An Art Called ‘Kindness’.
Dr. Loykie Lominé Interviewed by Dr. Gil Dekel.
Gil: What is a ‘random act of kindness’?
Loykie: It is a ‘random’ act that you do not plan in advance. You do not know what you will do, nor who will benefit from it, and you just do something good. Let me give you an example: after walking your daughter to school in the morning, you pass by some cars parked on the side of the road; in that neighbourhood, parking is regulated by old-fashioned coin-operated parking meters. As you walk along the cars on the pavement, your eyes just land on a parking meter ticket whose timing has expired. If a parking officer turns up, that car will get a fine. You have a £1 coin in your pocket, so, without much thinking and pondering about it, you just insert it in the machine.
That’s random – you do not know the car owner; it may be some guy in a job interview, or a rich posh woman who will not notice and would not even nod at you in a shop – it does not matter. It’s random, it’s a chance for you to do a good thing. I guess there is something of Scoutism about it; you know the Slogan of the Boy Scouts of America: “do a good turn daily”. This is not just about helping the old lady cross the street, but that would be a good start…
You do not spend all your waking hours in the streets looking out for all parking meters that are about to expire – and yet your mind is always switched on and is ready to help others, should the opportunity arise, no matter whether you know them or not.
Last week I was at the train station and an elderly gentleman was struggling to use one of those modern machines to obtain his train ticket; nobody else seemed to care so I just went to him and helped him. It took me a couple of minutes, he was so happy and relieved; I wished him a good day and that was it. It was random and it was kind. It made the word a better place that day.
How different is an act of kindness conveyed through words, compares with an act of kindness conveyed through actions?
No difference, why would there be one? (This question may actually tell us more about you, Gil, as a poet i.e. a man of words…)
Why then some traditions teach us the ‘trilogy’ of Thought-Word-Action? If there is no difference between a word and an action?
Thought, Word and Action are three different things; they are not the same. But an act of kindness is an act of kindness, no matter how it is realised, no matter if it is verbalised (through words, i.e. spoken) or physically made (involving more muscles). A smile accompanied by the words “thank you” is composed of Thought, Word and Action, to use your three terms. They are not exclusive, it is not one or the other.
Is ‘receiving’ an act of kindness from others creates the same sensation/feeling as giving it?
I cannot generalise about others – but, personally, I prefer giving. It might be a matter of personality or background; I guess I grew up learning that’s it is good to give. In any case, you know the saying “what goes around, comes around”. That is also what Karma means, I guess.
Naturally, I do ‘receive’ acts of kindness. let me give you one example amongst many others: ten years ago in Cyprus I was with my colleague Paul. We had a long walk then went for a coffee in an old part of town; when we wanted to pay, the owner just waved with his hand: “a present” he said, no need to pay… He did not need to do it, that was just a gratuitous act of kindness, he would never have us again as customers, but that did not matter. I have not forgotten that story, I guess he was an Angel for me that day.
I also consider myself lucky because over the years I have been able to help others financially – but in those cases it was not ’random acts of kindness’, it was to help friends.
You have mentioned this before but can I ask specifically: would a receiver need to know who gives them some kindness, or can the act be anonymous?
No need to know – being anonymous is good… I often send letters (“to the manager”) after I have used the services of a business (e.g. after I bought my computer, or after a courier comes to collect a parcel). It costs me a stamp plus a little bit of time, but you cannot know or anticipate the impact this may do to that person. Usually people (customers) only write when they want to complain… I don’t; I write to give positive feedback.
I feel this is so rare these days. I know many people thank God on a regular basis, and rightfully so, but do you thank the people around you, like the woman who helped you in the shop, even if she is paid to do so, or the guy who is giving you some of his time and gives you some happiness and makes you smile? We do not thank people enough; we take everything for granted…
You surely know Walt Disney’s film Bambi; do you remember the rabbit named Thumper? Thumper’s mum gives us all a wonderful lesson of wisdom early on in the film: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all” (yes, poor grammar, but then rabbits are notoriously bad at English grammar…)
And if someone was unkind or even nasty to you – what is the value of you being kind?
