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Random Acts of Kindness Week is Feb. 11-17

February 5, 2013

MADISON HEIGHTS — Now in its 17th year in Madison Heights, Random Acts of Kindness Week serves as a reminder to live a life of love and compassion.

It’s based on the belief that doing right by others — selflessly, and sometimes anonymously — not only feels good, but also creates a ripple effect in which the recipients will show kindness to others.

In other words, kindness is contagious.

Madison Heights City Councilwoman Margene Scott brought Random Acts of Kindness Week to Madison Heights, after she and her husband (then-fiancé), Jack, experienced a kind act themselves.

They were at a restaurant, filled with anxiety over Jack’s pending trip to Brazil and the separation that would follow. Their distress was plain to see.

Then the server brought them a note from someone in the restaurant.

“There are too many random acts of violence in this world, so I try to offset this with random acts of kindness,” the letter read. “I’m not wealthy; I’m on social security disability. But you two are sitting next to each other, so I chose you young lovers. Have a great evening!”

It was signed, “A stranger.” The mystery person had paid their bill.

Since then, Margene and Jack have made a point to do the same favor for others at a restaurant each year.

“I think that, sometimes, we get so bogged down and busy with our lives, trying to get through each day, that we sometimes forget to reach out to others to make their lives brighter and hopefully a little easier,” Scott said. “The purpose of this is to remind people we’re not an island, and we need to help others whenever we can. If we do that enough, consciously, at some point we will automatically do that, without even thinking about it. Not everyone is brought up that way, to think of others first. This brings it home.”

There are many ways to brighten a person’s day. You can let someone step in front of you in line at the store, or pick up the tab of the person behind you at the drive-through. You can shovel snow for a neighbor and help clean up the yard.

Holding open the door for someone is another nice gesture; so is helping them carry stuff to their car. Even something as simple as returning a shopping cart makes someone’s life more stress-free.

Of course, there are more involved ways to show kindness, like spending time with lonely animals at a shelter, or donating money and supplies to charity, or even picking up litter, creating a clean environment where people will feel refreshed instead of weary.

Sometimes the most powerful acts are also the simplest: smiling at strangers, listening patiently, and making people feel loved instead of judged. It restores people’s faith in humanity and grows their desire to give back, themselves.

Amy Misczak, the city’s human resources director, helps promote Random Acts of Kindness Week each year.

“It’s basically a grassroots movement,” Misczak said. “It’s a simple thing you can do, and it doesn’t require any money, necessarily. It makes me want to purposely try to be a better person, myself.

“Remember, we’re all here together, and we’re all struggling,” she said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Plato: ‘Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.’ Another favorite quote, and I don’t know who said it, goes: ‘If someone looks tired, don’t tell them — they might have thought they were having a good day.’”

In other words, Misczak said, be sensitive to the feelings of others. Trying not to make someone feel self-conscious is an act of kindness, in itself. 

“I believe once you’ve done a kind act for someone, the benefits really come to the giver,” Scott said. “And I think that really brings things to focus, to realize the little things they do can make such a difference in others’ lives.”

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