Whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, you can bet that everyone has an opinion to share about its legitimacy as an important day. We don’t need to buy chocolate and flowers to show our love! It’s a Hallmark holiday. No, it’s sweet! It’s a chance to tell people you love them. What about Galentine’s Day–Leslie Knope knows what’s up.
To be honest, I’m ambivalent about Valentine’s Day. I think it’s nice to have an excuse to celebrate love, but yes, it’s overly commercialized, and it promotes one type of love (romantic) as more important than all the others. You can take the day and make it completely your own, spending it with friends or spending no money at all but still enjoying a special evening with a partner, or you can choose not to observe it at all–all OK.
So today let’s talk about a holiday I’m wildly passionate about: International Random Acts of Kindness Week! This year, RAK Week runs from February 10-16, though of course you can commit random acts of kindness any time of the year. This holiday is meant to encourage all people to practice compassion and generosity of spirit by “[stepping] outside of your normal routine or comfort zone and [attempting] a new random act of kindness each day of the celebratory week” (RAK Foundation).
As you know if you’ve been reading Jaybird, last week was kind of a rough week. But there is one moment I keep thinking back to, a moment that keeps making me smile and remember the importance of little kindnesses to strangers. My rental car didn’t handle well in the snow, and I was struggling one morning to get it out of street parking and over the hump of ice and snow blocking it in. Shoveling had only done so much, and I was trying to figure out next steps so I could drive to work.
As I stared at my car and pondered, an old man walked down the street. He looked like he was just out for a morning stroll (maybe strolls in single-digit temperature are the key to hearty longevity?), and when he got closer to my car, he stopped. He smiled and said something in Spanish, then he quickly pantomimed that he would push my car if I got in and tried to drive it out.
We did just that, and my car was free on the street in one go. We smiled and waved to each other, then both continued on our merry way.
I keep thinking back to his smile. Honestly, my guard is often up when I’m walking alone in the city during quiet hours… early mornings or late nights, even if an area feels safe, I know that I’m supposed to be alert. I meet people’s eyes and greet them within my neighborhood, but that’s usually the extent of it. But on a morning when I was flustered, uncertain, biting my lip and trying to wrap something up…I felt so reassured to see this friendly stranger.
This week, I’d love to make a couple people feel like that. I’d love to provide the surprise kind word or free coffee that makes someone’s day better, or makes a good day even brighter. I’ve learned in life that you never know what someone is going through, how stressed or exhausted they may be, or how much a small kindness will mean. And once you put that kind of energy out into the world…it can’t help but ripple.
Will you join me in celebrating International Random Acts of Kindness Week?
There are tons of resources on the RAK website offering ideas for random acts of kindness at home, at the office, at school and more. If you see someone attempting an act of kindness, give them a smile, and you can even mention it on social media with the hashtag #RAKweek. No matter what holidays you’re celebrating, I hope this week will be a good one!