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Our Association leadership team was in a mall, racing against a clock. Our goal, to accomplish as many random acts of kindness within an hour. As we poured through the list of kindness activities provided through an interactive app, we assessed the most efficient way to be kind to as many people as possible within the time allotment. We sought out a cleaning lady to help do her job; a service agent to appreciate him doing his job; a person who needed our assistance perhaps to carry her new purchases (not an easy find); and a person we could give a genuine compliment to. We started out of the gate as if we were on the Amazing Race and we ended as if we had just attended the funeral of a dear friend.
What happened? Why did our energy and enthusiasm start with a thunderous roar and end with a feeling of emptiness and solitude?
In short, a conflict of ethics and values.
1. Some participants implemented the kindness activity only to finish the task. They would take a picture and then remove any evidence that kindness actually was the intention.
2. Participants got caught up in the ‘leader board’ and how they were positioned, rather than the intention of being kind to one another. Winning became the priority. Many said the activity was set up as a competition, as points were assigned to each task. We often forget, we have a choice whether winning is the goal or if aligning with our consciousness, ethics and values is the ultimate reward.
3. Some activities we felt connected to the receivers, like sharing an authentic compliment, or high-fiving a family, or having a genuine conversation. But, because all these initiatives were on a ‘to do list’ their authenticity was in question.
When we feel a sense of resistance to a particular task or interaction there is often an opportunity within it. Being grateful for the hidden gem allows us to appreciate the circumstance that brought the experience into the light. Prescriptive kindness was the catalyst for conversations and connections with my fellow do-gooders, rather than beneficiaries of the kindness.
1. It connected the do-gooders to discuss ethics and what they would do or would not do. Through this process, I was able to learn a lot about my colleagues and their values, and in many cases I connected with them at a deeper level. Being conscious of the impact we were attempting to create through kindness, our conversation became centered on whether we were helping or hurting, and the lack of authenticity as a result of the circumstances we were operating under.
2. We did collaborate between groups, collectively seeking an opportunity to entertain a group of retailers who were awaiting the Sunday evening 7:00pm closing bell. We entertained them with none other than the oldie but a goody — the chicken dance. Yes, our generation Y cosmetic retailers joined in the fun and were quite entertained by eight over 40’s acting irrational. A video captured the moment and will be used for years of… “do you remember when…” conversations.
3. The contrived Random Acts of Kindness allowed each of us to go on a personal journey. What does demonstrating ‘kindness’ look like? One colleague admitted, “I don’t do enough to be kind to another. This helped me realize, I can do so much more.” A sentiment I’m sure more of us felt, less of us admitted.
4. We don’t know if any ripple effect was created. The activities where we left a positive note for someone, engaged others in “You’re awesome” conversations or let someone special know we were thinking of them, well we don’t know if they went home and shared with their husband, wife, partner, friend … “You wouldn’t believe what happened today!” And we don’t need to know.
One thing I do know, the activities that suggested we help someone that didn’t need it, such as a person of age, or someone in a wheelchair, most of us stopped short of providing it. We didn’t force it, because well that would not have been a conscious contribution.
True Kindness is not contrived, it is genuine. What this exercise showed me is that some people are suspect when a stranger is nice to them, while others embrace the unfamiliar kind exchange graciously. But mostly, there is just not enough genuine kindness in the world.
If just one person felt they can be kinder, if just one person stopped themselves from doing something that wasn’t in line with their values, if just one person was positively impacted from receiving an act of kindness, while not creating any harm on the way, then it was an exercise worth doing.
I do believe the group that participated in Random Acts of Kindness activity, have a high moral compass to not do any of the recommended activities that felt, frankly not kind.
Lead tomorrow’s legacy today thru conscious contributions™
We can incorporate more kindness in our lives everyday. I challenge you (and me) to make an effort everyday to do something for someone that is kind. This can be a small task of opening a door, paying a sincere compliment, letting someone know how much you appreciate them, or take a genuine interest in them. By working kindness into your day, you’re working happiness into someone else’s. A genuine exchange is not a race, as it is not a task to be finished, but one to be continued – as humanity surely can use more random acts of kindness.
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