Recently, on a rare Saturday when my family did not have any soccer games, birthday
parties or other family commitments, we actually sat down and watched a movie together.
We had rented Evan Almighty two times previously, but never quite got around
to watching it. But this time we were determined to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon
snuggled up in the family room together.
In the movie, Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell, is elected to Congress on the
campaign slogan “Change the world.” Suddenly God, played by Morgan Freeman, shows
up and asks Evan to build an ark. The rest of the movie details Evan’s struggles
to complete God’s request while convincing those around him that he’s not crazy.
Finally, at the end of the movie, God asks Evan, “How do we change the world?” Evan
replies, “One single act of random kindness at a time,” as he scratches “ARK” into
The movie really hit home for me. But it was not because the concept was anything
new or startling. It hit me mostly because it came at a time when I was struggling
as a mom to instill in my kids the notion that the world is bigger than they are.
And that contrary to their beliefs, they have it pretty good.
So I took the movie’s message to heart. I decided that I was going to teach my kids—by
word and example—that the world can be changed
“one single act of random kindness at a time.”
The concept of committing random acts of kindness is certainly not a new one. We’ve
seen it on the big screen (Pay It Forward, based on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s
book, starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt), on television (last
October, Oprah Winfrey gave audience members $1,000 and told them to use it to do
something for others) and even in commercials (Liberty Mutual shows the chain of
good deeds that can happen when started by just one person). There are even organizations—such
as the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation—devoted to encouraging people to practice
random acts of kindness.
And our faith certainly encourages us to reach out to others in a loving way. But
unfortunately for any number of reasons, for example, being too busy, too cynical,
too exhausted or too overwhelmed, we often fail to commit these acts.
I personally found that, once I started doing these small acts, it became a bit
addictive. The first time I saw the reaction to my little kindness, I wanted to do
more. And honestly, I gained as much from doing it as the person on the receiving
end. Now I find myself trying to find new and creative ways to be kind.
February 11-17 is designated as Random Acts of Kindness Week in the United States.
Here are some suggestions for ways you and your family can make a difference:
Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking that your first acts have
to be big ones. I love fountain Pepsi. So anytime someone brings me a drink for no
reason, it makes my day. Sometimes it’s the simple things—a hug, a note, a compliment,
a flower—that can mean the most. Then you can build from there.
Find inspiration. Here are some Web sites that offer stories and ideas about
ways to practice random acts of kindness:
Use your strengths. You know what you’re good at and what your strengths
are. Use them to make a difference. If you are a good writer, send someone an encouraging
note. If you like to cook, make a nice home-cooked meal for a busy family.
Just do it. Don’t wait for the right time or idea—just get started. Every
little bit helps.
Keep it going. While this month offers a special focus on performing acts
of kindness, make this a yearlong endeavor for you and your family.
Let’s start changing the world with kindness!