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Random Acts of Kindness

By LC Van Savage

Who was the first person in the history of the world to utter the phrase, "random acts of kindness"? I'd love to know. I've tried to research it, but it's attributed to too many diverse beginnings; the Bible, certain tribes of Native Americans, Turks, Inuit, Margaret Meade, so I just give up.

I love the phrase. I wonder if its creator used to actually perform random acts of kindness. One hopes. There are lots of feel-good/fix-up books, organizations, clergypersons and grandmothers who insist that if we all do just one random act of kindness per day, we'll be all set for a pleasant afterlife or even a current life, or maybe nothing at all; we should do it just for the sake of doing it and not be looking for the Big Payoff at the end. Yep, that's what I do. I just perform one random act of kindness every day, well maybe a dozen, just for the quiet pleasure of doing them and not for any other reason. Right. Cue "Ode to Joy."

There's one random act I see when I drive south between Brunswick and Freeport in our glorious state of Maine. There's a tree there, on the right---not very special-just a run of the mill young tree, standing kind of alone. But someone, obviously a randomly kind person, pulls off that highway a couple of times a year and decorates that young tree. At Christmas it glitters and gleams with hung ornaments. Now that Easter is coming, that little tree is laden with shimmering, brightly colored Easter eggs. The sight of that causes gasps, smiles and lots of "Oh, looks!!" It's just terrific to see that sight. It's a gift from someone out there. A kind someone. Are you reading this, kind someone? Will you tell me who you are? I won't tell. Honest.

How do you do that anyway? Are you like that woman (I'd bet the rent it's a woman) who sneaks into the place where Rudolph Valentino is buried in order to leave whatever she leaves? Wine? Roses? Poetry? A book? Of course that mysterious lady is sometimes actually seen lurking and then gliding toward Rudy's grave. But no one ever finds out who it is because, they say, they wish to let that person keep her identity private and besides, she keeps her face covered. Rudy died in August of 1926, so it's doubtful the offerings left near his earthly remains are being deposited by one of his lovers unless she's taken really, really, good care of herself, since she'd likely be maybe 102 by now. And, regardless of how many vitamins she's taken or how many miles jogged, it's hard to imagine a centenarian skulking annually into that graveyard, swathed in a long, black cape, laden with gifts and flowers for her beloved Rudolph.

OK, maybe the Valentino thing isn't a really good example of a random act of kindness, but the comparison I'm making is that the person doing that for Mr. V. is as mysterious as is the person decorating that tree out on our highway, at least to me. Both acts are sweet.

And I'll still try to follow the precept that to perform a random act of kindness every day is a great thing to do, regardless of the Big Payoff in case there is one, and of course no one knows. It feels good, the randomees feel good and it might get me into heaven if there is one. I'm not at all keen however, on all these kindness deeds remaining anonymous because I'm enormously fond of adulation and grovel, especially when showered on me.

And I respectfully request the random act of kindness person who anonymously decorates that tree all year 'round for travelers to enjoy to please reveal her/himself so I can say thank you. In case you don't want to reveal, thank you.


Hear LC and Dave Wilkinson on "Senior Moment,"
WBOR, 91.1 FM Weds. 1PM
or on
www.studorgs.bowdoin.edu/wbor/index.html


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