That happens too, it hurts, but life goes on… It’s bad karma for them, that’s all.
What then would you include under ‘kindness’, and why?
I am not good at defining concepts, as often I feel that it comes down to using ten words to explain what one word says very well already. May I simply suggest that ’kindness’ is about doing something (good) that benefits someone? Let me give you an illustration of this: a few months ago I read a BBC news item that a dog refuge house somewhere in England had just been burgled; all the cans of dog food had been stolen and the manager and volunteers were very concerned as they did not have money to replace it all at once. So I found the address online and sent them a cheque straightaway. The news item was just factual, it was not a charity appeal, but that gave me the opportunity to do some ‘kindness’ to these dogs in that refuge.
Of course you can further formalise that: do some good work as a volunteer, give to charities, be a good citizen, basically, but I prefer the unplanned nature of the random acts of kindness, doing something for strangers.
Why would you prefer the “unplanned” act? After all, can you not influence more people if you ‘manage’ and plan your acts of kindness?
It is not one or the other: both types are good, both types help make the world a better place – but random, unplanned and spontaneous acts may show more about the human heart and our potential, as human beings, to help one another and create happiness (at the end of the day, isn’t it why we are on earth?)
Can an act of kindness be rejected, or otherwise be mistaken by the receiver and seen as not-kind?
What a strange question – no, it cannot. Again, is that a case of a question that tells us more about you?
All questions tell about the person who asks them… and framing the questions tends to frame the answer we receive… however, that question was authentic. What I meant to ask is: could it be that you try to do good to someone, but it is not wanted, or someone may think you just trying to abuse or trick them.
If it is not wanted, it just vanished in the air, that’s all – though I have never encountered that. True, you cannot force kindness onto people – but let’s take a recent example: I was in the checkout queue at the supermarket, and a girl in front of me did not have enough cash to pay for what she wanted to buy (some drinks and sweets, if I remember well); I gave her some coins to complement what she had. No big deal for me, most convenient for her, why would she have said no? She gladly accepted, gave me a big smile and made my day! Really I cannot picture any situation where someone would refuse, though I can see where you’re coming from, with your reference to misconception, to people thinking you try to trick them or abuse them. But isn’t it sad that we live in a world where genuine kindness could be regarded as suspicious? If you want to help an old lady cross the street, she might think you want to steal her handbag…
Perhaps the problem is that many people cannot believe in anything these days. I mean, when you read the label on your drink box, do you believe the drink is truly ‘natural’. The terms ‘natural/healthy’ on labels do not seem to refer to the quality of the product… We are being fooled on a daily basis. How can people then go and believe or trust other people?
You are right, this lack of trust may be justified, but what does it show about the state of the world we live in, in our urban so-called developed societies?
Are normal ‘functions’ such as being able to breath, can be seen as a kind action (towards mankind)?
This is too far-fetched; keep it simple Gil… I do not see how breathing can be seen as a kind action, unless you refer to accidents and ’kiss-of-life’.
I refer to the gift of being able to breathe every single moment of your life. Some people are born ill or paralysed; some cannot breathe properly, some cannot walk… Would the simple functions or abilities we have are an act-of kindness?
I now understand your question but it does not fit with my own understanding of acts of kindness; if you go back to our earlier definition, how does my breathing benefit some strangers in a random way?
Well, by allowing you to exist there, and thus to have the change to do an act of kindness, wherever you are. It is almost a ‘meta-random act of kindness’…
It’s not my own random act of kindness, it’s the act of kindness from some Angels, bless them…
Interview conducted via emails correspondence, 19-23 June 2010.
Dr Loykie Lominé is based in The UK and France. Dr Gil Dekel is based in The UK. © Dr Loykie Lominé and Dr Gil Dekel. 27 May 2012. First published 28 June 2010 in imaginowledge.com