the kindness . . . quota?

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
John Lennon

“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”
Mark Twain

motherteresahelpingI’m listening to the radio on my drive home tonight and a prerecorded host message comes on between songs. “Here at Radio 94.7, we think Sacramento is pretty awesome. But what if every person in Sacramento did just one random act of kindness per month? How awesome Sacramento would be then? If everyone did that, Sacramento would be, like, the most awesome city in the whole country!” (Or something to that effect.)

And I was like . . .

Well, okay. First things first: Random acts of kindness equal good, so — yes, intentions are good — and effort does count, so — “Yay, 94.7.”

But then I was like . . .

“Per month?!” Whoa, people. Let’s not aim too high here . . .


I have to admit that it’s easy to get discouraged when we look at all of the sh** happening in the world today. It’s hard to see how any one of us — you or me or him or her — could make much of a difference. I sure as hell can’t feed the entire continent of Africa on my own. I also can’t stop child labor, prostitution, rape, murder, car accidents, drug and alcohol abuse, disease, or any number of other world problems.

But . . .

Then again, neither could Mother Teresa . . .

And then again, I highly doubt she held herself to a monthly kindness quota.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Mother Teresa


Image: Google

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61 thoughts

  1. I think it would be awesome if we got to a place in life where people were just kind and loving, period. It’s sad that we need reminders: yes, they’re needed and important, but man, can’t we just love each other and be happy?

    • I so agree, Bupe. It *is* sad. And sadder still that once a month would be considered some great act! Says a lot about the world we live in today…

      But I guess the fact that some of us are reading/hearing this and resonating with it *is* important! People like you give me reason to hope. :)

      • Really, we must do better. This business of “patting our backs” for doing “good” is a joke. “Yay, I did my good deed for the month” mentality should be unacceptable.

      • Amen. And, really, patting ourselves on the back for doing something nice is defeating the purpose, anyway… Like Mother Teresa said, “we belong to each other.” Belonging is powerful stuff. “We’re all on the same thing here guys, so really, doing something nice for you is doing something nice for me, too!”

        Haha. Anyway, getting off my high horse now. I hope you and yours have a great weekend, Bupe! :)

  2. The Emerson and Mother Teresa quotes stick out.
    This encompasses it all really: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
    How can I meaningfully feed my happiness and neglect your sorrow?

    Remembering that we do belong to each other and that our fates are irrevocably intertwined is the impetus we need to be kinder and more compassionate, without end, to everyone near and distant.

    Thanks for another stirring reminder, Jess.

    • I *loved* that last quote by Mother Teresa, too, Reyn. “We belong to each other…” Those are powerful words, especially since, in today’s society, it is so easy for us “artists” especially to feel swept by the wayside, forgotten, and alone…

      Another friend reminded me of the awesome quote by John Donne, “No man is an island… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind… therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

      I honestly don’t know what to add to your second to last line. I couldn’t agree more. Best to you, Jess

  3. Well, I’m off the hook. I’ve got my random act covered…:op

    Another question: Is an act undertaken to fulfill a quota truly a “random” act? And who is the motivator of the act, the actor or the beneficiary? Perhaps it doesn’t matter…but it makes me think…

    • All good questions, Vance! If there really were a quota, then, no, I don’t think the act could be considered random. But I *would* think the actor would have to be the motivator… But, yes, all interesting questions to consider!

      All in all, I just think the more we can focus on being kind *every* day, the better off the whole world (including ourselves) will be…

      • I could not agree more. One of my favorite Zen teachings encourages us to “do what is there to be done.” In other words, authentic living calls for an automatic response to the situation at hand. This applies to everything from washing the dishes now instead of later, to offering a helping hand for no other reason than that it is needed, by someone, in the moment in which we find ourselves. Which is what I meant about the “planned randomness” thing: to me–and apparently to you as well–the true random act stems from an openness to the other (a quality I believe Mother Theresa had in spades) all the time everywhere…even if you’ve already met your quota.:op

        Thanks for humoring me, by the way…

      • Don’t mind me, but “Shush!” No thanks needed. I wasn’t humoring you!

