6 December

Small Acts Of Great Kindness: Every Day

by Jon Katz

This morning, I drove to the Mansion with two boxes of Christmas cookies and a bag of buttons. All told, these things cost about $25 dollars, and I got to see the smiles of excitement and gratitude on a number of young and loving faces

A small act of great kindness, supported by people who believe in small acts of great kindness.

I got this idea a few years ago, and much to my surprise, it has altered my life in a number of positive ways. It was to commit Small Acts Of Great Kindness. Every Day.

When I first heard of the idea, it seemed trite to me, the kind of cliche televangelists and politicians spout, but too rarely seem to do. I found, to my surprise, that there are many people out there who are drawn to the same idea, many reading my blog. We call ourselves The Army Of Good, that is what we have turned out to be.

I practice this discipline every day, when I lie in the dark at night or get up with the sun, I stop and ask myself what my act of great kindness could be today.

Some days, I visit the RISSE or Mansion or WBTN Wish Lists and buy something small but important. Some days, I take Red over to the Mansion.

Some days I will help a refugee or immigrant family buy a book or pay their utility fee, or get a pair of shorts for a member of the soccer team. Some days I get Sylvie stamps at the Mansion or Jean a new pair of shoes.

Today it was cookies and buttons for the Mansion aides. I admire these young women so much, I wish I could do more for them. This afternoon, I’m meeting with Heather at the Over The Moon Bead store to see if she can make some beaded bracelets for the aides.

A future small act of kindness. You have to think ahead. This afternoon, I will visit Joannie from the Mansion, still in rehab recovering from a fall. I hope to bring Red.

Small things, they brought great smiles and meant a lot to people who don’t¬† have a lot, but who do a lot.

This has become a part of my faith, something I would once have been uncomfortable admitting, but which is now a part of me.

My faith has taken shape in recent years, it is a curious blend of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the writings of Kabbalah, the texts of the unknown Hebrew mystics.

Jesus, of course, called us to think of the poor, the needy and the worthy. A central teaching of the Kabbalah is that our true purpose, our primary reason for being in the world is transform our desire to receive for ourselves alone into a desire to share with others, and in so doing, find our own God.

From this realization comes a very specific insight into how we can best live our lives, it is supposed to come directly from God:

“At least half of what we do in the world ought to be directed towards assisting others. This God – I am at ease with this kind of God – calls us to take real action in the real world. It seems to me to be precisely what Jesus did and what he called upon others to do.

So this, in my own odd and somewhat secular way, is what I have set out to do and have begun doing, if not every single day, then almost every single day.

I don’t believe people can become other people, I don’t wish to become someone other than me, but this work has sustained me, grounded me, given me peace and hope.

It feels very good, there is a powerful spiritual element to it. Other people seem to get angrier and more disconnected, I feel more peaceful and connected than ever.

Bringing buttons and cookies to the Mansion is a way of sharing, a way of touching and assisting others. Buying underwear or shoes or socks for elderly people who can’t afford them is to take real action in the real world. So is teaching people how to write, or giving refugee children and their mothers gift cards for Wal-Mart.

This idea has grown and matured inside of me, in my heart and soul, and is now, I think, a part of me. It has taken root, it defines me in some ways. It has freed something inside of me that was trapped.

The good people who support this work make it possible. Much of what I do costs nothing, some costs money.

It has opened me eyes to the idea that some of the biggest things are very small.

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