Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Random Kindnesses

By 2:01 PM
Perhaps you've seen that commercial recently. The one where one guy does something nice for someone else, then that person, deeply affected, does something for a woman, then she does something nice for the next person and, before you know it, there is peace on earth and everyone is buying whatever product the commercial was meant to sell, which I can't remember. I liked it the first couple of times I saw it, but after that it just seemed a bit saccharine. I hope this article doesn't suffer from a similar burden.

How do you rate your Christmas seasons? Whatever our faith or lack of faith, for most of us in the West, we expect to be happy during the holiday season. At least we are expected to be happy, or merry. People say goodbye with a "Happy holidays," or if they're brave and not so PC, "Merry Christmas" or Happy Chanukah." They're telling me that I'm supposed to be happy! The pressure to have a happy holiday is no small load to carry. As a child, the happiness of my Christmas was gauged by, you know it, the toys I received and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the toys my friends received (the better for them, the worse for me. That was not a rejoice-with-those-who-rejoice situation). As an adult, it's not about the gifts. Then what is it about? Friends and family for many of us. But even when we have lots of them around, sometimes it seems that our holiday still leaves us feeling like we failed the challenge to be happy, we didn't make it. In fact, maybe we sometimes feel a bit underwhelmed by it all. What's a guy or girl to do? What do you have to do around here to have a merry Christmas, for crying out loud?

Here's a suggestion, presaged by my title and first paragraph: Random Kindnesses. Now, the very fact that they are called "random" means that they cannot be planned. This is not writing a check to the Red Cross or taking stuff to Goodwill or working at a soup kitchen (although those are all excellent things to do, and if you plan to do some of them, beautiful). I'm talking about unplanned, expected things, things that surprise even you. I can't explain it, but these kinds of acts thrill me and bring me such a degree of jollity that I have to share it with you. But how can you surprise yourself?

First, raise your consciousness, settle your mind on the idea. This season, I'm going to look for ways to help people out, keep my eyes peeled and my ears to the ground, so to speak. Could be for a stranger, could be for someone very close to me. Doesn't matter. What matters is the randomness and the kindness.

Then, as you go through the day, with that on your mind, ideas will pop into your head. I once went to a function in the city where my oldest son was attending university. His best friend and my nephew was there. Suddenly I thought, I'll bet he (my nephew) could use a little extra cash to get him home, maybe get a nice dinner, whatever. So I palmed him a little gift of cash. I felt good and I think it meant something to him, too. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

So, as the old song says, just try a little kindness, a few random kindnesses. And have a happy holiday, or else!