Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The commercialisation of Random Acts of Kindness. Is nothing sacred?

Sarah Wilson wrote this intriguing piece about the Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) movement in Sunday's newspaper. I have to say that I have been thinking about her column on and off for the last couple of days. Something just doesn't sit right with me.

On one hand, I think RAOK are beautiful. How marvellous it is that someone who can help, does. There are numerous examples on websites devoted to the topic, and indeed from Sarah's column. Like the random who donates $560 so that a primary school can keep their support teacher until the end of term and a boy with a behaviour problem isn't expelled. Or the random who pays for your coffee in your local cafe. It is a good thing these people are doing. Good, kind people, helping others.

It is reported that being kind is good for your health.

It is reported that being kind makes you feel happy.

It is reported that being kind is good for your self-esteem.

And that's where it all gets a bit 'ick' for me. By definition, "kind" means:

1. having a generous or friendly nature or attitude
2. helpful to others or to another
3. considerate or humane

(Collins English Dictionary- Australian Edition, p854)

I don't think it should be about me and how it makes me feel.

I think a genuine RAOK shouldn't need to be reported on a website or documented on your blog or newspaper column.

It is about helping others. Maybe others that we perceive are worse off than we are or maybe just helping because there is a situation where you have the skills that the situation needs. A benefit may well be that it is good for our health or our sanity, but it really shouldn't be the reason that we do the deed.

It shouldn't be another 'thing on the list' to tick off so that we can sleep at night knowing we are good people.

It shouldn't be another quick fix conscience clearer while we go about our normal, self-absorbed lives.

And it sure as hell shouldn't come with a 'kindness card' requesting that you "play it forward".

There is just something so wrong about commercialising a simple human gesture like kindness.

On that note, I would like to thank Jane from Me n' my Monkeys for my "Cherry on Top Award - for beautiful blogs with that little bit extra". Jane is another Aussie Mummy Blogger who is working it with her words and her camera. She is pretty new to the blogging world, so head over and say hello.


life in a pink fibro said...

Hear, hear on the kindness thing. Should just be 'because', not 'because there's something in it for me'. And look at you racking up the awards! Mexican wave!

Rachel said...

I agree... its about doing not seeing.... people who do good just to look good are all about themselves...

Maxabella said...

I totally agree, but I'm also prepared to accept that some people just weren't raised kind so I'm happy to get them on board, whatever it takes. Some people just don't quite know what to do to be kind, so this is helpful for them, I think. If the act itself still feels kind to the recipient, does it really matter if the doer was a bit selfish? The result is the same feeling for the receiver, so that's okay for me.

Clever you getting loads of awards. All deserved and more.

alliecat said...

Yes, I am with you on this one. Why would it need to be accompanied by a card? That makes it quite premeditated and planned, and not random at all. It should be spontaneous and caring, not self serving nor even require a thankyou. Certainly not one in print. (But verbal thankyous are nice, that's just manners!) I'm not sure it should be blogged about either, certainly if I was the recipient, I would, but not so much as the giver. Takes the shine off a bit if you have to 'gloat' about it.

Lucy said...

Anonymous is good. Or at least, unshouted about.

Cate P said...

I agree. Just do it, pay it forward and move on. Don't stop to bask in the glow or gloat.

Kelly said...

I read about RAOK on a blog somewhere a few weeks ago. It's a fantastic movement. I agree completely. Congrats on the new award!

x0xJ said...

Oh how i agree with this 100%. A true RAOK isn't doing something for your benefit, and yes even doing it so you feel happy about your good deed, well thats you doing it for your own reward isn't it? A true RAOK doesn't need to be advertised or you look for someone to say "Oh you are so nice", you just do it because you might make someone elses day nicer.
However i am all for people starting to acknowledge that life isn't simply about them and that they can't expect out of life what they don't put into it :)

Annette said...

Yes, I agree with you on this one. Since I work in a college environment, we get "donors" to offer money to help students receive special financial aid grants, etc., but the "donors," depending on the amount, always get a building or a park bench named after them. What happened to helping someone out just because...? It does seem like these days everyone wants recognition.

Sarah Wilson said...

I tend to agree with everyone here on the idea that RAOKs should be about doing it just "because"... I actually think, however, that every human act is selfish to varying extents. Even Saints martyre themselves because they get something out of it...
I like this quote from Emerson, who puts it in a gentle, sensible light:
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Rebecca said...

Kind of sounds like this:

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