19 Random Acts of Kindness

A month and three days ago, Beth’s son was murdered.

Beth belongs to my Savor & Serve community. She attended one of my retreats last year. Over the years, I’ve gotten to share her heart’s desires, to walk with her as she makes a life she loves – and even to know her son a tiny bit, as she posted stories of his wins in robotics and other adventures.

Our community has been extraordinary – from making a prayer shawl to checking in with Beth daily.

And it’s been hard for us to witness her loss.

Personally, I want to run away from it. I don’t want it to be true.

I felt the same way about my divorce, my dad’s death, the earthquake in Japan, the reality of climate change – it can’t be true. Make it not true.

But then I draw a breath. I remember. I know – not with my mind but with my heart and my body – that the more I open to what is here now, the more I will be free – to savor, to serve, to be supple in the face of change.

This does not mean I do not resist these feelings. That I don’t want to click away from writing this – from the fear and tears – and check email or rummage through the fridge or try to come up with a neat lesson for you.

What it does mean is remembering more often to face into grief and fear and let it move through me

Remembering more often to say hi my resistance and let it be here, too

Remembering more often to do this in the name of love and kindness, not in the name of getting somewhere or fixing myself

Remembering the more often I remember is the more often I emerge out the other side into savoring this day.

Savoring the milkman delivering milk in his cow-spotted truck, my dogs barking at him, my breath going in and out, the washing machine chugging away, the yellow daffidols in the green pitcher in the window.

When I can pause and turn toward what I am feeling, and let it move, let it be here, without fixing it, it does open into such a richer field and with it, my ability to be of service.

And only every single time.

Such a big part of being of service right now is refusing to duck the sadness, the fear, the loss. Refusing to put your head in the sand. And refusing to be mean to yourself when you do.

It is hard work, my friend, hard work but holy and so important. We must be willing to witness.

Which Brings me To Random Act of Kindness

Yesterday, Stephanie, one of our newer Savor & Serve members – who doesn’t know Beth – posted that she is going to do 19 random acts of kindness in memory of her son, Jonathan.

I started weeping when I read that.

Isn’t that a lovely way to be of service – 19 random acts of kindness, dedicating the merits to Japan or Libya or a friend undergoing chemo or Beth’s son?

Will you join us? 19 random acts of kindness – doesn’t have to happen in today but let’s say do them all by Thursday.

I would be honored to hear what your kindnesses are – and, even more so, how they make you feel, how they inspire you.

Savor and Serve, it’s all wrapped up together.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Bridget - March 28, 2011

Oh Good Gracious! I am so shocked! I am so sorry for Beth, and so in awe of Stephanie.

What a good idea. Yes, I will commit to 19 random acts of kindness.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    thanks darling!

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      Knewstead - April 4, 2011

      I didn’t read this until today, Sunday, April 3, but am so blessed always by Beth that I wanted to do this in memory of Jonathan. I’ve already done nine — gave a pregnant unmarried girl in need some money, gave a 10% from a recent check anonymously to the church, spent time with a college student from church encouraging her, tipped the nail girl generously, took my daughter-in-law to a special sale at Target to bless her and her son, drove my “aching back” son to his “new post office box as he didn’t know the location, mailed a flat rate box with needed items to a sister, and planted spring flowers in containers on my front stoop to bless neighbors and make them smile :-). Although I thought the Thurs. deadline was this coming Thursday, I realize the date is over but I’m still going to do nine more to honor Jonathan and the precious young man he sounds like he was. May Beth and her family have peace that passeth all understanding in the midst of these circumstances.

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        jenniferlouden - April 4, 2011

        thank you thank you and no deadline for kindness – I was just getting people into action! Thank you!!

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          Lila/Lilly/Liliana - April 4, 2011

          I too just read this today–April 3–but I’m going to challenge all my friends on Twitter to see if they can come up with nineteen acts of random kindness before this *next* Thursday. As you said, there’s no real time limit, and I want to do this to remember Jonathan…along with Tim, my sister’s friend who is losing his battle with cancer…and so many others who deserve to be honored thusly. Let’s make something good come out of something terrible for a change!

