The other night I asked those on Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts on what defined kindness. I had some really great answers: “Gentle in Understanding,” “Showing compassion even when you think someone doesn’t deserve it.” One answer in particular caused me to pause. @MarketingMusing said: “doing/helping others even when no one is around to notice or take a pic and talk abt it on social networks.”
We had an interesting dialogue. I asked whether sharing an act of kindness diminished the goodness of the act or whether it was the intention behind the sharing that somehow changed its inherent goodness.
We love stories of anonymous donors who donate money to strangers on the street. But would those stories be just as amazing if the donor was public? Does the donor keep his identity secret so the act stays selfless? Does anonymity make us any less interested in the donor?
This project, in its creation, is social. I did not do 30 acts of kindness on my birthday for mentions or likes. But I did share my experience online… and I asked others to participate. My day would have been no less amazing had I not shared it. But the active doing for others by my friends as a result of the project made it that much more special to me.
Does sharing this project, does posting the acts online, somehow make the kindness less selfless?
My answer is that sharing ENHANCES the act. What I love so much about social media is that it creates communities, communities that can mobilize behind an act (sometimes for good, sometimes not). Take Momastery’s Holiday Hands (which I just learned about for the first time last night). What an amazing community. What amazing acts of charity done BECAUSE of the social element of that site. Acts of kindness are acts of kindness regardless of whether there is a camera there to document. What defines the act for me is the feeling that I have as a result of doing, of giving. Giving the parking attendant a gas card this morning literally changed my day. I have smiled more, felt more positive, been more joyous. Amazing the gifts that giving gives. My hope is that this project inspires others to be more generous, to reach out just a little bit more. That is what I believe can be achieved by sharing these acts, these days of kindness.
No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.