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The History of Random Acts of Kindness

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

According to It all started in a Sausalito, California, restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words "practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat. From there it spread to bumper stickers, quietly at first, but with all the powerful momentum of something important–calling us to lives of caring and compassion. Random Acts of Kindness, true stories of acts of kindness, was published in February 1993 and set off a chain reaction. Articles appeared in nearly every newspaper in the U.S., and hundreds of radio stations devoted airtime to the cause. Toward the end of 1993, a Bakersfield, California, professor gave a class assignment to do a random act of kindness–unleashing yet another flood of stories. The concept continues to spread, and we hope it will carry on until the beauty of simple kindness touches–and changes–us all.

Recently, I have been moved by the smallest of gestures of kindness in people with whom I’ve interacted with on the phone- from cell phone providers to payment processors and the like. Despite the goings on in the outer world, I’ve been blessed lately to have kind, patient people on the other line. I have been deeply touched by the generosity of their patient souls. God bless the checkers at my local Trader Joe’s who have taken their time to be helpful and funny despite the events of the day.

Years ago, I studied with a woman who encouraged us to go out and buy small gifts to keep in our car to give to someone who had gone the extra mile or who just simply made your day. I went out and purchased some beautiful candles and Starbucks cards and kept them in gift bags in my car and doled them out randomly to people who just simply made the day brighter.

On one such occasion, I met a woman in a health food store who helped me in a moment of need. This woman extended such kindness to me, beyond what I could have imagined. I was so grateful to be able to go out to my car and walk back in with a token of gratitude, to give in that moment, of my deep appreciation. This encounter formed a lasting and an endearing friendship. This kind spirit has recently passed on and in honor of her I am making purchases of tokens of appreciation to keep on hand to express my gratitude for the kindness and sweetness of such dear souls.

In another story shared by a friend of mine, while her husband was in the hospital for an extended stay, she would walk past a homeless woman. They would greet one another almost daily. At one point, she asked this woman, what could she do for her? The woman confided that she could use toiletries, as they were expensive and much needed. Toothpaste, soap, feminine products, socks in the winter. She started keeping gift bags of these items to give when she came across people in need.

Perhaps you have experienced the joy of having your coffee paid forward from the driver ahead of you? It’s exhilarating as you feel the wave of appreciation as it inspires and continues down the line!

During a recent heat-wave, a kind and generous friend offered up by text and Facebook her home with air conditioning for a meal and or a respite from the heat, in a land where many homes do not have AC. So sweet!

Random acts of kindness need not cost you a dime. A wise old soul once said to me, “ you never know when a smile and a kind hello can keep someone from taking their life that day ” -think about it!

May we all be inspired to continue to practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty!


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