Over the past several days, I have seen each of my children perform brilliant, amazing and thoroughly selfless acts of kindness. Some of the things they did were for friends or family, while some were for perfect strangers. They ranged from deep hugs to time spent, from heartfelt "thank you's" to minor errands and helpful tips. As I was observing these, I began thinking about why they were being some thoughtful and kind.
No one was standing behind them telling them to say "thank you." In fact, no one even suggested or implied that my children should do these things. Most were not even asked for. It became clear to me that the reason they did all of these kind things (which is not just a recent phenomenon, by the way) was for the best reason of all - because they wanted to.
For some reason, they were struck by the desire to do something that someone would appreciate. I immediately began thinking of the catchphrase "random acts of kindness" as a way to explain it. I'm a big fan of random acts of kindness, but in a way I think the phrase is misleading. While the act itself, or the person they chose to bestow it upon, may be "random" in that it was spontaneous, the idea of doing something kind is anything but random.
The kindness which children exhibit on a regular basis, although sometimes hard to see, is rarely random. They perform these acts - getting a glass of milk for their sister, helping clean up the kitchen, hugging you for no obvious reason - as fully conscious choices, for no other reason than because they know that making others feel good makes them feel good. This simplistic view of kindness, unencumbered by the adult sense of "quid pro quo", is pure, natural, and instinctive. But I don't think there is anything random about doing nice things for others simply because it makes them - and you - feel good. It's not random, it is purposeful.
And it is motivating me to be check and see if the motivations behind my own kindness are pure and purposeful, too.