One Thousand Acts of Kindness

It’s December 9, 2018.

I’ve just finished helping my parents move a few cabinets (one filled with old records, one filled with dinnerware, another filled with what I’ll call “an amalgam of randomness.”) I figured my mother wouldn’t want to stop sorting records to make lunch for everyone, so I went to get some pizza (hello other Ben at Little Caesars Shiloh!)

On the drive home, listening to my new CD from Brother Bird (Caroline Glaser), I had an idea: I should use one of my many tiny blank books to write down random acts of kindness. I wonder how many I could perform in a calendar year? Should I wait until January 1, 2019 to get started? No. That makes it so much lamer in my opinion - that turns it into a resolution, makes it needy and attention-seeking, and it delays getting started for three weeks. I should start today. Of course, that makes the calendar year concept a bit less tidy - so why not make it a round number goal?

One hundred…too few. This seems like the sort of Odyssean quest that demands rigor, a meaningful journey, a long opportunity to permanently enact meaningful habits/rituals. How about a thousand? That could take about a year if I put my mind to it…

So, I’m going to see how long it takes me to get to One Thousand Acts of Kindnesses.

my little black book

my little black book

Let’s skip back a bit, before we get to the list. You’ll want context for this.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months (longer if you count the VA social worker I saw before that) to try to work through some maladjustments in the way I process the world (especially social interactions.) Long story short, I’ve always been extremely insecure and self-deprecating, and a series of traumatic relationship events caused me to withdraw into a protective shell (a safe space, if you will.) I believe I dealt with these events by constructing a protective wall around my inner self that, while protecting me from further pain, also prevented me from receiving nurture from my interactions with others. As a result, I spent a few years withering down from someone who used to be a warm, generous, and loving soul into a timid, withdrawn shell of my former self.

I’m not happy with that, so I’ve been steadily taking a close look at myself, my history, and how I’ve reacted to it - and focusing on building myself back up to health, happiness, and kindness. In other words, figuring out who I am, who I want to be (or need to be), and how to make improvements and adjustments to get to a place where I am happy and healthy.

With a goal of connecting more with new people (making new connections, being open to making new friends and allowing them to get to know me) and with the intent on being a kind person (because frankly, that’s me at my happiest - calm, gentle, patient, loving, and kind) I decided to be more available to help others. To perform random acts of kindness.

Now, they can’t be self-serving (do something nice but with an ulterior selfish motive) and they can’t be chores or things I would normally be expected to do - they must be a genuine opportunity to be kind to another human being (we can also include other living beings like animals and plants, I suppose.)

There is also no requirement for reciprocation - as in, I can’t get angry/frustrated if my holding the door open for another person at the gas station is abjectly refused (as happened this summer when I held the door open for an older man and he stopped dead in his tracks, refusing to go through the door if I was holding it for him.) I can only control my life, my actions, and my responses - so all I should do is what I can do.

UPDATE: I have decided to remove the list from this post, as I kind of feel like it undermines the purpose of the list. The point was supposed to be just about being kind to others and seeing where that lead, not keeping track of all the nice stuff you do and then posting it online. SO…I’m still doing it. It’s ongoing. But it’s going to just be between myself and the notebook - for the near future, anyway.