Surely you have heard about the motto that pops up in odd places all over our nation? It is appearing on bumper stickers, on walls, at the bottom of letters and business cards. It is being written on index cards and taped to refrigerator doors. The slogan: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
I myself have not seen the catchy saying in any of those places, but someone recently handed me an article from Redbook magazine. Obviously, I am missing something by not reading that periodical! It seems as though the slogan about “practicing random kindness” has caught on like wildfire and is now the hottest bumper sticker to be had.
The magazine vignette declares: “It's a crisp winter day in San Francisco. A woman in a red Honda drives up to the Bay Bridge tollbooth. ‘I'm paying for myself and for the six cars behind me,' she says with a smile. One after another, the next six drivers arrive at the tollbooth, dollars in hand, only to be told, ‘Some lady up ahead already paid your fare.'”
It turns out that the unidentified lady in the Honda had read something on an index card on a colleague's work desk: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
In Patterson, N.J., a dozen people might descend with mops and pails and tulip bulbs to a rundown house and give it a spring cleaning, while the dazed and grateful elderly owners look on.
In Portland, Ore., a man might plunk a coin into a stranger's parking meter just in the nick of time.
In some snowbound northern city, maybe somebody shovels off his driveway and then the neighbor's driveway, as well.
Others are planting daffodils along Richland Avenue, picking up litter in Chesterfield Place, allowing another car's driver to ease in front of them in traffic at 4:45 Friday afternoon on Whiskey Road, scrubbing graffiti off park benches in Virginia Acres Park.
They call it “guerrilla goodness.”
Such a movement can be critiqued, of course. Another trendy yuppie do-good fad bound to fade when it stops feeling fun. It is too now-you-see-it, now-you-don't. The practitioner gets to keep all control.
OK, guerrilla goodness is no substitute for consistent, relational commitments to justice and love. But guerrilla goodness is a grand idea. Why should meanness and violence monopolize our amazement? Love delights in springing happy surprises; and people struggling in a loveless world need nothing so much as to be startled awake by unnecessary kindness and senseless beauty.
Perhaps this is what the Creator had in mind when God thought up sunsets, starry nights and, as Elton Trueblood said, “all the unnecessary colors.” Why not try to be as extravagant and as mischievous as God's own sweet grace?
Just remember: Like all revolutions, guerrilla goodness begins slowly, with a single act. Let it be yours. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty!
Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken's First Baptist Church.