        I love the idea of authentic living… That’s what I strive for at all times. I think what more people need to do is realize where true happiness comes from… (It isn’t from having more stuff or focusing on ourselves…)

        So, yes! I fully agree. Hope you have a great weekend, by the way! :)

  4. where do I sign up for the random act of kindness – ?

    You reading my blog is kind enough – you always positive and encouraging – kindness!

    and you starting a blog writing off with Emerson – super kindness!

    Well said Jess!

    • You’ve inspired me in more ways than one, Hoss. It’s because of you that I’ve been exploring Emerson recently in the first place – and you know it —

      And me reading your blog is not kindness – so you’d better shut up, or else I’ll…

      One thing I’ve been trying to reconcile is Emerson’s quote here – and others I’ve found – with the Lennon quote you posted on facebook yesterday. “I want to be happy when I grow up.” I guess it all depends on what we’re looking to for happiness? For me, there is nothing better than putting a smile on someone else’s face…

  5. i think kindness stems from the source of the heart. if the heart has love, then it genuinely overflows with kindness. Mother Teresa gave up the things in her life to care for the poorest of the poor, to meet others needs. it wasn’t so much about kindness, as it is, about love.

    One of my fav quotes is by John Piper, “Love is the overflow of joy in God which meets the needs of others.”

    am i the only one who thinks that just ‘one’ act of kindness a month is rather scarce? could we not aim to be kind daily? has our society become such a selfish breed?

    • Sophia. You nailed it on the head. That was my point exactly. That a city would pat itself on the back if its residents performed one random act of kindness per month is so sad to me…

      And also about love. Almost every quote from Mother Teresa mentions love. Love of and giving to others is critical to our own happiness, even. There is no one more miserable than the self-absorbed narcissist.

      And that’s a great quote! Thanks for sharing! I hope you have a wonderful weekend. :) Blessings, Jess

  6. What a great bunch of quotes. My favourite one is the very first one by Emerson. One act of kindness per month. That’s a very positive way to live life. I believe kindness and the most selfless actions come from within. I think the best form of kindness we can show is unconscious acts of kindness on our part. Like the routine of getting up and giving our seat to that old man on the train :) (Apologies if my thoughts and words are a bit garbled. Having another busy, tired week of sorts, haha)

    • Thank you, as always, for reading Mabel. You’re so sweet. Yes, I believe one act of kindness per month is a positive way to live, but I think it’d be even *more* positive if we were trying for one random act of kindness every day, all of the time! It seems a bit sad to me that the people in the city of Sacramento needed that reminder…

      But I too believe that selfless actions and kindness come from within. That’s a very good observation. If we are too focused on ourselves, we won’t even be able to notice what others are going through…

      Hope you have a great, restful weekend! :)

  7. Hi Jess,

    I need you to come to the rescue at this post (, of the one who wrote “The Music Box”, where you left a comment a few days ago.

    It looks like a piece done by Shakespeare, but not one of those I read before. I don’t read his works very often anyway. She is obviously lying to me, probably with her professor at her school.

    You don’t have to post a comment there, lest they try to find out who you are in real life. All I need from you is the identification of the work to see if it’s genuine of Meredith.

    Let’s call your help a random act of kindness to keep this comment relevant to your post.


    • David, I just now saw your comment. Who made you the moderator of the Internet? You’ve offered me all kinds of criticism and advice I haven’t asked for — why? Who has given you that right? I believe you mean well, but… I believe you need to leave both Meredith and me alone!

      • Well, I believed her. What do I have to lose anyway? I will leave you alone as you requested, at least for now. Her poem is really good. It reminds me of the lyrics of “I Believe” by Nikki Yanofsky for Vancouver Olympics 2010.

        It’s a bit too professional for my taste, given her long history of not so comparable works. We’ll see.

    • My thoughts exactly!!! The good news is that each of us can work on making it our natural state of being… By thinking more about others than ourselves, we’ll actually become happier, too…

      Oh, and by the way, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! :) Jess

  8. Great post Jess, and it is very strange that “we” actually have to think about doing things nice for others (strangers). The great feeling of doing good, at work/play is comparable to the feeling of random acts of kindness that it seems so strange to see how rare it is in this world.

