It seems like every time you turn on the news, there are messages of hate being spewed across the screen. Political rants from both left and right fill the static of the airwaves, while niceties sink to the bottom of the broadcasts on slow news days.
Despite this, random acts of kindness – things done for the sake of others without asking for any recognition – are all around us.
University of Nebraska at Omaha's College of Education instructor, Ferial Pearson, 37, originally from Nairobi, Kenya, was inspired by the hate and fear in the world to ask the question, “Could a modest act of compassion really change the course of a life?”
After 20 children and six staff members lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, Pearson, who now lives in Ralston, was determined to bring simple acts of kindness to schools. After posing a question to her then-Ralston High School students – “What would happen if we started secretly carrying out small acts of kindness in school?” – they formed the “Secret Kindness Agents,” which have inspired others around Omaha and the world to perform their own random acts of kindness.
Every year, the agents spread love by tying scarves to trees downtown, giving warmth to those who might need it during the cold winter months. Omaha blogger Mary Juett of Living the Sunshine Life participated in the Winter Wear project for the first time this year.
“The best part of the event was knowing we were doing something to help keep people warm during the coldest part of the winter around here,” Juett said.
She also said the agents were, in fact, very secretive. Agents give themselves code names and move very quickly when they are performing their acts. But you don’t have to give yourself a code name or organize an event to be an agent of good deeds. Little things can make a difference in the lives of others every day.
Shelly Minette, blogger at Minettesmaze, pays for cars behind her on the toll bridge and has encouraged her boys to do the same.
“I've always told them that something as simple as that can make someone's day,” Minette said.
Others have found themselves to be recipients of generous deeds. Photographer Melissa Lindquist, 34, and her husband found themselves stranded when they ran out of gas last summer.
“We had to walk two miles to the closest gas station. While there, a good Samaritan saw us and offered to drive us back to our car,” Lindquist said. “ It may not sound like much, but the terrain was rough on a busy highway and my shoes had worn several holes into my feet (from slipping around). It saved me.”
Chef and blogger at bakesinslippers.com, Janelle Shank, 36, witnessed an act of kindness at her restaurant when she saw a man pay for a meal for a couple who were Vietnam veterans.
“He quietly paid for their dinner out of ‘respect to elders and those who served/sacrificed.’ The couple found out after the man had left and were so appreciative,” Shank said.
Doing good deeds without expecting anything in return can make a difference in someone’s day, week or life. Smiling at someone who had a horrible morning, paying for coffee for the car behind you in the Scooter’s drive-thru, or helping a neighbor carry their groceries up their apartment stairs can be so simple yet meaningful.
Whether you do act in secret or out in the open, share a little kindness to get rid of the negativity that too often clouds our daily lives.
Jen Schneider is a middle school teacher and mom to two children.