still good and kindness in the world.
the world was a different place.
This young man's act of kindness did not simply change the bus-driver (literally, it re-wrote Karen Klein's future) but his act of kindness changed everyone who watched. Everyone who took part. Everyone who found solace in the truth that love and kindness, eventually, ultimately always wins.
Then there was the football player, Chad Ochocinco, who inspired millions this past week when he surprised a grieving widow with an unlikely invitation to his wedding. Cheryl Minton tweeted Chad to ask for his prayers as she mourned the loss of her husband of 30 years. You can read her exact tweet here: Chad and Cheryl twitter convo.
No one could've imagined what happened next...
"Do you have a passport?"
And before the world's eyes, he invites a complete stranger to attend his private, tropical wedding. Of course, at no expense to her.
Hungry for Kindness
Google either of these men and you will find thousands of articles from all over the world celebrating their selfless, thoughtful, random acts of kindness. It only takes a few minutes reading comments on Yahoo!, Google, or Sports Center to see that people all over the world have been genuinely inspired and filled with hope by both acts of kindness.
I get the sense people are eager to join the movement. More than ever, I believe:
People are hungry for acts of kindness; humanity longs to be surprised by goodness.
These separate acts of kindness share two basic things in common: Surprise and no-obligation.
The sports player was under no obligation to pray for the widow, much less respond to her, much less reach out to her and give her a gift beyond her wildest imagination. No one would have known, or thought twice, had he not responded to one of the many, many tweets he gets from fans. He was under no-obligation to perform an act of kindness.
Same thing goes for the obscure man in Canada. Just a young dude watching YouTube, disgusted at the mean insults and slurs of immature, unkind boys. It could've just ended there. It could've ended at "That sucks. What a bunch of a**hole kids. Poor lady." The end. Next news story. Next activity in his day. Back to real life.
There was no obligation for him to act. No one was watching. No pressure.
But he acted. They both did. They acted when they didn't have to, when there was no real logical reason, moral dilemma or social pressure weighing down upon them. Still- something deep inside them transcended the "have-to's" and "maybe's" and "good intentions" and "well wishes"- and trumped all those with action.
And millions of people got a glimpse of love.
Both acts of kindness are also similar in their element of surprise.
Not planned out for weeks in advance, maybe not even measured against anyone's better judgement barring their own instinct- these men just acted. Presumably, they did not seek counsel from a lawyer or preacher, they did not spend countless days thinking about it or praying about it or figuring out the logistics and the details- i.e. the practicality of it. They just acted. I doubt very seriously Ochocinco checked the obituaries first and had someone do a background check on the lady to verify if her story was true; neither is it to be assumed that the man in Canada called Karen Klein's employers or neighbors to find out if she was financially responsible or truly worthy or deserving of such a gift.
These were "no string's attached" acts of kindness that took people by surprise.
Sometimes acts of kindness come as a surprise to both the receiver and the one giving, because the one giving is compelled to JUST ACT. Sometimes thinking comes later. And thank goodness. If given too much time we find ways to forget, re-think, doubt and talk ourselves out of our soul's instinct to act upon the rather insane, irresistable, overwhelming kindness bubbling up inside of us. There is an element of surprise that accompanies genuine acts of kindness.
We see acts of kindness on reality TV. People getting new houses, dream vacations and Oprah showing up at their front door. These have their place- and are indeed kind. But unfortunately, most of us can't show up with new cars and a camera crew each time we engage in acts of kindness.
Most of us show up like my daughter- not really having the exact thing to make it all better- but pulling up our dresses and fanning-away anyways.
That's the sort of kindness that changes the world. The kind that comes wrapped in a surprise. Done spontaneously out of the basic urge of one person's soul. It's not flashy. Or fancy. Or life-changing. But it's done without obligation- and it's done spontaneously- surprising the receiver and often, the giver.
That's the kind of thing the world needs more of. One simple act of kindness leaves a million ripples in its wake.