I’m going to do something for you.
As long as you ask me to.
And you have to do something in return.
There was a strange phenomenon on New Year’s Day. There were posts going around Facebook from people promising to do/make/send something to the first x number of friends who commented on their post with the words “I’m in”. It was a sort of un-random Random Acts of Kindness project. Those who put their virtual hand up were then requested to post the same offer in a Pay It Forward manner.
I applaud any effort to use Facebook to engender some humanity-affirming action rather than to share funny cat pictures but given rampant narcissism and subliminal consumerism is pretty much Facebook’s bread and butter, is it really the right forum for such a sensitive and selfless expression?
One friend was forced to delete her original post due to the comment section’s descent into lewdness. When she re-posted it, nobody responded. Somewhat proving my point.
I hope that somewhere out there, hundreds – perhaps even thousands – of people are sending and receiving lovely things in a growing circle of common kindness but I fear it is, despite the existence of some umpteen million Facebook users, actually a rather small circle.
An act of kindness is an act of love. Whether it’s a beautiful gift for a friend or some parking meter money for a stranger, a good deed is done with love. With our friends, it’s obvious. We love them because they are our friends and so we act out of that love. But a kindness to a stranger is just as much an act of love – love of a fellow human being. Offering a kindness on condition a person firstly asks for that kindness and then is expected to repeat the same kindness makes it sound more like a business transaction.
An act of kindness cannot be scheduled. The kindnesses that have the most impact are those that meet a need. For this, we need to be open to what is happening in the lives of those around us – friend and stranger – and be ready to respond if we see the need and we are able to help. I wonder how many people followed their Facebook post by fulfilling their obligations as soon as possible. Fearing they might forget, rather than spread the deed randomly through the year they dispensed of the task while they thought of it.
An act of kindness is unexpected. There’s a reason the phrase is Random Acts of Kindness, not Pre-planned Acts of Kindness. The sudden and surprising offering of a good deed cannot help but fill your heart with joy, whether you be the giver or receiver.
An act of kindness is unconditional. When we pass a few dollars to the single parent ahead of us in the checkout queue who is short of money for his groceries, we certainly do not expect to be repaid. Neither do we expect our friends to repay a similar kindness. A true act of kindness comes from the heart and expects nothing in return, including any assurances the recipient will fulfil a promise to reciprocate in some way.
When all is said and done though, whether it is via Facebook or some other method, pursue kindness always. But maybe give the funny cat pictures a rest.
If you participated in a Facebook kindness project in some way, I’d love to hear from you about your experience. Leave a comment below.