          God bless you not only for coming up with this concept, but putting it into action–the world needs more people like you!! {{big hugs from California}}

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Nina Killham - March 28, 2011

I am so sorry for Beth’s loss. I think the 19 random acts of kindness is a beautiful idea. Will put my thinking cap on for my contribution.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    I gave a bigger tip last night and sending kind emails this morning and going to bring my exercise teacher a little gift!

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Virginia Ellenson - March 28, 2011

I’m deeply touched by Beth’s loss and Stephanie’s idea. I’ve long been a BIG believer in ‘random acts of kindness’ … have coffee cups and t-shirts with the message … and used to encourage my students to do at least one act of kindness for a stranger each day. Of course I’ll participate and do what I can to and spread the word as well. A former colleague lost her 21 year old son in a traffic accident about a year ago, and a nephew of the same died in the same way 3 years ago … so I’ll do 21 in their honor.
Hugs and blessings,

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    thanks Virginia!!

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Natalie Currie - March 28, 2011

I declare my intention to engage in many acts of kindness by Thursday (which is my Birthday – it seems soooo fitting). Many acts of kindness after Thursday as well.

I can’t wait to see how the world shifts for the better on Friday.

Healing hugs to Beth.

Natalie

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Happy early birthday Natalie!

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Lisa - March 28, 2011

What beautiful beautiful people there are in this world… it lightens the sadness around tragedy just a smidge when I am able to witness that. Thank you so much Jennifer for sharing Stephanie’s idea… I will absolutely join you.

Much love,
Lisa

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Thanks Lisa for joining us!

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Ann - March 28, 2011

Fuck it. Heartbreaking situation. Something good coming of it. Yes. The least I can do.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    yes that does sum it up – thanks Ann!

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Steph Shoemaker - March 28, 2011

I’m in, doing it, making it a positive force in my life……two weeks agao I lost a friend and young mother to cancer one day she was in stage 4 then 12 months later she was gone. I’m in……. 19 acts of kindness, no problem. For Beth, for her son, for Morgan and for the world. My mind is clear, working and open.

Stephanie S

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Steph, beautifully said!

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SusanW - March 28, 2011

What a lovely idea. I pledge to add my kindnesses, in memory of Jonathan and all beings whose lives have been cut short by acts of violence in the world.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    lovely pledge, thanks for inspiring us all.

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Marion Williams-Bennett - March 28, 2011

Yes, yes, yes. I’ve been struggling with this feeling of helplessness in the face of all that is happening in the world. Making it a purposeful act to be kind, and to do it often is the thing I CAN do, indeed, it’s the thing I must do.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    let’s fight that helplessness together!

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Briar Winters - March 28, 2011

such a beautiful way to honor someone…thanks for sharing this inspiring project.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    you are so welcome!

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Gina - March 28, 2011

This is a great idea and just what I needed to pull me up out of a slump. Lots of personal pain going on in close relationships right now… I am pulling my two “Random Acts of Kindness” books off the shelf for a quick refresher and I will be ready to go!

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goddess tash - March 28, 2011

Dedicated to Beth and her son, starting my list for a full-force givingfest over the next three days. Some ideas to spark others: baking for new neighbors and adding my email and phone number to the note; notes to long lost relatives to tell them what they meant to me (before it’s too late to let them know); create quick photobooks for those whom have visited me recently to commemorate their trip; make a fresh veggie juice and bring to my husband at work at a random time of the day… Will check in on Thursday, for what it’s worth. I look forward to seeing more ideas.
With love.

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    jenniferlouden - March 28, 2011

    great ideas Natasha! thank you!

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kyeli - March 28, 2011

I’m in. I’ll be out a lot over the next three days, so I’ll be sure to do more than my usual Random Kindness-es. <3

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Austin is loving the kindness I’m sure.

