When in 1993 I gave my students at Bakersfield College the assignment to go out into our community and "commit one random act of senseless kindness," I had no idea the assignment would go beyond my classroom door. As a result of that assignment I created the phrase, "Today, I will commit one random act of senseless kindness... Will you?"
The purpose of this concept was to encourage those I came in contact with to try in their own way to ask others to recognize that kindness is an alternative to violence and it is our choice to make. Today, some 20 years later, the concept has now spread around the globe.
But it seems to be under some attack as an idea that holds little or no value in today's world.
Most recently, a letter to The Californian ("Pay it forward? Pay the needy," Nov. 2) characterized certain random acts of kindness as "superficial and meaningless" exercises. I thoroughly disagree: I think most would agree that we are deeply involved in acts of violence so numerous that it is virtually impossible to keep up with the massive number of tragedies we read about every day.
There are many communities, states and nations that now consider acts of kindness a part of their humanitarian efforts to deflect our obsession with violence. To attack kindness as a trivial activity seems to me to ignore just how much each of us today needs kindness in our lives. The simple act of paying for the purchase of the person behind you in line goes far beyond just the act of paying for someone's purchase and goes directly to the heart of caring for our fellow man at a time when such an act can greatly improve one's day.
If you have been the recipient of a friendly smile, a wave or just a sincere hello and "I hope you have a good day," you know how it can do wonders for your spirits. The realization that someone actually cares about you can be a powerful thing.
I am convinced that every time we commit an act of kindness we spread, through a "ripple" effect, the recognition that each of us matters and has a vital place in our society's interest in improving the quality of all our lives.
Some of you are deeply involved in many different ways to achieve the goal of enjoying quality in our lives. Those of you not yet convinced need to try a bit of kindness and experience just what a great feeling it brings to you and to the person or persons receiving that kindness.
Now, let's hear it for kindness. How about sharing what you did to improve another's life with a note to this newspaper so we can all experience your contribution to our quality of life. I believe we are all crying out for a moment of sanity to make each of us experience how kindness changes our lives.
Remember: Kindness is not a religious concept. It is not a political statement and it does not advocate for or against any particular group of people. Kindness is therefore a universal concept that embraces all of us.
Chuck Wall, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus at Bakersfield College and president and founder KindnessUSA.org. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.