Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 13, 2019


Random Acts of Kindness


            Recommending kindness is not a new idea. While for Christians the crowning teaching of kindness is in the New Testament, the Jews had been advocating kindness long before the time of Christ. A familiar phrase out of Judaism is that “the world is built on kindness.” No doubt all the major religions of the world have long espoused deeds of kindness.

Curious about the phrase, “random acts of kindness,” I was surprised to discover that it is of recent origin. Anne Herbert is credited with writing the phrase, “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty,” on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. The phrase became the title of a children’s book she published later, in February 1993. In it she described true stories of acts of kindness. A twentieth-anniversary edition of the book was published in 2014 with well-known Archbishop Desmond Tutu penning the foreword.

 Random acts of kindness are non-premeditated, inconsistent actions designed to offer kindness to others. Several groups around the world practice and encourage such acts of kindness. In 2007, the motion picture, Evan Almighty, concludes with God instructing Evan to change the world by performing one act of random kindness at a time. 

To be on the receiving end of a random act of kindness is an awesome experience. Twice in recent days I have been unexpectedly blessed in this way. After my wife and I had enjoyed Sunday lunch in a nice restaurant, our waitress informed me that our bill had been paid by someone who had already departed the restaurant. The other blessing occurred when I stopped to pay the fare on a toll bridge. The attendant smiled and said, “The person in front of you paid for you.” The identity of that benevolent person remains unknown to me.

I will not leave you wondering how such kindness made me feel. First, surprised but deeply grateful for such thoughtfulness, but second, and this too surprised me; I felt the urge to practice those same acts of kindness for someone else. And I have done so, with great delight.

You may have seen the story as I did recently on YouTube. The account stirred me deeply. An elderly Vietnam veteran was eating dinner at a restaurant when five young men repeatedly disrupted his meal. Soon other people seated nearby noticed the old man, Lou Zezoff of Granite City, Illinois, was crying. He and his wife Annette were no longer enjoying their meal.

            What had happened? Lou, wearing his “US Navy Vietnam Veteran” cap, had just ordered his meal when one of the young men came over and stood at Lou’s table. Not knowing what to expect, Lou stood up, looking eyeball-to-eyeball at the younger man. The young man stuck out his hand and said, “I want to thank you for your sacrifice.” Surprised and pleased, Lou thanked him, figuring that was the end of it. But no, one by one, the other four men walked over and each one shook Lou’s hand and thanked him for his sacrifice.

            “I knew they were military by their haircuts – high and tight,” Lou said. They were indeed service members. All five were Marines. Lou chatted with the young men briefly, then returned to his meal. Later, when he asked the waiter for his check, the waiter smiled and said, “It has been paid!” The young Marines had bought dinner for Lou and Annette. But that was not all. One of the Marines had written “Semper Fi” across the top of the receipt and “Oorah!” at the bottom. What a blessing that random act of kindness was for a deserving Vietnam veteran!

            The good thing about random acts of kindness is that we can all get in on it. We can all look for someone to whom we can show kindness. Think how the world might be changed if a million of us practiced one random act of kindness a month. We all admire “game changers.” Want to be one? You can. With one random act of kindness after another! Don’t wait until tomorrow. Begin today! + + +