It’s cool to be kind; there’s even a special day for it on Feb. 17
random (adjective): made, done, happening, or chosen without method or conscious decision
kindness (noun): the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate*
Put together, these two words perfectly describe the actions of sisters Raylene Copeland and Lacy Garcia after they recently drove by Harmony School of Creative Arts in Marble Falls. They noticed the school’s grass needed cutting, so they pulled over right then and there and mowed and trimmed the unruly lawn — just in time for Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17.
“We saw it needed to be done, so we did it,” said Copeland, who runs Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls with her sister.
Their random act of kindness had nothing to do with the upcoming national day of observance, however, and is certainly not their only good deed.
“We decide about once a month or so, let’s go help someone,” Copeland said. “We want to set an example for my niece Leila so she doesn’t grow up thinking it’s all about her.”
The practice of performing random acts of kindness has grown into a movement over the years. It began in 1995 in Colorado when the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation first promoted Feb. 17 as Random Acts of Kindness Day. Since then, scientific studies have shown that kindness, just like laughter, is good medicine.
Acts of kindness benefit the giver as much, if not more, than the receiver, according to a meta-study of 126 studies with almost 200,000 participants that was released in 2021 by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Acts of kindness boost the doer’s self-esteem and help fight depression by distracting from personal troubles and stressors, reported lead researcher Bryant Hui.
“Being kind may make us feel better about ourselves as a person or about the meaning of our lives, confirm our self-competence,” part of the meta-study reads. “(Random acts of kindness) give us a warm-glow feeling, or help us be more socially connected with others. All of these could potentially improve our well-being.”
Examples of random acts of kindness include mailing a “thinking of you” card to someone, sending a thank-you note to a first responder or a military service member, or paying for the order of the person behind you in a drive-through line.
Coffee shop kindness tends to be especially contagious. Mojo Coffee in Burnet commonly experiences what shop manager Candice Branson calls a “pay-it-forward coffee train.”
“It happens almost every day, at least one or two times,” she said. “When it happens, people just keep paying it forward. It’s a chain reaction. The longest coffee train I’ve seen is about 15 cars.”
The recipient of a free coffee order usually pays it forward by buying the order of the person behind them in line. The chain reaction continues until the kindness coffee train lands on someone with a big bill.
“Then, we usually get a donation toward the big order and the train kind of peters out,” Branson said.
Even coffee shops without drive-through windows encounter instances of random acts of kindness.
The day before this past Christmas Eve, an anonymous donor walked into Unshakable Grounds on the Burnet County Courthouse square and left $100 in cash to pay for orders until the money ran out.
Barista Madeleine Tope, who was working at the time, didn’t consider it so much an act of kindness as an act of God.
“I wouldn’t call it random,” she said. “I think it was the Lord who moved (the donor), and he just wanted to bless people.”
At Harmony School of Creative Arts, acts of kindness did not stop with a mowed lawn. During the holiday season, an adult who was able to take dance lessons as a child because of a sponsor donated to a scholarship fund at the school. And, in mid-January, Taylor received an unexpected $5,000 anonymous donation “to use for whatever we needed most.”
While these acts of kindness made the doers feel good, they brought Taylor joy.
“It took my breath away, that generosity,” she said.
Give Random Acts of Kindness Day a try on Feb. 17, or, like the Highland Lakes folks in this story, make every day a day for kindness. It’ll do you some good.
*definitions from Oxford Languages