Random Acts of Kindness Day 2023
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” -The 14th Dalai Lama
February 17th is International Random Acts of Kindness Day. This day is celebrated every year and organised by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, an organisation on a mission to make ‘kindness the norm’. We all know it’s good to be kind; that’s pretty much universally accepted. But kindness is both more and less complicated than you might think.
Let’s start with what kindness is not. Kindness is not being ‘nice’ or polite. Kindness is not telling someone what they want to hear to keep them happy. Kindness is not soppy or silly or weak.
Instead, kindness is strength, it’s having the courage to say what you know is right, whether or not it will be popular. It’s about being clear and open; being vulnerable with others. It’s about caring for others and doing what’s best, regardless of the situation.
And kindness isn’t just for others. We need to be kind to ourselves as well. Once we start to feel self-compassion, we are freed to be kind to others too. We no longer feel a sense of scarcity or the need to desperately protect ourselves.
Concepts of Kindness
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has 6 kindness concepts.
Kindness starts with respect. We can respect people we don’t like, people we don’t agree with, and people we don’t even know. Everyone is on their own journey, and we don’t know what their stories are. The late psychologist Carl Rogers, spoke about having ‘unconditional positive regard’ for others. This means that we see all people as having inherent value, simply by virtue of being human.
Caring is having empathy for others, acknowledging how they are feeling and genuinely caring about those emotions. It does not mean that we need to accept or agree with everything they do or say; as Dylan Marron said in his Ted talk, ‘empathy is not endorsement’. It is possible to care about people and want the best for them, even when you completely disagree with their actions.
This is about being kind to everyone you meet; and as we all know, some people are harder to be kind to than others. When people are aggressive or rude, it can feel unfair to have to treat them with kindness, but often it’s those people who need kindness the most. And remember, being kind isn’t about being a doormat; you can be both kind and firm about your boundaries and what is and isn’t okay.
This is about being kind regardless of whether anyone will know about it. This is about saying kind things about people and doing what you know is right, even if you never get any acknowledgement or if you might even be misunderstood. You’re never going to be able to make everyone happy; keeping the peace and being a people pleaser is not kind at all. Being truly kind is about doing what you know is right at all times.
Being someone people can rely on is an act of kindness. If people around you know that you are someone they can trust and that you will support them when they need it, that is an incredible gift. Again, this isn’t necessarily about dropping everything the second they call, but it’s about being honest about what you can and can’t do, and then sticking to that as far as possible. The old business principle might apply here; under-promise and over-deliver! It’s not kind to say you help someone if by doing so you will be hurting yourself. True kindness is about being real with yourself and others. In the words of Brene Brown, ‘Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.’
Sometimes kindness takes courage. It can be scary to do something kind when you know it might be misunderstood, or to be kind to someone who is very unpopular. For some people, even giving a friendly greeting to a stranger might take courage. But the more you put yourself out there with small little acts of courageous kindness, the more your courage will grow, and the more your life will expand.
There’s actual science to back all of this up too. According to Dr Ritchie Davidson from the University of Wisconsin, research shows that people can ‘actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help’. So the more we perform those random acts of kindness, the kinder we get. And the more other people experience kindness, the more likely they are to be kind. As Amelia Earhart once said, ‘A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.’ And just like that, we’ve changed the world!
If you need some inspiration or a little encouragement for today, here are some ideas to help get you going:
- Post a card or letter to someone you’ve been out of touch with
- Send flowers to a friend, out of the blue
- Find out if a neighbour needs any help with shopping
- Ring someone who is on their own
- Send someone a handwritten thank you note
- Tell your family how much you love and appreciate them
- Help with household chores
- Offer to help an elderly or vulnerable neighbour
- Check on someone you know who is going through a tough time
- Remember to say “hi” to colleagues and ask how they are – whether that’s face-to-face, or virtually if you are working from home
- Offer to support colleagues who may not be familiar with video conferencing or new software that you have already used
- Set up a coffee or lunch club – with your regular colleagues and with new ones
- Have a conversation with a colleague you don’t normally talk with
- Get to know a new member of staff – it is hard to join a new workplace
- Lend your ear – listen to your colleague who is having a bad day
- Say thank you to a colleague who has helped you
- Praise a colleague for something they have done well
- Wish a passer-by a good morning or afternoon
- Be a considerate cyclist/driver
- Pick up some rubbish lying around in the street
- Smile and say hello to people you may pass every day, but have never spoken to before
- Donate to the charity of your choice