Skip to content

‘Routine Acts of Kindness’

Good morning. A few days ago Sammy Welch, a young mum, was entertaining her son Rylan on the five hour train journey from Birmingham to Plymouth.

Not easy with a three year old in a crowded carriage but Sammy’s parenting skills did not go unnoticed.

After a stop in Wiltshire, she found a note left on the table.

‘Have a drink on me,’ it read. ‘You’re a credit to your generation, polite and teaching the little boy good manners’
It was signed from ‘man on the train at table with glasses and hat’. There was a five pound note with it.

Ms Welch was overwhelmed by the stranger’s generosity.

‘There are good people out there,’ she said. ‘I want him to know I’m truly grateful.’

Unexpected generosity like this is often billed as a Random Act of Kindness, traced back to a note left in a San Francisco restaurant 30 years ago, by the writer Anne Herbert.

‘Practice random kindness,’ she wrote, ‘And senseless acts of beauty.’

The idea took off, a cultural meme informing TV shows, websites and films like ‘Evan Almighty’ – in which God tells the hero Evan to change the world with one Act of Random Kindness at a time.

But what if God was wrong ? Or at least this particular Hollywood deity.

Why leave kindness to chance? Why not make it deliberate, planned and organized ?

What family settles for random parenting? Imagine the conversation: ‘I know she’s only three darling but I thought she might like to drive the car.’

Someone turning up to work only randomly wouldn’t last long in their job.

Politicians may sometimes seem to dream up random policy on the hoof but most people would rather serious plans that will slowly and surely improve the lives we share.

The same goes for kindness – random is fine, but routine is divine.

The world, runs a luminous phrase buried in the Book of Psalms, ‘is built of kindness’. When you get dressed, said the early Christian writer Paul, ‘Clothe yourselves with kindness’

This is less about spontaneous acts ignited by feelings of compassion or indignation – and more a decision to follow a way of life signposted by mercy, generosity and justice.

It’s less about a breaking wave of good feelings and more about a steady, reliable tide of good action.

Last month a Preston student called Dominque, who’d lost her bank card, was offered £3 by Robbie, a homeless man.
It was for a late-night taxi to get her safe home.

She didn’t take the money – but nor did she forget his kindness.

Dominique harnessed her feelings to a plan – launching a campaign to find accommodation for Robbie and other rough sleepers. So far they’ve raised £30,000.

Random kindnesses – like an anonymous note to a loving mum on a train can be wonderful – but regular, repeated and routine kindness will transform our lives even more deeply.

Pursue kindness, reads one of the Proverbs, and find life.