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Jamgirl - March 28, 2011

Everyday millions of animals die, indeed are murdered needlessly, to feed people that mostly do not need to eat them. Today I will feed someone completely unknown to me with pure, loving and healthy plant based food – including the best cashew cheeze cake ever, and teach them how to make it themselves, so they can continue to save unknown innocents in their own way, everyday.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Yummy service Jamgirl!

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Wesley Satterwhite - March 28, 2011

I’m in. For my friend Beth, who is going through another hard time. For my students who struggle and suffer.

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nat - March 28, 2011

without knowing, i started yesterday. but now i can dedicate this to someone in particular. seems like focusing your energy and love on someone and not “people in general, the world, the earth”. not that it doesn’t count, but i feel better this way.
so far:
-organizing a farewell party for a girl i know very little, and worked with just for 2 months, but i think rituals are great and to wish her well in the new phase. i don’t ever do this
-saw an article about smoking cessation and forward it to one of my students who wants to help his dad, and a lot of good vibes for this
-thanked one of my students publicly and congratulated and validated his responsability and good work, not to set an example or compare others with him, just because i wanted him to feel that extra sparkle of “i did well, i am proud of myself”
maybe they will seem not a big deal, but they are for me. i am shy and feel awkward being actively kind.
love,

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Nat, love those actions – and yes, I feel shy and awkward sometimes too – I’m going to write a post about that. In the meantime, you inspired me!

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Kathy - March 29, 2011

I’m in. I’m so sorry for Beth’s loss. Here’s to community coming together to create healing. I will retweet and repost.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Thanks Kathy!!

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Julie Jeske - March 29, 2011

Wow! What a beautiful tribute. Lately I’m feeling depleted and tired and stuck in what is going on in the world and my own life and I think extending my energy outward in this way will be powerful and lovely and healing!

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    yes, we are built to connect, especially when we are hurting!

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Megha Tara Sardana - March 29, 2011

I love the idea of Constant Giving – always there for supporting others. Count me in. I started with passing on a copy of my Fire Starter Sessions and personal help to a friend drawing up her first biz plan.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Sweet! Love that!!!

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Michelle - March 29, 2011

Oh, my heart hurts for Beth. Love to her. I’m not sure if I’ll get to a full 19 acts of kindness before Thursday, but I can try my damnedest, and that I will do.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    thanks Michele for chiming in and no worries or hurry for Thursday – I’m starting to wonder what I’m going to do besides smile a lot. I did give a big tip to the waitress last night and money to two homeless people and really look them in the eye and talk with them. I’m looking forward to dreaming up what else!

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Yuki Murai - March 29, 2011

I believe in this, in Jen’s blog and Cafe and TeachNow, and all of you who have commented. I believe that running away isn’t the only answer. No, let me try that again: I believe that running isn’t the answer at all.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Yuki, thank you! And how are things in your part of Japan today?

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      Yuki Murai - April 1, 2011

      Warm and filled with love, many thanks to you. 🙂

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Erica Holthausen - March 29, 2011

I am all in! One thing that always surprises me is how powerful an experience it is to do a kindness for someone else. Doing some random act of kindness — no matter how small — is a sure-fire way to pick yourself up when you’re down in the dumps. Now, if only I could remember that when I’m feeling blue!

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    Erica, isn’t that true? We are built for kindness and connection and compassion – and it is hard to remember when we are afraid or down, or busy! I’m with you!

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AnneMelnyk - March 29, 2011

What an extraordinarily beautiful tribute. I don’t know that I can accomplish them all by Thursday, but I will hold Beth, her son and their family in my heart and do what I can.

Brilliant idea Stephanie. The mind boggles at what could happen if we commemorated everyone’s passing was this way!

