When I popped into the mall this morning I discovered today is “Random Act of Kindness Day.”
The Mall is really behind the idea, maybe because it ties in with the good cheer of the approaching festive season… The poster lists a bunch of corporate sponsors, and the places you can get “Random Act of Kindness” cards. [Ahem… Cards?]
The very idea of sponsoring random act of kindness seems odd. I mean, who do you sponsor? I would rather see corporate sponsors get behind solving the very real poverty issues plaguing our community. Our country. There are plenty of good causes that need sponsorship, particularly in this economy.
I didn’t stay for the presentation, but there was a podium set up in the Food Court, and free copies of the local newspaper laid out on most of the tables. And there was even a young woman pushing a cart full of little white cylinders she was handing out to everyone.
Maybe its because I’m a writer, but this really annoys me.
I mean really … random?
1) adj. Having no specific pattern, cause, or objective. Often used in statistics.
Um. It isn’t “random” if you’re supposed to do it on a specific day.
If someone does you a kindness, and tells you to pass it on, any kindness you then do is no longer “random,” because it has in fact been caused by the kindness done to you.
If we are supposed to pass on kindness today, because it is “Random Act of Kindness Day,” we are committing kindness for an objective… because it’s “Random Act of Kindness Day.” Not random.
And every act of kindness committed today is part of the pattern. Which means it is not random at all.
The little cylinders turned out to be rolls of candy. Is that a kindness? Maybe for the dental profession. Parents of small children, or people on diets, or fighting diabetes might disagree.
You might think I’m just being picky. Maybe I’m a grammar nazi writer with her knickers in a twist because the word is being misused. But that’s not my problem.
My problem is that the idea is being misused.
Because it is a beautiful idea. A human idea. The idea we should commit “random acts of kindess” when we can. Whether it’s helping someone who looks lost find their destination, or holding the door for the man with an armload of packages, inviting a neighbor for a walk in the park, or giving half our own sandwich to someone who might be hungry.
Truly random acts of kindness are done because we are human. Random acts of kindness are ways to connect with other people, to help or share with others, because it’s the right thing to do.
Not because we expect a reward, or adulation. That’s not random, that’s a transaction.
Not because we’re supposed to… that’s not a kindness, that’s an obligation.
When people commit truly random acts of kindness, we feel good inside, because we have connected with another human being. We are social creatures, and random acts of kindness are good for society.
Making it an official “Day” sours it for me.
Instead of feeling good about ourselves — because we have been good neighbors, good citizens, good people — when we have committed a random act of kindness, maybe we are now supposed to feel good about the corporate sponsors who sprang for the free roll of candy that encouraged us to “pass kindness on”.
What happens on the other 364 days of the year? Once we’ve done our obligatory “act of kindness,” we’re off the hook for the rest of the year, right? It’s safe to get back to normal, where we can pretend we don’t see the homeless we hurry past. Where we don’t have to keep an eye out to see if our fellow humans might need their driveway shovelled, or even just a kind word.
It isn’t just “Random Act of Kindness Day” it’s actually “Random Act of Kindness Day®”.
What it means is someone, some organization, corporation or person, legally owns the intellectual property known as “Random Act of Kindness Day®” which gives it/them the right to legally prevent others from using that phrase.
A trade-mark is a word (or words), a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization.
So it isn’t safe to organize a school fundraiser under that name, because your bake sale proceeds might not go to pay for the books the school library needs because the funds may need to fight off a lawsuit.
You may think nothing like that could ever happen. How could such an important idea… a worthy idea to spread kindness… how could that possibly end up in court? Sadly, it could happen the very same way the idea of honouring our Canadian war dead with the poppy symbol has led to legal challenges by the Canadian Legion.
There is no question that the world could use more kindness. We need to be nicer to each other. We need to co-operate more. Lend a hand where it’s needed. Real kindness isn’t an advertising gimmick, it comes from within us.
So for me, I’m opting out. No random acts of kindness for me today.
That’s what the rest of the year is for.
[Although I still wear a poppy to honour our war dead, I wear it only on November 11th. But it is always an old one, or a home made poppy, because I refuse to support Canadian Legion intellectual property bullying.
And now, back to writing my NaNoWriMo novel]