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Needed: Random Acts of Kindness

I was at a concert of the LA Philharmonic one recent Sunday afternoon to hear some ballet music, including Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” I love the ballet set to this piece and wanted to hear it live, played by one of the best symphonies in the world. 

During the intermission the fellow sitting next to me asked if I went to Disney Hall very often. He said he had never been there before, so I asked what made him choose to attend a performance of Stravinsky on his first visit, a composer some people find hard to listen to. 

He explained that his father was in a nursing home and not doing well. His father loved “Firebird,” but he’d never heard it himself, so he’d come to hear this piece so he could talk to his father about it when he visited later that day. 

He left before the applause died down so I never had a chance to ask if he liked it or what he would say to his father, but I will never forget the kindness and love in that one act—going to a concert of music his father loved but he knew nothing about so he could engage with his father and not just sit there and nod, something he couldn’t do if he didn’t hear that music first. 

In addition to the many losses it commemorates, Memorial Day is the fourth anniversary of the death of a man who had been married almost sixty years, and the first time in those years his widow would mark that date alone. She said she had been, as anyone would be, a complete wreck for the month after he died, nearly catatonic, as she described it, sitting on the couch for hours not knowing what to do next.

During that month friends stopped by or called, checked in or brought things she needed. She was always grateful for their attention, and marveled that so many people called so regularly. And then she found out how that happened.

Friends were concerned about the impact of such a devastating loss after so many decades of being nearly inseparable. Without her knowing anything about it, they’d set up a schedule for someone to stop by or call or check in every day to be sure she was OK, that she wasn’t sinking into despair. All those people came together and supported her through the initial stages of her grief, and she didn’t know how deliberate it all was until recently. 

Did you know there is an annual Random Acts of Kindness Day, this year celebrated on February 17? The name was coined to respond to the phrase “random acts of violence” used to explain events that have no explanation. We missed it this year, but why wait for a particular date? Consider any day you have an opportunity to act with kindness as the day to celebrate it. 

And because this is supposed to be a business column, I know we can find those opportunities in the workplace as well as at home: a suggestion for presenting an idea, an introduction we can make, providing support after a disappointment. And everybody benefits. The help is always appreciated, and it just plain feels good to have done something nice for someone else. All it takes is a little bit of time and a good dose of kindness.

Stay well. Stay safe. Have a peaceful week


Maria Simpson

Maria Simpson, Ph.D. is an executive coach, consultant, trainer and mediator who has worked extensively with the corporate, non-profit and conflict resolution communities to promote incorporating conflict resolution into organizational systems and training people in the skills and approaches of mediation. MORE

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