Kindness – The Ripple Effect

Did you know that this week – February 11-17 – is Random Act of Kindness Week?  It may sound like a curmudgeonly question, but do we really need a special week to be considerate and do nice things for our fellow human beings? Does it mean we can go back to our old grumpy ways on February 18?

When you do an internet search on “random acts of kindness,” dozens of links appear, including links to articles on the effects of doing kind acts. For example, a study done at Stanford University showed that students who performed five acts of kindness per week reported higher levels of happiness than a control group.  There is even something called “Helper’s High” – a feeling of euphoria or warmth or energy that occurs when you commit a kind act.  Beyond helping others, random acts of kindness also benefit the person doing them!

There was also research that showed that people with “moral elevation” are more likely to do good deeds themselves.  “Moral elevation” is a state or emotion that people may feel when they hear about or read about other virtuous acts.  For example, people who watch a video on the life of Mother Teresa are more likely to experience moral elevation and then volunteer at a local charity than are people who spent their afternoon watching videos from Comedy Central.

So what all this research means is, if a person hears about a random act of kindness, that person is more likely to do something similar for someone else.  They’re likely to be happier than if they had not.  And who wouldn’t like to experience that Helper’s High?

Acts of kindness can have a ripple effect. There’s a man in our community who snow blows his neighbor’s drive.  This man, call him Mike, served on the board of a little arts organization, where among other things, kids get music lessons. When Mike retired from the board, his neighbor’s daughter filled his position on the board.  She didn’t have any connection to the arts, but she did have a connection to Mike.  So the couple hours each winter that Mike spent blowing snow off his neighbor’s drive resulted in another person volunteering time to keep the arts organization up and running.  And now even more kids get music lessons. It’s the ripple effect!

Not everyone can volunteer time and effort and serve on the board of an arts organization. But everyone can do something to help another person. Everyone can do a random act of kindness.

Here are some ideas: 

Open a door for a stranger. Pay for coffee for the next person in line at the coffee shop.  Shovel a neighbor’s walk. Bring flowers to a coworker who has been feeling down. Offer to bring cookies to your child’s classroom. Listen to someone’s story.

You are probably coming up with more ideas – and hopefully are feeling like a random act of kindness is do-able, and for more than one week of the year!