By now, I am sure you have heard about Ann Curry’s call on Twitter for everyone to do 20 acts of kindness to honor the children who died in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14. That call has expanded to 26 acts of kindness, one act for each person who was killed in that horrible attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s a good idea, and I know people who have benefited from those acts of kindness (a friend even posted on Facebook that someone at the Starbucks she frequents paid for drinks for himself and the next 26 people in line; my friend happened to be number 26.) But I am going to admit something right now that is not likely to be nearly as popular as Ann Curry’s original statement.
I think that this whole 26 acts of kindness thing has gotten out of hand.
See? Told you it would not be a very popular statement.
It’s not that I think being kind to others is a bad thing. And I don’t think that it is wrong to intentionally look for ways to show kindness to strangers. The problem I have with this 26 acts of kindness thing is the publicity it is getting. Oh, not that the event itself is being talked about. I think that having news anchors talk about it encourages others to at least think of what they can do to show kindness to those around them. It’s when I see a video of a woman talking about the quilts she made and donated or a group of kids talking about the crafts they made to give away that I don’t like. That makes it seem like it is not concern for those in need of help that motivates the kindness; rather it makes it sound like the act of kindness was done in order to “look good” in the eyes of others.
Now, I am not saying that personal publicity is the reason behind anyone’s act of kindness. There is no way I can know what is in the hearts of those who are on the nightly news, talking about what kind act they performed that day. But hearing them talk about it just sounds like it is more about the giver and less about the gift.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:3-4, NIV
Giving to others, showing kindness to others, should be done just because you want to help that other person. Talking about it, at least in my opinion, takes away from the kindness. It makes it more about YOU, and what YOU can get out of doing good.
If the news programs are going to talk about these 26 acts of kindness, I think they should talk to the ones who benefited from the kindness. I know that is what was done here in my hometown. We have a local toy store that offers layaway for Christmas. A “Secret Santa” came in and randomly paid off the layaway accounts of different people. There was a woman who came in to cancel her layaway because her financial situation had changed and she was not going to be able to finish paying. Only when the employee looked up her account, she found that her layaway had been completely paid for. She didn’t know who had paid it, but the local media reported her surprise and happiness over the event. That small act of kindness made her day and it made it possible for her children to enjoy opening gifts on Christmas morning.
That is where the focus should be—on the ones who benefit from the kindness. Focusing on the ones being kind just makes us look like a selfish society.
And I don’t think that helping the needy should ever be viewed as a selfish act at all.