Random acts of kindness can be wonderful, say Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney. So why not make them non-random?
In a crowded train carriage, Sammy Welch was entertaining her young son Rylan on the five-hour journey from Birmingham, in the middle of England, to Plymouth, on the southwest coast. Someone noticed what a good job she was doing in trying circumstances and after a stop in Wiltshire, Sammy found a note left on the table. ‘Have a drink on me,’ it read. ‘You’re a credit to your generation; polite and teaching the little boy good manners.’ It was signed: ‘Man on the train at table with glasses and hat.’ There was a five pound note with it.
Ms Welch was overwhelmed by the stranger’s generosity: ‘There are good people out there,’ she said. ‘I want him to know I’m truly grateful.’
Unexpected generosity like this is often billed as a ‘random act of kindness’. The phrase is traced back to a note left in a San Francisco restaurant 30 years ago by the writer Anne Herbert.
‘Practice random kindness,’ she wrote, ‘and senseless acts of beauty.’ She wrote a book documenting true stories of acts of kindness and the idea took off, morphing into a cultural meme informing TV shows, websites and films like Evan Almighty – in which God tells the hero, Evan, to change the world with one act of random kindness at a time.
But what if God was wrong? Why leave kindness to chance? Why not make kindness deliberate, planned and organised?
What family settles for random parenting? (‘I know she’s only three, darling but I thought she might like to drive the car.’) An employee who only turns up to work when they feel like it would soon be an ex-employee. We’re generally suspicious of politicians making up quick-fix policy on the hoof and prefer those with a considered plan. …
Malcolm Doney and Martin Wroe are both volunteer ministers and broadcasters. This article is an extract from their crowdfunded book Lifelines: Notes on life & love, faith & doubt (Unbound, 2018)
This is an extract from an article that was published in the February 2019 edition of Reform