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    no hurry, kindness doesn’t have an expiration date, I just picked Thursday to give us a little umph. 🙂

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      AnneMelnyk - March 29, 2011

      Thanks Jen,

      I actually intended to take the time it took. Random act 1 completed. I was moved to write a blog post helping spread the idea of using this life affirming ritual of commemoration. http://www.juicylife.ca/2011/03/29/random-acts-to-celebrate-a-life/

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      Anne Melnyk - April 11, 2011

      As it turns out I never kept a list of the kindnesses I did in honor of Beth’s son, although I was able to do many small and invisible acts of kindness, as well as a number of more involved ones, while holding her family in my heart.

      I spent most of the ensuing week at my Dad’s bedside in hospital and supporting family. Two days following the blog post I wrote – Random Acts to Celebrate a Life, my Dad passed away.

      Since then I have committed to doing 89 Acts of Kindness to celebrate his life.

      As I have stepped out of my own situation to turn my focus to doing kindnesses for others, I have also noticed an increasing awareness of the abundance acts of kindness flowing my direction as well.

      What an awesome way to live.

      I am of course sad beyond words, but as I’m healing, I feel safe and well cared for because the warm winds of compassion are blowing and I know the world has my back.

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        jenniferlouden - April 12, 2011

        thinking of you often in your grief and tribute to your wonderful daddy!

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

i love that kindness for Jonathan will be happening all the way down your way – and I love the idea of turning grieve to kindness, like lead to gold!

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Alex Blackwell - March 29, 2011

I’m all the way in!

In fact, The BridgeMaker is wrapping up its 31 Days of Kindness project on Thursday, too. The following link provides information regarding this project and a free guide of more than 100 kindness ideas:

http://www.thebridgemaker.com/make-kindness-a-daily-habit/

Here’s to more kindness,

Alex

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    great thanks for sharing that!!

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Char Brooks - March 29, 2011

a beautiful tribute to beth and her family jen – what a thoughtful way to write this up. how we wish this and so many other things were not true. i wish it with all my heart.
and i am doing random acts of kindness because i care about everyone involved.

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    jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

    I also wondering how random acts might help us both get our service jump started??

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

thanks darling!

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Random Acts to Celebrate a Life - March 29, 2011

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

you are beauty in motion Mary Anne! can’t wait to hear your stories!

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

19 is such a lovely number thanks Pauline

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

thanks for sharing Sheila

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

exactly – to serve helps us get out of our own head

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jenniferlouden - March 29, 2011

love “not going to count” that is the spirit! why stop?

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Anonymous - March 29, 2011

I love this challenge. Thanks for sharing this story and putting life into perspective for me. Just a few days to go, but I’m going to try my best.

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    jenniferlouden - March 30, 2011

    whatever you do will be fantastic!

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D Struebing - March 29, 2011

I am going to do my best to do this in the honor of my mother (passed away7/2007) this will be a good way to remember her.

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    jenniferlouden - March 30, 2011

    yes what a lovely way to remember your mom!!

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Patty P. - March 29, 2011

I am truly sorry to hear the news of Jonathan and may the prayer shawl help a smidgen during this time of great sorrow.

Since reading the blog my random acts of kindness include: specifically being polite and helpful to a male coworker who prior to today has always walked passed me like I was nonexistent. This man came to a free yoga class today and based on his initial interaction with the yoga instructor caught her off guard with his curt statements. Therefore, I decided to extend love and kindness his way during class. After class I went to his cubicle to ask his opinion of the class. We had a pleasurable conversation and I know we will now acknowledge each other when our paths cross.

I was in an appointment at the Apple Store problem solving an issue at the Genius Bar. About an hour into the appointment (an extraordinary amount of time due to the difficulty of the issue) the employee “slipped” that his lunch hour was 50 minutes prior. I immediately said I was leaving so he could go to lunch saying resolution would wait until another day. He needed the break to clear his head and refuel his body.

Finally, I decided to be particularly generous ahead of time to the pizza delivery person today who mentioned after I tipped him well that he often snowboards with my son.

