Uncategorized · writing

Random Acts of Kindness, or a Lifestyle of Compassion?



People love random acts of kindness.  The infamous Starbucks pay it forward, or filling an expired parking meter and leaving a note.  Those are great, but might I suggest there should be more to it?

Despite the trend of RAK’s, people are still ornery, selfish, and in too much of a hurry to give a rip about anyone.  All you have to do is drive down a highway to find out how mean-spirited humans are on a daily basis. It’s obvious to me that RAK’s are merely a tip of the iceberg.

(Funny story, while driving down the road we were cut off by a young woman who was racing in and out of lanes.  A few minutes later, we passed her, and when we looked over she was flipping the bird.  Alex saw her and smiled and waved.  The look on her face…)

When writing out my first draft of my memoir, tentatively titled, “Hope Deferred” one of the themes that stood out is that there are people making differences that go beyond RAK’s.  People for whom stepping into the gap is part of their DNA.  One of the first people to come to mind is a local teacher named Martha.  Martha is a living legend, a special education goddess.  To know Martha is to be blessed, she exudes altruism from every pore of her body.

Or Jeff the radiology PA at our local children’s hospital.  Jeff’s presence has been woven throughout Ben’s medical history, and he has always been a source of goodness and light.  Not only is he exceptional at his job, his inner compass is such that in doing his work he impacts the lives of children who are hurting and their families by going above and beyond his job title, with kind-heartedness and compassion.

I think of Mike’s lifelong best friend who didn’t blink an eye when Mike called him late at night to say we were stranded in Chicago, 3 hours away while on our way home after adopting Ben.  Marty hopped in his car and drove into the night, 6 hours round trip and acted like it was nothing.

I think that RAK movement can often miss the mark.  While coffee is darn important, can we admit that paying forward the cost of a Starbucks is the tiniest drop in the feel good bucket? I tend to wonder if we’re deceiving ourselves into believing we’re do-gooders, when we’re really just treating a stranger, whose face we will never see to a cup of overpriced coffee.  It’s a quick dopamine burst in the brain, but the true impact is a wash.

When I worked as an advocate for children in foster care, I went into churches to ask them to help us find homes for children waiting to be adopted.  Often the churches would let me speak on behalf of the waiting children.  Not to toot my own horn, but I had it dialed in.  I would see people dabbing tears from their eyes in every pew, and that pastor would often choke up after my talk.  Yet, when the rubber met the road, more often than not everyone exited the sanctuary went home to their Sunday dinner and nap, and rationalized why they weren’t the ones to step into that gap.

Some of the children I advocated for 3 years ago are still waiting for adoption. 

What I am asking is this:  What step can you take today to make a difference?

Decide.  Commit.  Be like Martha, like Jeff, like Marty.  Make a real difference.


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