Thursday, September 8, 2011

RAK: September 2011

"Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can."
— Dalai Lama XIV (emphasis inserted by yours truly)

If you thumb through the archives of this living blog (and by thumb, I mean click and search), I've talked about random acts of kindness (RAK) from time to time.

I've always been one for a good RAK. I'm no buddhist, and I am certainly not riding off of Mother Teresa's coattails (I don't think habits go well with my skin coloring, anyway), but life always presents us opportunities to help other people out. 

I'm not sure I have nestled into an emotionally altruistic hammock, but I am always mindful in trying to make sure my RAKs are not a mechanism of avoiding my own distress, diffusing personal emotional tension, out of obligation, a desire for praise, or a clever way to avoid feeling guilty. What I always ask is, "would I be just as happy for the recipient if someone else performed the gesture?" Meaning, is what is most important that the other person's struggle/obstacle/crisis is tended to? It's the result that counts--not the personal satisfaction of having helped.

(I'm just talking mumbo jumbo right now?)

Just bear with me, m-kay?

The truth is, I do enjoy performing RAKs because at times--it really is just about thanking someone else for something s/he has done for me. Other times it is about helping someone out who is struggling.  And yes, at other moments, I just get these crazy ideas while sitting in traffic or shaving my legs about some fun craft, idea, or event that I can share with someone else. Wait--you shave?? I promise, Moms, after 2 years, it almost becomes regular!

Maybe for me, it is dabbling in junior varsity altruism with a lot of a desire to feel connected. And please note that my definition of RAKs does not include anonymity. Sure, it's fun to do anonymous things for people (I've always wanted to be that anonymous donor who gives $1 million to a charity. Although, we've got some accounting issues holding me back on that one.), but I never consider it a prerequisite. (Good, bad, or neutral...that's just the truth.)

Regardless, I would like to spend the rest of 2011--I know how kind of me to give myself a whopping 4 months--doing something nice for someone else each month.

I've slowly emerged from 2 kinda prickly months with the personal events and am more equipped now to think outside of myself. 

I guess by writing about all of this I am opening myself up for you rabble rousers to say "hey, isn't this exactly what altruism IS NOT defined by? Publishing your self-proclaimed girl scout badges?" (Wait, do girl scouts do badges? Or is it patches?) But I guess my theory in writing about it is 2-fold:
  1. Accountability: if I write it down, I'm more inclined to keep up with it. And since I don't journal outside of the blog, this is the space I'm confined to.
  2. Domino effect: Perhaps it will get others to think about doing random acts of kindess for other people. 

September's RAK was a no brainer--dropping off a few meals to a b-friend. She has found herself as a "single mother" for a spell, and with 1 (etc) child/ren she spends lots of nights doing the dreaded "what on earth am I going to make for dinner for this family? Gosh, this would be a ton easier if I had a partner to help me out."  I do that jig every Tuesday night and dread must be hard week after week.

Tangent--I ALWAYS scoffed at those filthy rich celebs who have personal trainers and chefs. But to be honest, I'd hire a chef in a New York minute. And then would probably need a personal trainer to keep the weight off.

Reeling it back in, Ali--this past long weekend I spent some time baking and cooking lots of meals--a few for moms with new babies, for our own family, and for my bestie. Tuesday, I piled the boys in the car, gave them the healthiest dinner of cheese curds, apple cereal bars and 2 juice boxes I found under 2 inches of dust in our pantry (it's portable, folks), and dangled the proverbial carrot (doused in honey and butter) of getting to see one of their friends in front of them so they would cooperate. I made sure my friend was home, and we stopped by, dropped off a few meals and pumpkin bread, played for a bit, and then were off.

It's not earth shattering. It didn't take much more than some gas and portable junk food to appease my kids. But maybe it made a few of her nights an ounce less stressful. I remember being on bedrest getting meals almost every night and just thanking God that it was one less thing we had to plan.

So, there you go September.

I've already got October lined up. It will be an interesting one... 


  1. I admire your wisdom, Alison dispensed with more than a touch of humor so as not to become too impressed with yourself. I especially like the thought of in performing a RAK, would it mean just as much if someone else performed the act to assure that the true motivation is the benefit of the recipient rather than just one's feeling good about one's self. I shall keep that in mind. Sometimes those spontaneous situations that present afford that opportunity (letting someone ahead in line, or helping pick up things someone's dropped, etc.).
    I think that making the effort to prepare meals and deliver them with two small boys in tow is remarkable, and I know your friend has performed similar RAKs for you as well. In light of remembering 9-11, it's living mindfully like that that will help bind us together and keep us all strong.

  2. We sure are appreciative of your Sept RAK! Thank you!!!! You know, as much as I have been struggling with dinners every week, I think it was the visit that did the most to lift my spirits last week.