By Amber Penrose


"Imagine what would happen if there were an outbreak of kindness in the world . . . "

The story goes that in ancient times a man met the plague coming from Baghdad and said, "I hear you killed 50,000 people." "No," said the plague, "I only killed 10,000 people. The rest died of fear!" Make no mistake, fear rules our world. Most of the media and advertising play on our worst fears of not being good enough, not being smart enough or lovable or desirable enough. Most of the stories told day after day and night after night in newspapers, radio and TV are bad news stories. And bad news comes from less than 1% of the people. After years of seeing, in living color at 11:00, the bad news, we all become fearful of each other and we close down to all people, especially strangers. And so we all become strangers!

Random Acts Of Kindness can shift reality and create a new way of living life. A few weeks ago, I went to a small market feeling on edge and not my good-natured, happy self. I hurried through the store and was about to drive out of the parking lot when I noticed an elderly white-haired lady holding her arm over her head, trying to get my attention. I rolled down my car window and she shouted that I had left my driver's license in the store.

Everything changed in "a twinkling of an eye" as gratitude flooded my being. I rushed into the store and most gratefully retrieved my license from the store manager. What struck my was this elderly woman had gone so much out of her way to do an act of kindness for me, a total stranger. My day was wonderful after that. I felt God had winked at me and reminded me that I am lovable and many people are very kind if given half a chance, and of course, that included me as I thanked the woman profusely.

A few days ago I was talking to a woman named Katherine, a new acquaintance, who reminded me that Oprah Winfrey had done a segment on "Random Acts Of Kindness." Her eyes lit up as she spoke about it. I asked her if she believed in doing this. She said, "Oh, yes, I figured out a long time ago that we really need to be kind to everyone." She went on to inform me that her life had been difficult and she had been mistreated as a child, yet she noticed that "it's a chain reaction." She said, "Someone has something bad happen to them and they pass it on to the next person they interact with. I decided it would stop with me. My friends said I was peculiar because I was kind and friendly to everyone, but that was the real me. I want people to pass on the good I pass to them."

"The Chain Reaction" reminded me of a demonstration I had seen long ago on a Disney program as Walt was explaining what happens when you split an atom. He showed this huge table set with mouse traps. On each mouse trap was a ping pong ball, and then he threw a single ping pong ball onto the table. Wow! Ping pongs were pinging and ponging all over the place, each one setting off another. What fun, what pure fun seeing those balls excitedly flying everywhere!

Can you imagine the fun of a kindness chain reaction as unsuspecting folks get a surprise kindness from a total stranger? It could make their whole day. It's a delight to think of how happy and surprised the person would be, especially a grouchy person who never expects kindness to find them!

Best of all, is doing the kindness where nothing is expected in return and you can be assured that no duty or obligation is involved - you give for the purest intention to spread kindness and joy to others and maybe start a chain reaction.

Our church had an idea for doing something similar. They called some people who work with disadvantaged families and asked them to ask each family to make wish lists for Christmas, but it was all to be done anonymously. The family wish lists were posted with no names, only things like: 13 year old girl, 10 year old boy; or woman, 26; and a size if they wanted something like clothing. I wept as most requests were meager and modest. They didn't dare to dream! Members who wanted to participate each signed their name by the gift they wanted to supply. All the gifts came in and were beautifully wrapped by our Santa's Elves (volunteers). On Christmas Day, they were driven to the family's home with a complete Christmas dinner from a local market's catering department. My heart used to fill with song as I imagined the people opening presents from loving strangers who are a gift of God in this sometimes lonely universe. One lady asked for a nice pair of earrings and I just happened to have dozens of boxes of fashion and designer jewelry, each in a gift box and still sealed in the protective plastic sack. I started to imagine the shine in the eyes of the women and girls who would receive this lovely jewelry, as I took them to the elves to wrap.

The book, "Random Acts Of Kindness," was published about 1993 and I shed tears of joy when I read,
"To become the perpetrator of random acts of kindness, then, is to become in some sense and angel. For it means you have moved beyond the limits of your daily human condition to touch wings with the divine . . . you have set your soul free for the sheer, beautiful sake of true giving. For, in enacting this beautiful, spontaneous, wholly gratuitous goodness, you transform not only the world, but yourself. The world ‹ embattled, divided, discouraged, bone- weary with its dog-eat-dog mentality ‹ becomes laced with the sweetness of imaginatively unpremeditated love." *
- Daphne Rose Kingma, Santa Barbara, CA

"For Random Acts of Kindness to flourish, we need to begin in the hardest of all places, our own hearts. To reap a bountiful harvest of Random Acts of Kindness, we need to begin by simple acts of kindness toward ourselves. Then we can truly give from overflow, from a heart brimming with loving kindness."

*Excerpt from: Random Acts Of Kindness, Conari Press, 1993.

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