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Reflecting on random acts of kindness

Note: Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. Sister Paula Modaff shares her thoughts on the day.

During the 26 years I lived and ministered in California, one of the ways I amused and distracted myself when I was stuck in traffic on the freeway was to read the bumper stickers on the backs of the cars that passed me in the other lane or that were right in front me.

Three of them stand out in my memory: “Don’t tell ME what kind of a day to have.” “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” And my favorite: “Do random acts of kindness, senseless acts of love.”

A short while ago, our Sister Denise Wilkinson reflected on the merits of hugs. For sure, acts of kindness include hugs and so many other deeds.

Personally, what always lifts my spirits is a warm, sincere smile from someone I might meet on my way. I have been the recipient of persons who have opened a door for me when they see me approach.

Being Helpful is what Matters

A few months ago, outside of a doctor’s office, I was struggling to put my rollator in the back seat of the car. A gentleman approached and offered to assist me. I gratefully accepted his invitation.

After the deed was accomplished and I had thanked him profusely, he remarked: “I was hesitant to ask you because the last time I attempted to help a woman, she yelled at me and said that she was not helpless and to leave her alone.”

I responded by saying that no matter how someone reacts to an offer of kindness, our intention to be helpful is what really matters.

Accepting offers of assistance has not come easily to me. I tend to be independent and being an introvert, prefer to be self-sufficient.

In the last few years, my physical condition has become increasingly fragile. That diminishment has enabled me to welcome acts of kindness and to be entirely grateful for them.

I do not allow anyone to assist me if I am able to do the task myself. And still I welcome another person’s thoughtfulness when I am aware that I need support.

Senseless Acts of Love

Senseless acts of love for me include picking up a piece of trash or a deceased insect on the floor, changing the toilet tissue roll before it is completely out and a replacement is not in reach, closing a cupboard door in the kitchen when someone has absent mindedly left it open.

No one needs to notice what I do; I am filled with joy simply to do it.

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote that picking up a common pin from the floor with love was one powerful way of changing the world for good.

Mother Teresa of India was asked what the ordinary person could do to make the world a better place. She replied: “Smile at the people with whom you live.”

Our own Saint Mother Theodore emphasized over and over again that love of everyone “without exception of persons” is primary.

‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’

Perhaps one of the most obvious practices of kindness and love is the use of the phrases “please” and “thank you.”

I am usually quite good about remembering to thank and often I forget to add a please to my requests. It takes practice and I know it is worth it.

Remember to do random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love for yourself.

“Whatever you do to the least, you do to Me.” – Matthew 25:40

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Sister Paula Modaff

Sister Paula Modaff

Sister Paula has been a Sister of Providence for more than 50 years. Currently, she ministers as a volunteer tutor in addition to spiritual companionship. Past ministries have included teaching high school students, ministering in Diocesan offices, and serving as a chaplain in health care settings.

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  1. Avatar Deb G on February 17, 2024 at 6:47 am

    Absolutely! You highlight a gift we give to ourselves by giving to others. At no cost. It reminds me of a decision I made to rescue any random grocery cart from a parking lot as I entered a store without wasting energy on why it was left outside the cart corral other than there must have been a very good reason. Thank you for this!

  2. Avatar Cynthia MacWhorter on February 17, 2024 at 7:39 am

    This really a wonderful reminder and gentle push for kindness, Sister! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Avatar Marsha Speth, SP on February 17, 2024 at 8:59 am

    A lovely reminder…..to lift my eyes to the life around me, rather than my own agenda of the moment. Thank you, Paula!

  4. Avatar Donna Butler on February 17, 2024 at 11:37 am

    Thank you, Paula. This very morning. someone did an act of great kindness for me that saved me from a mountain of grief.

  5. Avatar Jeannie Smith on February 17, 2024 at 2:37 pm

    I add my thanks to you, S. Paula! Your piece made me smile so big my cheeks got sore!

  6. Avatar Barbara Votaw on February 17, 2024 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you, for your “easy to use” suggestions.

  7. Avatar Sabrina Falls on February 17, 2024 at 6:08 pm

    Thank you Sister Paula. Your reflections today bring me joy. I wonder if our very existence is God’s “senseless act of love”!!

    • Avatar Jane Conner on February 17, 2024 at 9:45 pm

      Beautifully written. Thank you.
      Every day, so many little things make big differences. We so often need to be reminded of the needs and feelings of others.

  8. Avatar Laura Parker on February 18, 2024 at 9:09 am

    Thank you, Paula, for the reminder of extending ourselves to see with ” new eyes” where we could be more graciously kind in our everyday activities.

  9. Avatar madonna on February 18, 2024 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you, Sister Paula . There are always greeters at Meijer. I always like to look at their name tags and greet them using their names. Thank you for the reminder to do little random acts of kindness. Maybe something to do for Lent would be to look for some random acts.

  10. Avatar Margaret McElroy on February 22, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    Many thanks, Sr. Paula, for your thoughtful suggestions and reminders about the impact our words and actions can have on others.

  11. Avatar Toni Wilkinson on February 22, 2024 at 1:11 pm

    When living in Seattle and going thru drive thru at Starbucks if often happen the car in front of me paid for my drink. I then did the same for the car behind me. I heard later that it contained thru the afternoon.

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