South of the River – random acts of kindness

Compass-SouthIt seems every day, week, or month is special. Never mind all the religious festivals, it’s national this week, or international that awareness day.

Here at South Leeds Towers we’ve been poring over a calendar that has been passed to us by Youth Services. It marks off all the celebrations throughout the year.

For example, February is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) History Month when we remember great figures from history who happened not to be heterosexual. People like Alan Turing, whose work led to the modern computer as well as cracking the German “Enigma” code during the Second World War.

Someone on Twitter alerted me to the fact that last Sunday was Bramley Apple Day. Luckily I already had an apple crumble ready to go into the oven. When I tweeted this fact, someone else replied that it was also Yorkshire Pudding Day. I kid you not. But we were having pork so I ignored that one.

More seriously Fairtrade Fortnight starts at the end of February. This has done a lot over the years to raise the issues of unfair trade between the west and the third world. Many new contracts have been made to ensure that the producers get a fair chunk of the final sale price. When I was a kid th only Fairtrade coffee was Café Direct and the only place to buy it was at church. Nowadays many supermarket shelves have Fairtrade coffee, sugar, chocolate, bananas, t-shirts etc as standard.

But out of all these opportunities to mark, celebrate, remember or agitate, my eye was taken by Random Acts of Kindness Week. It starts on Sunday (10th) which, incidentally, is also Chinese New Year and coincides with Contraception Awareness Week.

Random acts of kindness (RAK’s in the parlance) are just things you do for other people without being asked. Let someone go in front of you in the supermarket queue, pick up some litter on your street, or ring up someone you haven’t spoken to for ages. The possibilities are endless.

RAK’s are great. They make someone else feel good and in turn they make you feel good too. They also make the world turn a little more smoothly.

The Eden Project in Cornwall has a RAK clause in their employment contact. Every member of staff is expected to commit at least three RAK’s a year. Of course they can’t measure and monitor that everyone is keeping to this, but it sets a tone for the organisation. I think more employers should include this sort of thing. I’m all for positive rules rather than negative rules.

Organisations could take this further with Corporate RAK’s. A utility company could write off every thousandth customer’s fuel bill. Or perhaps a supermarket could give away bottles of wine. Of course if they start shouting about it and turn it into a marketing tool they will have undercut the whole point of RAK’s. RAK’s should be done quietly.

Jeremy MortonSo here is my challenge to you. I want everyone who reads this column to go and commit three random acts of kindness this week. You can do it anonymously of course, or you can tell us about it in the comments section below. Not to brag, just to give encouragement and ideas to others to join in. If you are on Twitter you can tweet your acts, don’t forget to add the hash-tag: #rakweek.

Together we could make South Leeds the kindest place in Britain (if it isn’t already).

I’ll be back next Friday with more (random) views from South of the River.