On the 1st of March I left for Kenya for two weeks returning to Ireland for the remainder of the month.
“Looking back across the years I am astounded how trivialities have changed the entire course of my life”
The following were my Random Acts of Kindness for the month:
- March 1st – bought a bottle of water from a self-service stand for a random passerby at Dublin airport (by her look she likely wanted the bottle of water but had no small change)
- March 2nd – gave a pocketful of notes and change to a random cleaner at Dubai airport
- March 3rd – purchased a replacement phone for someone in Kenya who could not afford to buy one after his phone fell in water
- March 4th – Gave a small monetary gift to someone who really deserved it and gives of herself to help others
- March 5th – Gave some clothes that I no longer needed to someone who needed them
- March 6th – Walked past a beggar with no legs seated on the street and then stopped and went back. I placed some notes in a plastic jar in front of him. He reached out his arm to thank me and then I noticed he had no hands. I patted him on the shoulder. Beggars are a common sight in Kenya but how many of us really take the time to stop and really look at the person. I know I am guilty of ignoring people like that beggar and walking on. Today I am happy I stopped and shared a brief moment with that man – I recognised his presence and his humanity.
- March 7th – None! I forgot to do the exercise.
- March 8th – Bought some sodas for some women hawkers selling honey by the roadside.
- March 9th – Deliberately praised and encouraged a small scale woman farmer in Kenya for the achievements on her farm.
- March 10th – Gave money to a beggar seated on the street in Nakuru town and shared a moment with him in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the street. Normally I turn a blind eye to such beggars. From my limited medical knowledge he appeared to be suffering from leprosy – his legs and feet were grotesquely swollen, covered in scabs and unusable.
- March 11th – Intentionally purchased a pair of socks for a friend from a street hawker in Nairobi in order to support her (the street hawker’s) business. My action led others who I was with to buy also. We had a lot of good humored banter together – well worth the €1 invested in the socks!
- March 12th – Emailed someone to congratulate them on their work (which was really good) and for their hospitality. This person went out of their way to make us feel welcome when we visited. Far too often we may fail to really appreciated the efforts of another. This felt good as I would not normally have done this.
- March 13th – I changed my flight back to Ireland on Emirates and was assisted by a very efficient Kenyan Lady by phone. I deliberately filled a feedback survey form and asked that the person who assisted me be rewarded for excellent customer service.
March 14th – I helped a man pulling a hand cart full of water containers in Nairobi. One fell off and the water was pouring on the road. I stood up the container to stop water spilling and helped him replace the container on the handcart. Also at the airport in Nairobi I went into a shop to buy a newspaper. The man in front of me at the till was trying to communicate with the person selling and I was asked if I knew French as the man had no English (he must have been from West Africa). My French is a little rusty but I gave it a go anyway. The man was trying to call his mother in France to collect him from the airport. The problem was that he was trying to pay for the call by credit card and there was a minimum purchase of $15 which was much more than he needed for the call. I saw an opportunity for a RAK and offered to pay cash for his two minute call to his mother. The man made the call, connected with his mother and made the arrangements. He was so happy and shook my hand with thanks.
- March 15th – Helped an elderly couple place and remove their bags from the overhead lockers in the airplane and also operate the touch screen entertainment system on the plane.
- March 16th – Back in Ireland at this stage I volunteered to collect rubbish in my local town (Portlaoise)
- March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day – Wished the check-out lady in my local Lidl supermarket a very happy St Patrick’s Day. She was working while most people had the day off. I noticed none of the other shoppers wished her a happy holiday while I was there. She was genuinely pleased and thanked me very much.
- March 18th – Made a complimentary comment on the Facebook Page of a local club on an event they did an excellent job organising.
- March 19th – Allowed people who looked more in a hurry to go ahead of me in a checkout Que
- March 20th – Placed money in a charity box at the supermarket checkout (I had not really noticed these boxes before – the RAK exercise had me looking out for an opportunity to do a little bit of good)
- March 21st – Invited someone (with a smile on my face) to cut in front of me in traffic
- March 22nd – Posted a supportive and grateful comment on Facebook about someone (a 22 year old barber) who volunteers his services for free to help the homeless.
- March 23rd – Nothing …….I did not remember to any RAK!!
- March 24th – Bought a small surprise gift for a loved one (spent €2). Its amazing the positive impact of such a simple act. The gift signifies you were thinking of the person when you bought the gift.
- March 25th – Made a small monetary donation to a campaign to protect the world’s oceans
- March 26th – Liked someones page on Facebook
- March 27th – Smiling/chatting with people in a checkout Que
- March 28th – Deliberately went up to someone in the supermarket who I did not know well and chatted with him and asked him about his fishing hobby. He thanked me for coming over for a chat.
- March 29th – Brought my wife a surprise cup of tea in bed. She was so happy about it that I realised I really need to pay more attention to small things and doing small things for her and others. To do that I need to be more present.
- March 30th – Chatted with a door to door salesman on a wet, cold day. I commiserated with him on the rain and cold weather and he seemed genuinely pleased that someone would care. He assured me that he was about to take a hot cup of coffee in his car. Although I didn’t buy from him it was still a pleasant interaction!
- March 31st – Collected rubbish blown around my housing estate by strong winds overnight. I noticed other rubbish being blown around during the day and later it was gone so other people also pick up rubbish – their actions also inspire me.
During this experiment half of the month of March 2015 I spent in Kenya, East Africa and half the month in Ireland. I noticed that there were far more opportunities for Randon Acts of Kindness (RAKs) in Kenya – there were just more opportunities to interact with people.
The experiment forced me to constantly look out for opportunities to do good for others. That was a shift in thinking for me. It forced me to stop thinking so much about myself. It forced me to think – how can I help someone today? To do that you need to be present in the moment and less preoccupied with yourself. Opportunities abound to reach out to others with a random act of kindness but we can miss them if we are not in the moment.
Overall I found that this exercise cultivates presence of mind as you need presence to be able to notice opportunities to practice RAKs. If you are not there mentally you cannot see opportunities. For example if you are always rushing to the next thing or thinking about the past/future you will miss the opportunities do do a small act of kindness in front of you now. It takes conscious effort to do a RAK – you have to show up in your own life!
Initially while in Kenya I found that the easy option was to give people money. However I found it much more rewarding to really think of the small things – a kind gesture, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand. All of us have the power to do these things and make the world a better place. Imagine a world where we are all looking out for each other – friend and stranger alike.
As the month wore on I noticed myself unconsciously looking for opportunities to help others. I want to be that kind stranger and through this experiment I got to be that person for brief moments by helping in my small way to make the world a little bit kinder. I think this experiment is good training to becoming a kinder and less self-centered person and I recommend it to you to try out for one month.
On reflection I received much more than I gave. Overall it is just fun to be kind and to know that you can impact the lives of others in a positive way no matter how small. Looking back, this experiment enriched the month of March 2015 for me. When I gave someone something or helped someone in some way I often got a smile and a thank you. I went on my way feeling happier and feeling good about myself.
It was surprising at times how a very small gesture could mean so much especially with our nearest and dearest!
I would like to adopt Random Act of Kindness as standard operating procedure for my life from now on but to do so I must schedule a reminder – perhaps as part of my morning routine. If I don’t get my mind focused on seeking out RAKs then it is likely I will not notice them.