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Today's Family Magazine

Deliberate acts of kindness?

Feb 20, 2017 11:34AM ● By Today's Family

Mommy Chronicles

By Stacy Turner

We’ve all heard about random acts of kindness -- you know, when you do something nice for someone else just because you can.  Like holding the door open for someone or making a homemade gift for someone.  Maybe you’ve been the recipient when the person in front of you at the coffee shop pays for your caffeine fix or someone leaves a nice note on your car in the parking lot.  Anything you can do, especially if the recipient has no idea who treated them, is a random act of kindness.

The idea originated when Anne Herbert penned the phrase “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” to counterbalance, “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty,” in the early 1980s.  It prompted a social movement and even a holiday observance -- February 17 - where people everywhere are encouraged participate in acts of kindness for others.

Although we didn’t know there was an actual holiday, I know my kids are familiar with this concept. In fact, they’ve participated in random acts in our community through Girl Scouts; they’ve also helped identify and complete kind acts to celebrate birthdays.  They’ve helped deliver turkeys at Thanksgiving, and an anonymous gift from Santa to a struggling family during the Christmas season.  Now that our kids are older, we’re finding ways we can give back as a family, both at church and in our community.  For the most part, the kids enjoy helping out and spreading good will.  That is, until it became an assignment at school.

It all began when they decided to implement a special week at my daughter’s elementary school asking kids to complete random acts of kindness.  In the note that came home, we were alerted to this special week’s activities, which ranged from ‘make a friend Monday’ and ‘thank you Tuesday’ through ‘what can I do to help you? Wednesday’ to ‘thoughtful Thursday.’  They also noted that when students complete an act, they get to put a heart on the ‘kindness tree.’
As you can imagine, this new program wasn’t too popular with my fifth grader.  “Aren’t we supposed to be nice ALL the time?” my daughter asked.  Good point.  “Besides, doesn’t the whole idea of it being random mean that we get to decide what to do and when it happens?”  I really can’t argue with that logic.

Regardless, I asked her how it went on Monday, ‘make a friend day’.  She told me she didn’t see anyone playing alone at recess, and that everyone has plenty of friends already.  In discussing the rest of the week, she was generally disgruntled about who deserved her thanks -- NOT the gym teacher that made them jump rope, and definitely not the math teacher who gave a surprise quiz.  The rest of the week seemed to progress in the same manner, prompting us to implement the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, pipe down” movement, at least at home.

So while the random acts of kindness movement moves on at school without my kid’s involvement, we’re not too worried.  She routinely receives ‘care cards’ for being nice or helping other students, so I’m not concerned she’s a closet meany or a fifth grade bully.  But I am wondering what exactly a kindness tree looks like -- is it related to the serviceberry tree?  Oh well, at least they chose a short week, one with no school on Friday.  Heaven knows no one can be nice all the time, especially in the fifth grade.