Torah Tuedays: Random Acts of Kindness

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Today’s post is about doing nice things for other people, sometimes for people we don’t know and may never meet.  The concept of doing random acts of kindness is one of my faves.  One thing I like about it is that it helps me think about the needs of others outside my immediate circle.

A woman I know, when she finds a great parking spot (the ones I call “rock-star parking” because they’re so close to the store), leaves it for someone else, taking a different spot for herself.  She says that every time she really needs a spot, she’s able to find one.

Another act of kindness I’ve heard about is paying for the order of the person behind you in line.  This would apply more at a coffee shop than a grocery store (ha, wouldn’t that be nice!).  Can you imagine the lift it must give to the person who gets an unexpected free coffee?

I have a friend who would frequently call me from the grocery store to see if I needed anything.  It really impressed me that she thought of me, that I may need something.  It inspired me to try and think of others on a more constant and practical basis.

Standard shopping cart, picture taken at a Weg...

it's just waiting to be properly corralled. Look at it!

One random act of kindness that I often practice is returning errant shopping carts.  You know, the ones that are in the middle of the parking spot that you want?  Those.  If I’m on my way into the store, I’ll take that cart and use it for my shopping.  If I’m on my way to my car, I’ll return the cart to the corral along with the cart I used.  I do this even when I have my kids with me.  I explain to them that we’re returning the cart because it’s a nice thing to do, and it will make someone happy.

I’ve gotten “caught” a few times by employees, and they usually look surprised, and then they thank me.  Sometimes profusely.  It’s no fun to have to fetch all those scattered carts.  I know.  I’ve been there.

Oftentimes, in today’s world, we are encouraged to say “what’s in it for me?”  The Torah teaches us that we should think of things in terms of responsibility.  What are we obligated to do?  One mitzvah (obligation, in another word)  is to emulate Hashem, who is constantly giving.

Acts of kindness, chesed, are one of the mitzvos where we are rewarded in both this world and the next (like my friend who’s always able to find a parking spot when she needs one).  Each act of kindness that we do helps develop us into a kinder, more thoughtful person.  When we give something to another person, we are stretching our giving muscles, making it that much easier to give the next time.

Being considerate of other people’s feelings is doing the mitzvah of  “Love your neighbor as yourself,”  one of the most fundamental mitzvos in the Torah.  Don’t we always want our feelings to be considered?  Doesn’t it rankle when we feel we are being mistreated?  Usually.  So it behooves us to try and think of others, even when it’s outside of our comfort zone.

This week, try and find an act of kindness to do which you haven’t done before.  It could be making dinner for someone who’s moving, offering to watch your friends’ children for an hour, or visiting an elderly neighbor.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities to help out, and go for it!  Stretch those muscles.

What are some random acts of kindness you’ve performed, or have seen performed? 

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9 thoughts on “Torah Tuedays: Random Acts of Kindness

  1. In all honesty, I feel I was a much better person in this regard before I had children. Maybe their selfishness is rubbing off on me :( Anyhow, I appreciate the reminder. Nowadays I usually try and call people I know who don’t have access to a car and offer them a ride or to pick up some groceries for them if I am on my way. I like the idea about the prime parking space (when I was growing up we called this “Princess Parking”). I sometimes help return carts, but it isn’t regular thing for me the way it sounds like it is for you. But, let me ask you … have you ever tried to do something nice for someone and they became offended? I have, and I backed off a lot after that. I guess it’s time to stretch those muscles again.

    • Well, you *are* constantly giving to your children, so even though you’re not doing “random” acts of kindness, you’re probably doing more acts of kindness overall than you did when you were single!

      I haven’t thought about this is a while, but I have experienced rebuffal as well as outright rudeness when offering to help someone. It definitely smarts, and I’m sure that my desire to help out suffered as a result (I don’t remember exactly at this point). However, when someone responds defensively or hostilely towards help offered, it could be that there’s some underlying issue there that we’re not aware of. For instance, maybe people offering help makes them feel like they’re “not capable” or maybe they are an excessively private person and any offers of help feels like both a judgment and an intrusion.

      If it’s something like that, there’s not much to be done about it. But, it’s worthwhile to also try and frame our offers to help in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Sometimes harsh reactions by others can provide motivation to increase the sensitivity of our own actions. Hatzlacha stretching those muscles!

  2. Dodi

    I was waiting in a long, long line at Walmart yesterday. Everyone waiting was frustrated with the length of the lines. The man in front of me had been looking for an employee to help him find something and gave up. He had only two items to purchase. When he saw an employee speed by, he asked if I would hold his place in line for him while he chased the employee. I quickly agreed, and off he went. When he returned a short while later, still without finding what he wanted, several of us in the line started chatting. (It was the usual complainy stuff, like; “Why can’t they open up another line?”) When we finally reached the checkout, the man paid for his two items and waited to help me unload my cart! I had a lot of heavy stuff–liters of soda, bags of flour, etc. When I thanked him, he said; “It’s easy for me, not for you.” Then he was off. After being annoyed with the long line, it left me with a good feeling–even though both of our deeds were small for us. Little things can make a big difference.

    • Good for you! Sometimes people who work in service industries, whether it’s cleaning, or maintenance, or cashiering, tend to get overlooked. To me, that makes it even more important to be considerate of their feelings.

  3. A really lovely post, Rivki, thanks for sharing!

    I totally believe in random acts of kindness. I try to express these in words… by paying people compliments or just saying something nice to a stranger or shop employee who is handling whatever business I might be engaging with. I also really believe in the power of smiling. I actually blogged about the power of smiling on my blog (see the articles under the “Spirituality” section if you are interested). Or I will give my spot in the line to whoever really needs it if I am not in a hurry. I like your idea about the grocery carts though!

    Bivrachah,
    This Good Life

    • Hi TGL. Thanks for stopping by! :) These little acts really, really do add up. I’ve also blogged about the power of smiling! Great minds, right? Looking forward to reading what you have to say about it.

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