I used to love watching a segment on the local evening news, entitled “Someone You Should Know”. During each segment, the reporter would interview a local person who had made outstanding contributions to society, but wasn’t really known by the public at large. We would get to hear the stories of amazing women, men, and children who weren’t celebrities, but had compelling life stories.
Similarly, I teach my students that interviewing is one of the research tools we can utilize to get to know the background or expertise of an individual. We can then process the information gathered, and present it to our audience. Students begin learning to interview by practicing on relatives, or members of their local community. We look for interesting backstory, unique accomplishments, and distinguishing character. We search for our local version of “Someone You Should Know”.
I am honored to work with many amazing collegues, in my building locally, or in my profession at large. One of the individuals that consistently amazes me, does so through her determination to make kindness rain like confetti. So I interviewed my friend and colleague, Tamara Letter, about her “Random Acts of Kindness” (RAK) campaign.
1. How did you get started with the RAK’s?
As I approached my 40th birthday, I wanted to do something different, something memorable, something fun. I found an article on Pinterest of gal who did 36 random acts of kindness on her birthday which sparked the idea. I wanted to share the stories behind the RAKs that I completed, so I created a blog space http://bit.ly/celebratekindness to document my adventures. I planned to complete 40 RAKs over the course of my 40th year, but reached that goal in only a few months. Since that time, I’ve completed countless RAKs (including #26acts for Sandy Hook); participated in several kindness initiatives, and become an unofficial ambassador for kindness, sharing my stories at conferences and meetings.
2. Discuss some of your most memorable RAK’s.
There are so many RAKs I adore, but the one most near and dear to my heart is my 100th RAK. This RAK documented my ritual of placing flowers on my grandmother’s grave while also caring for the grave of a stranger. What makes this RAK spectacular are the comments posted below the story. With one simple RAK and blog post, the family of the stranger’s grave discovered my family’s dedication to caring for the final resting place of their loved one. The impact of this one RAK alone reinforced my mission to tell the stories behind each of my acts of kindness.
Another memorable RAK involved a group mission to love and support a grieving family through the loss of their youngest child. Secret Sisters details a year long commitment by twelve women to sprinkle kindness over this family while growing stronger as a community of friends. This RAK also included anonymous donations by others, and illustrates the power that kindness can display when shared with others.
3. How have the RAK’s impacted you and your family?
Completing RAKs has become a common occurrence now; a simple part of our daily activities. What once was a unique experience of celebration has actually changed the viewfinder from which we view the world. My family and I are more aware of RAK opportunities, whether it’s paying for the toll of the driver behind us, or helping an elderly person carry their groceries to the car. Kindness is a characteristic that I hope my children inherit by observation, discussion, and action. It’s a great way to boost morale and remind others that there really is good in this world.
4. What RAK’s “flopped”?
There are times when I’m afforded the privilege of observing the results of my RAKs. Once, when I performed a RAK to celebrate my Twitter Milestone of having 1,000 followers, I purchased a little goodie bag filled with technology related items like earbuds, a stylus pen, and an app-themed notepad, and left it on the table at a local Starbucks. I sat in a chair a little bit away from the table and waited. And waited. And waited. Just when I thought no one would take the bag of free gifts, a group of teenagers sat down and noticed the bag. My excitement quickly turned to dismay as they rifled through the bag, making rude comments about the items inside. I was still in shock as I stared at one girl who quickly grabbed the earbuds then tossed the rest aside, leaving the items strewn across the table as they left. I’m not sure if that RAK was a flop, but it definitely left me flabbergasted.
5. What RAK’s have been done for you?
Oh, the blessings of a RAK! I have received countless acts of kindness along this journey; far too many to count. While some RAKs have been exceptional, including autographed novels, a donated iPad, and paid meals, my favorite RAKs have been the stories from my friends and family of how they have either performed a RAK or been blessed by one unexpectedly. To see the impact of kindness ripple through others is by far the best RAK to receive (and it’s free!)
6. How can we get started with our own RAK’s?
The easiest way to get started with RAKs is to recognize the acts of kindness you’ve already performed! Perhaps you held the door open for someone to enter a store. Maybe you allowed another driver to scoot out in front of you during rush hour traffic. Have you made someone a meal, or offered your help without expecting anything in return? Welcome to the wonderful world of RAKs! You’re already part of the club!
Imagine if your life was a stage and everyone had their eyes on you all day, in every location. Just being aware that you are already impacting others through informal observation makes you realize how important even the simplest RAKs can be. YOU are the good in this world! Shine your light in every corner you can. Be the change others need to see. If you want people to be kind to you, beat them to the punch and be kind first. Set the example with your words and actions. You have the ability to change a person’s life with something as simple as a smile!
7. What else would you like to discuss about RAK’s?
For those who would like to connect with like-minded ambassadors of kindness, there are several organizations and groups you can follow through social media. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, Random Acts, and Ripple Kindness are just a few of my favorites. For educators, you can have your students participate in The Great Kindness Challenge or Random Acts of Kindness Week. If you are searching for RAK ideas, simply search on Pinterest for RAK or random acts of kindness, then pin away! There have even been scientific studies performed to document the health benefits one may receive from performing RAKs. Apparently being kind to others is good for your health, too!
I am blessed by these stories of kindness, and by the exemplary lifestyle of selfless generosity that she has created.Tamara is an accomplished educator, a talented writer, and a welcome public speaker. Her campaign of kindness, and the ripple-effect stories of lives that she continually impacts, make her Someone You Should Know.