Beth, may you find peace and continued support during this extraordinarily difficult time. Know that strangers in the universe are extending prayers and thoughts your way.

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    jenniferlouden - March 30, 2011

    these are so gorgeous !~ thank you for taking the time to tell us. I tipped someone generously yesterday and today, was super cheerful and supportive in exercise class, waved at everyone on the street, had a very patient loving conversation with my mom, walked with my neighbor and loved her up… and loved up a friend via the phone… it feels so good!

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Dr Laura Dessauer - March 31, 2011

My heart opens to Beth and her family with deep compassion and love, and I honor the healing balm of sharing kindness in the midst of pain. At times all we can do is lean into the pain and surrender how we believe things should be… oh so difficult, and oh so compassionate. I’ve made a commitment recently in my art therapy practice to be of service to women with cancer and their children and will spread my kindness in reaching out today to several organizations and offer to share my time holding the space for others who are feeling loss and pain.
Tremendous gratitude for the love of this group and Jen’s compassionate wisdom,
Laura

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Sandy - April 1, 2011

If you’re reading this “late,” as I am, and still want to do something but you are not out and about, a quiet random act of kindness would be to phone or e-mail individuals and organizations who struggle for the causes we care about, to thank them for representing you/us in the struggle. These are such discouraging times for people on the front lines. In Florida, our governor just cut our already abysmal services to people with severe disabilities. Over a few days, I’m going to dedicate 19 messages to the memory of Beth’s son — some will be messages of support to social workers and aides who are already overworked and underpaid, and some will be messages of political action.

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    jenniferlouden - April 1, 2011

    thanks Sandy you gave me my next post!

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Marianjvance - April 2, 2011

I’m in. Honored to participate.

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Patty P. - April 3, 2011

I was compelled to visit a small gift shop today for the first time. In doing so I met the owners and then a customer Mary who was shopping just like me. In a short few minutes Mary shared her random act of kindness. She had just finished speaking to a group of 350 women at the request of a religious leader. The topic?? Sharing the story of the death of her pregnant daughter who left behind two young children a year ago! Mary also shared the innumerable acts of kindness bestowed upon her family a year ago when they were paralyzed with grief.

The owners later shared with me how they took in a son’s friend for 2 1/2 years. His biological mother thanked them after the fact because she believed the owners saved her son from hurting himself.

It’s been an extraordinary day for me to receive the gift of hearing kind and selfless acts of giving and random sharing by human-kind.

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creativevoyage - April 4, 2011

Kindnesses include having a proper conversaiton with a check out person. Leaving an extra large tip. Buying the Big Issue Homeless magazine more than once in a a week. Sending a postcard to someone who is struggling we all LOVE getting real mail. Sending a small bar of choc, tea bags. Send cash anonymously to people who need it. Shop at a farmers market to support small producers.

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    jenniferlouden - April 4, 2011

    such sweet good ideas – thank you!

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Jchamb9654 - June 1, 2011

I am in. what a great idea!

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Anna - June 17, 2011

these words have struck a huge chord – “let it be here without fixing it” – “refusing to duck the sadness, fear and loss” … so grateful for them, jen … i feel resistance in me loosening up … my acts of kindness are starting with reaching out to those that i feel strongly to reconnect to … the dots are still connected, but distractions and busyness intervened … i’m giving of my time and attention and the recognition of the spiritual nature of all i meet … “serve and savor” is such an expression of love and gratitude … i am so grateful to have found you … anna@annadote.com

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London, ON Delivers On 1000 Acts of Kindness Challenge | Nice deeds, by nice people - November 1, 2011

[…] KIND: Help Feed Senior Citizens This Thanksgiving (laist.com) 1,000 Acts of Kindness Challenge started Oct. 1 and continues through end of the month Londoners are…g the challenge goal: Nearly 55,000 kind acts reported in last year’s effort Londoners are […]

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