A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people. The phrase may have been coined by Anne Herbert, who says that she wrote "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 or 1983. Either spontaneous or planned, random acts of kindness are encouraged by various communities.
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The Jewish concept of a mitzvah is used colloquially to mean a good deed or an act of kindness. Judaism teaches that "the world is built on kindness." Kabbalistic teaching sees kindness as emerging from the first of seven Divine emotional attributes; to be effective kindness must be balanced and considered, while mercy is also for the undeserving. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson told reporters that to bring the Moshiach sooner, people should "add in acts of goodness and kindness."
The BBC 1 London News ran a News item entitled 'Hampers at the Ready' following 'The Kindness Offensive' event on the 22 December 2008, which saw TKO (James Hunter, Benny Crane, Calum Teach and David Goodfellow), with help from a seventy strong group of volunteers, hand out over thirty-five tonnes of presents to the public at random, as well as many other charities and community groups. The Kindness Offensive suggests and it is widely accepted that their Christmas event on the 22 December 2008 was the UK's largest ever random act of kindness.
HelpOthers.org is the home of Smile Cards and a portal of kindness stories, ideas, and online groups. It allows people to send random notes of kindness to others.
Join Me is a book written in 2002 by humorist Danny Wallace; in which he tells of the cult he started by accident, the group's purpose is to encourage members (called Joinees and collectively known as the KarmaArmy) to perform random acts of kindness, particularly on Fridays which are termed "Good Fridays". Wallace has also published a book called Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place.
The Newton Project attempted to quantify the benefits of the Random Act of Kindness concept in order to motivate people to perform additional acts of kindness.
The 2007 movie Evan Almighty ends with God telling the main character, Evan, that the way to change the world is by doing one Act of Random Kindness ("ARK") at a time.
Karen McCombie's book The Seventeen Secrets of the Karma Club revolves around two girls who (inspired by their favourite film Amélie) start up their 'Karma Club', the intention of which, is to do random acts of kindness anonymously.