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Non-Random Acts of Kindness
Like I was Sayin....
The Internet is full of so many lists that they have earned the nickname “listicles,” and we like to share them. Some include celebrities. Too many include cats. And perhaps the most popular are those that depict images of people acting selflessly with titles like this: “22 Random Acts of Kindness that will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”

These lists often show up on our social media feeds. We comment on them (“This brought tears to my eyes!”), and I don’t want to downplay their emotional appeal – I click on them as well. But they also feature many of the same images, like the one of the Norwegian boys rescuing a baby lamb from the ocean and another of the New York City police officer giving boots to the homeless barefoot man. True acts of kindness captured on camera. But you don’t need a listicle to restore your faith.

Each year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we publish our “Giving Back” issue with the goal of highlighting men and women in our community who may not otherwise be recognized. They are first responders who donate their time to those who need it most; restaurant owners who serve free meals at benefit dinners; and volunteers who spend their weekends at the homeless shelter. It’s always easier to start compiling the list of deserving Flathead Valley residents than it is to whittle it down to the four we choose to profile.

This would probably be the case anywhere. Nearly every rural town, and big city for that matter, shares one description from the locals: “You’ll love it here. The people here are so nice.” Does that make the place we live in any less special? No, it just means that, by and large, people are nice.

We all have those moments when someone surprises us with their kindness, when we wonder whether we would do the same if the roles were reversed. One of the most vivid examples for me was the elderly woman who 20 years ago pulled over her station wagon after I blew out my knee skateboarding. This stranger, half my size, dragged my 14-year-old disheveled, dopey skateboarder body into the front seat of her car to take me to the hospital. She acted as if she had scooped up a teenage boy every day that week and proceeded to scold me for not wearing a helmet. I wish I had an image of that to share.

What separates those featured in this issue from others you probably know, others who are equally deserving of our admiration, is that this is the lifestyle they have chosen. Not a random act of altruism, but an act that happens so often that we expect it, maybe even take it for granted. They often serve on multiple nonprofit boards and raise money for charity. When another obligation arises, we shrug when they simply step up again and shoulder the onus. And they rarely make lists that include pictures of someone nursing a kitten back to health, although those are great. I love kittens.

But there are easier ways to “restore your faith in humanity.” Just look around. It sounds simple, but too often I forget that I’m surrounded by people I wish to emulate – coworkers who share their lunch when I forget mine; friends who send thoughtful messages for no reason at all; parents who somehow always know the days to call with words of encouragement.

They have figured out something I at least strive for. That acting kind is anything but random. It’s a conscious effort on their part. And we should all compile a list as a reminder to thank them.
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