Back in 1993, a little book called “Random Acts of Kindness” took the nation by storm.
Filled with examples of small things that brought big smiles — including kind acts by Coleytown Elementary School youngsters — it sparked a national movement. (And a cottage industry of books, over the next 30 years.)
In 1995, Westport PTA Council president Mimi Greenlee and 2nd Selectwoman Betty Lou Cummings co-chaired “Random Acts of Kindness Day” in Westport. First Selectman Joe Arcudi made it official.
All across town, kids collected mittens for people in need. The local Red Cross offered free CPR courses. The Westport Library waived fines for late books.
The Westport News’ Arnie Green noted a few other possible ways for Westporters to celebrate the day:
You are a pedestrian attempting the crossing at the Post Road and Main Street. The Mercedes bearing down on you stops well before the crosswalk you are in. The driver smiles and gives you a full-hand wave.
A usual, a UPS truck is parked beyond the last parking spot in the middle row at Brooks Corner, making it difficult for you to exit. The UPS driver appears and says, “Let me get this out of your way right now, and I’m sorry to have blocked you.”
The teenager, wearing a baseball cap backwards, and driving a modified Jeep, is cruising Main Street at what may be faster than the speed limit. You step off the curb. He slams his brakes to stop just short of you. He leaps from the Jeep and says, Boy, was I dumb to drive that fast. Please excuse me for scaring you.”
Not much has changed in 27 years, that’s for sure.
But 27 years later, both Mimi Greenlee and Betty Lou Cummings are alive and well. And very active in town.
In fact, on Wednesday Mimi emailed me all the information I’ve cited above. That was a very random act of kindness.
She did it because yesterday — February 17 — was the anniversary of Westport’s 1995 Act of Kindness Day.
I couldn’t get the story posted in time. That wasn’t very kind, I know. But the date doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts.
And the thought is a good one.
Just 2 years ago, random acts of kindness were all the rage. As the pandemic roared into town, Westporters delivered meals (and scarce toilet paper) to people who could not (or would not) leave their homes.
Others sewed masks, hung signs with encouraging slogans for first responders, and did thousands of other very random acts of kindness.
Today, only the rage remains. We are at each other’s throats over everything from mask wearing and vaccines to driving and parking. The Post Road and Brooks Corner are as gruesome as ever.
So — in as kindly a tone as I can muster — I wonder: Is it time for another Random Acts of Kindness Day?
Or maybe even an entire Week or Month this time.
If you think that’s a good idea, click “Comments” below. You might offer a few suggestions of kind acts yourself.
Of course, if you think it’s ridiculous, feel free to call me a soft, coddling !@#$%^&*. It’s a free country.
At least for a while.
PS: In 1995, I wrote in my Westport News “Woog’s World” column: “The US Congress took time out from its important work of slashing welfare benefits, attacking Medicaid and declaring war on immigrants, homeless people and abortion doctors to declare all of next week Random Acts of Kindness Week.”
Not very kind, I know. But that too shows how little we’ve changed since the last millennium.
Every day I cruise my neighborhood,with two garbage bags,one for trash and one for recyclables. My garbage grabber keeps my neighborhood clean,and I hope that everyone enjoys a litter free sight.
Whatever Mimi & Betty Lou say is likely to be an excellent idea. Jalna also makes a good point – no reason everyone can’t aim for a daily random act of kindness
Excellent idea. Small acts of kindness are sorely needed. Simple things like paying for the cup of coffee for the person behind you in line, letting someone go in front of you in line, keeping your eyes open for someone in need. Old fashioned politeness.
Too bad we need a day as a reminder. It really should be a part of every day life! Every morning upon waking and looking out my window, I say “May I be the most loving person I can be today. ” It really helps me set my priorities!
When random acts of kindness become random acts of avarice then my childlike optimism for Westport’s future will be restored and I will return to town for interment next to my mother in Willowbrook. The only random act of kindness I will need is the loan of someone’s Range Rover to carry the casket from Christ and Holy Trinity to Willowbrook.
The wonderful thing about random acts of kindness is that they are not forgotten. Generations go by and someone will remember something they did or something someone did for them. When I was in my 20s and my mother was in her 60s, (I thought of that as being quite elderly then) she told me she was walking up Main Street window shopping. It was icy and when she got to the part of the sidewalk in front of Westport Pizzaria she hesitated bacause the sidewalk is banked badly there. A young high school boy came along and offered her his arm and escorted her across the slippery walkway untill she felt safe. She must have told me about that a hundred times. It made such an impression on her. And now I am telling it again. Kindness has a ripple effect. Just a well placed smile can change the world.
Painting rocks for Sophia’s Hope: https://www.sophiasebhope.org/uploads/1/3/6/0/13601213/rock_instructions__5_.pdf