I don’t like this random thing. I think the world is disconnected enough to make your acts meaningless when done randomly. Oh, I know people get excited by leaving coupons for coffee on supermarket shelves, like this one posted on Facebook:
Found a $5 Dunkin donuts gift card on the pasta shelf at stop & shop “dear stranger, enjoy a treat on me. #25 act of kindness for newtown, ct.”. Thank you.
I don’t think that whoever started this random movement had Maimonides and the steps of charitable giving in mind. But it’s not the highest form of giving; it’s #2.
A lower standard of charity is one in which the benefactor has no knowledge of the recipient and the latter has no knowledge of the individual source of charity—matan b’seter [“giving in secret”]. This is practicing the mitzvah of charity for the sake of the mitzvah [since the benefactor has no benefit, social or egoistical].
Because, to me, this is only charity, not real kindness.
Real kindness is when you connect to real people. When you respond when asked for real needs. When you act in advance to prevent a real need.
When you do not turn away from a challenge.
The challenges can be really easy, like the other day, when I was approached by someone in the supermarket parking lot.
“Do you have jumper cables?”
Now, I must add. He was pretty crazed-looking, with his pants falling down, wearing just a light sweatshirt on a significantly cold day. Not a good look in any situation. My first instinct was to stall.
“Um…I don’t know what there is here (knowing very full well that ISHI would of course have them in the trunk).”
“I have to pick my daughter up from school. Can you look, please?”
Then I realized that the van that was parked in the space where traffic should flow was ready to help jump his battery, but probably didn’t have cables.
So I looked and had no idea where they were.
“Can I take a look, please?”
Now I’m nervous again.
And he finds them right away in a little bag that ISHI put together.
Okay, now it should be easy. I don’t have to pretend that I know what I’m doing. The van driver and two passengers are clearly at home doing this.
But they can’t find the battery.
Okay, why doesn’t he know where the battery is? This returns to the side of suspicion.
It’s his brother’s car.
Oh, call him and ask him where it is.
It’s in the trunk.
Problem solved. Car started; van leaves, and I get my cables back.
I continue to my primary destination; the cellphone store. It’s not the one where I bought my phone; it’s the one that I was directed to go at that particular time by the man who was our dealer for many years (how long have we had cellphones? Can it really be that long?). He has sold his store, but keeps up connections with many in the business, including this fellow.
And was it cosmic payback? This guy could not be more helpful. He showed me all kinds of tricks for how to optimize my phone battery, suggested good apps (and downloaded them for me), and actually slowed down to show me how to get rid of things I don’t want. Making someone young go in slow motion is pretty funny, but it worked for me.
He told me he thinks the world of the man who we both know. He thinks of him as Uncle Marv. In his culture (I’m guessing from Hong Kong, from his surname and Wikipedia), they consider an older gentleman who is friends with the family as an uncle. I told him we have the same thing, even if we don’t. We all should. After all, the word avuncular is not just Chinese.
Connections is what it’s all about; not faceless.
And certainly not random.