By now maybe you’ve heard of the “26 Acts of Kindness” Campaign originally proposed by news anchor Ann Curry: the Twitterverse (and, presumably, real life) is abuzz with tales of individuals doing all manner of acts of kindness in honor of each person killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School – and encouraging the recipients to pay it forward. (If you haven’t run across this yet, you should look it up. You’ll be inspired by a lot of good people doing a lot of good things.)
I think this is a beautiful outgrowth of a horrible tragedy. By all means, let us fight without resting for sensible limits on lethal weapons, access to mental health care, and a major change in our nation’s culture of violence. But amidst that hard and long work, let us also take direct and immediate steps to celebrate our common humanity, one simple deed at a time. To place into the darkness clear rays of light.
I’d like to count as my first act of kindness a plea to make it 28 Acts of Kindness. Twenty-eight people died in the violence that day in Newtown. Compassion demands we remember the first victim as well as all who followed. And even the perpetrator of the mayhem. I’m going to quote the first person to comment on an NPR blog entry about 26 Acts, one Blake Thomas, because I think he really nails it: “Any person who is so filled with rage & pain that they would seek out the tragedy of that day was a casualty before the first round was fired.” He did what he did, and nothing can excuse it. But he was somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, and a fellow human. What we struggle to forgive shouldn’t we at least aim to redeem?
While I am hatching plans for 27 more acts of kindness – I figure it’s a start, anyway – I hope you’ll also go out into the world and be inspired to emulate those who are buying coffee for strangers, shoveling an elderly neighbor’s walk, writing letters to newspapers and elected officials, sitting with someone who is grieving or sick or lonely, donating to charitable and advocacy organizations, caring for a friend’s baby for an afternoon, and so on. Whether or not you tweet about it. (I for one, wouldn’t even know how.)
I know of course we’ve all done this sort of thing since long before December 14, but perhaps now it’ll be just a little more so. And with more mindfulness. Perhaps the difference now is the inclusion of the pay-it-forward idea. I think it’s possible some acts will simply be received differently now, that something about dedicating them to the victims will move the beneficiaries in a different way. We’ve all had so much emotion stirred up by events in Newtown, channeling at least some of it in this way can be, it seems to me, a way to create deep human connection, in even fleeting interactions. In the end, I think that will serve us all.
— Colleen Kapklein