Sep. 28, 2003: Practicing Random Acts of Kindness

Sometimes you can’t win for losing. A group of well-meaning youngsters from a Presbyterian church in Athens recently dispensed candy throughout the downtown area as an example of “random acts of kindness.” They placed one package inside an old cannon at the Clarke County-Athens City Hall. An employee spotted the box of candy and reported a “suspicious package” to authorities. Within minutes, the area around City Hall had been evacuated, traffic rerouted and the bomb squad activated. The candy was removed by a robot and the goodies blown to Kingdom Come, along with the kids’ good intentions. So much for “random acts of kindness”!

The fact that someone immediately assumed the worst about the package tells you what kind of mind-set we have these days. By the way, don’t blame the employee. Given the times in which we live, I probably would have done the same thing. After all, blowing up buildings and airplanes and cars and people seems to be the norm today. Leaving candy around for people to enjoy and to expect nothing in return is clearly beyond our comprehension.

I hope this episode does not deter the young people from continuing to spread their goodness in a world that surely needs it. As a matter of fact, I have plenty of suggestions for them, and none involve cannons and robots.

A good place to start would be telling Delta Air Lines CEO Leo Mullin that his employees hate him because he gave himself a 115% raise in a year when the company lost $1.4 billion and laid off 17,000 employees. That self-directed generosity does not qualify as a random act of kindness. He will probably say that Delta gave its employees free popcorn. Tell Mr. Mullin that, in your opinion, that doesn’t seem like a fair trade and definitely not a random act of kindness. He ought to be ashamed of himself. No wonder his employees don’t like him.

The kids could do us all a great service by getting the University of Georgia’s President Mike Adams and Athletic Director Vince Dooley in the same room — minus the minions — and telling them that supporters of the university would appreciate it if they would work out their differences. Tell them that the people who love the University of Georgia would consider this a random act of kindness on their part to the institution. Tell them that the university is in the middle of a $500 million fund-raising campaign and their public squabble isn’t helpful. The kids could then show Gov. Sonny Perdue how they brought Adams and Dooley to the negotiating table: the governor seems unable to do so.

I would consider it a random act of kindness if the young people would talk to whoever just bought the Atlanta Thrashers, the city’s hockey franchise, and ask the new owners to move the team to someplace like Cleveland or Budapest. Ice hockey doesn’t belong in the South. It is the world’s dumbest game and has no redeeming social value. Tell the new owners that nobody understands the rules and that they got snookered. Tell them that AOL/TimeWarner/Whatever would have paid them to take the team off their hands. The new owners won’t be happy, but it’s the truth.

The kids are probably a little turned off with government after having their candy blown to smithereens, but maybe they would consider suggesting to our grandstanding politicians that they practice a random act of kindness and tone down their rhetoric and quit attacking each other. They should be Americans first and party partisans second. Tell the politicians that our enemies aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. These dipsticks may think that we have no national resolve and could decide to fly another airplane into a tall building. If the kids’ comments don’t get the politicians’ attention, tell them we simply won’t vote for anybody who acts like a jerk.

This is not an easy world in which to do good deeds, but bless the young folks and their leaders for trying. Hopefully, they understand that while courthouse cannons and bomb-squad robots may not be big on random acts of kindness, everything else is fair game.