Random, intentional kindnesses need no holiday

By Diana Montague, Communication Department Chair

While wrapping up my weekly grocery games last Sunday, I heard the radio announcement that it was “National Random Act of Kindness Day.”

Clearly I was not keeping up on my non-Hallmark-sanctioned holidays.

By the time I heard that news, about the best random kindness I could do was leave my quarter in the grocery cart rack at Aldi’s.

While I appreciate the intention of this particular nationaldaycalendar.com “holiday,” I wondered a.) why do we need a national designation for being kind to others, and b.) so what are people doing the other 364 days of the year?

I suppose the “random” designation gives the celebration some nuance. Kindness to strangers—paying for the next person’s meal in a drive-thru, letting a person with few groceries check out before you, even leaving my pitiful little quarter at Aldi’s—can offer a positive boost to people when many of our surprises in life tend to be challenges rather than cheers.

I am all for this “kindness to strangers” gig, but what if we practiced more intentionalkindness? What if we offered more words of encouragement, gratitude and warmth to the people we know and care about? What if we bought lunch for friends, babysat for siblings’ children, cleaned out our parents’ garages? What if we wrote more thank you notes?

In our interpersonal communication classes we study how other-oriented communication builds stronger, healthier relationships that self-oriented communication. If we consider how the other person may interpret our message before we choose our words, we build more trust. If we offer thoughtful actions based on others’ needs and interests, we build stronger connections among those with whom we spend most of our waking moments. We are practicing other-oriented communication.

Kindness, whether random or intentional, is usually other-oriented.

I think of all the kindnesses I am afforded each day on campus: Students and colleagues smile and greet me by name. My department’s administrative assistant frequently bakes cookies for the office. A few drivers actually slow down to warp speed as I cross the parking lot from my office house to the back door of Egner, Frogger style. (Yes, I know my arcade game references date me.)

I actually have one student who thanks me at the end of every class. Not just the end of the semester, but EVERY SINGLE CLASS. After 33 years of teaching, I appreciate this act of kindness most of all.

So while our national day of celebrating random acts of kindness has passed, I encourage you to practice more intentional acts of kindness throughout the rest of the year.

Open doors for other people. Take your sibling to lunch. Encourage your friends when they are stressing over exams. Buy your roommate a box of Pop-Tarts®.  Write more thank you notes.

And for goodness’ sake, please slow down in the parking lots—you’ve got an old lady here who’s trying to make it to her classroom in one piece. (How can I leave my random-act-of-kindness quarters at Aldi’s if I’m a hood ornament on someone’s car?)


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