    The first Mother Teresa quote is worth repeating every morning upon waking up…

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Randy. I actually wrote it on a kind of whim. So many other posts running through my mind these days…

      I fully agree that it seems strange that we need reminders to do nice things for other people. Our society seems to think that focusing on self and material things are the source of happiness, but, really, nothing could be further from the truth.

      I love all of the quotes by Mother Teresa. The last one in particular stuck out to me, too. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Belonging to others is powerful stuff.

  9. Wow, what a beautiful post, don’t know how I missed it. I was just thinking that you hadn’t posted in awhile but I guess I didn’t see this one. The quotes are great. The radio is pretty funny, I guess some people might get stressed out if they were trying to do one random act per day! Do you live in Sacramento? For some reason I thought you were in LA. I lived for 16 years in San Ramon, CA as there is a branch ashram there of the main one that I live in here in India… Do you know San Ramon, it’s a couple hours out of Sacramento…

    • Oh, thank you, Sreejit. I’m glad you liked it. I wrote this post on something of a whim… So many other ideas running through my mind right now…

      I guess the point is that I feel kindness should be our modus operandi. A random act of kindness could be something as small as giving up your seat for someone on the subway or sending an encouraging text-message to a friend. It’s about thinking about others instead of only focusing on yourself. I remember holding the door open for the UPS man at the main office of my apartment complex a few weeks back. He was laden down with boxes but still said, “No, no, don’t worry about it,” but when I insisted, we both smiled. It was the highlight of my day.

      And, oh yeah, San Ramon isn’t far at all! That’s so neat that you were there. I grew up in a small town between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Definitely not a SoCal girl. I can’t stand traffic and smog!

      Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  10. Your post reminded me of the good old school days. Back then in school as scouts we took the scout oath or promise. One of them was to do a good turn every day. I remember having a small pocket diary to make a note of my good turns for the day.

    But now I don’t remember when was the last time I helped a blind man cross the road. We are all too busy to care. Random acts of kindness is at least a start.

    • “We are all too busy to care.” I think you nailed the problem on the head right there, Allwin. It is sad how busy and wrapped up in our own lives we are. The whole world tells us that happiness lies within ourselves, but, really, nothing could be further from the truth. A rich man who thinks only of himself is a miserable man indeed…

      You’re right. Random acts of kindness are at least a start. But like I mentioned in my comment to Sreejit, I really feel random acts of kindness don’t have to be a big deal. Once a month is not enough!

  11. Great post! I think on the other hand, to a less enlightened individual, one act a month is more than their typical quota so, it’s a start. The thing about the first step is it reminds some soft memory found in each of us that the person who receives the gift of happiness from doing an act of kindness is usually to the person who does the giving, so this reminder begets an urge to continue these good deeds. Just my thoughts on it. Happy, happy weekend to you!

    • I agree that one month an act is a good start for someone who isn’t used to thinking about others, but… Really, I don’t think random acts of kindness always need to be a big deal. How hard is it to open a door for someone or give up your seat on the subway (or something like that)? Because you’re so right! The good feeling that we get from helping others should be a motivation in itself! The selfish, self-absorbed person is never the happy one.

      You have a great weekend, too. And thanks for the facebook “like,” by the way. Means a lot! :) Jess

  12. Great post Jessica. I’m troubled we even have to discuss this, acts of voluntary kindness should be like breathing, it should just come naturally. It’s sad we have to ask people to think about doing this but a las we do. All the best Mark.

    • I’m troubled, too, Mark, but sadly not surprised considering the state of things in the world today. With violence everywhere, kindness seems to be a dying breed! And yet… There is good to be found in the world yet. Something as simple as a smile, a thoughtful text-message, or opening the door for someone can go a long way.

      All the best to you, too. Hope you’re having a great weekend! :) Jess

  13. I love the quotes from Mother Teresa but I disagree the first sentences from both Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Lenon

    “The purpose of life is not to be happy.” How can one have lived and lived well if one is not happy?

    “Count your age by friends, not years.” A lot of people have very few quality friends. ;-)

    I am trying to practice this in life, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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