A Good Deed for the Day

by Ada Palles

Helping Do you remember when people actually used to say, "I've just done my good deed of the day?" Seems like it was so long ago and far away, about as quaint as crocheting, or having a glass of lemonade on the front porch on a hot Summer day.

Our mothers encouraged us to share our toys, to invite that child in our 3rd grade class who didn’t seem to have many friends to our birthday parties, and to split our sandwich with a friend who forgot their lunch.

It seems to be a part of yesteryear — of a slower, more relaxed time — the stuff of folklore, not relevant to today at all.

If you are old enough, you might remember school days of innocence, when people actually thought about and tried to practice performing a good deed each day.  It was a time when we believed in paying it forward. 

Whatever happened to those days?

We became too busy. Life became much more complex. We work more. We juggle many obligations at the same time. We are overloaded by information from our computers and 24-hour cable news channels. We become obsessed or distracted with the stock market or by sensational scandals. We suddenly face globalization, and were abruptly awakened to international politics.

And in the process we became cynical — a result of disappointed idealism.

But we don't have to sacrifice our idealism. In fact, in order to feel human again, we need to recapture our sense of hope and optimism more than ever before. In order to believe in goodness again, we need to bring good deeds back into our lives.

The idea actually tried to make a comeback in the 90s when Anne Herbert's phrase, "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty," became a famous bumper sticker slogan. Pleasant to think about, it probably made us smile. But how many of us actually made it our personal motto and put it into action?

But the concept is powerful and true, and more relevant than ever: Doing good deeds goes a long way towards making the world a better place, making ourselves feel better, and just making ourselves better people.

Why? Because whenever we perform a selfless act of kindness for another, a multitude of things happen …

  • We step outside of ourselves for the moment, away from our own needs, our own concerns, our own preoccupations and self-interests.
  • We have gone "the extra mile," doing not only what is expected of us (our responsibilities and obligations), but doing that "little bit extra." In life, there is "extra credit."
  • We become more positive people, believing in the existence and power of goodness, because we have found it within ourselves.
  • We get in touch with our own humanity, recognizing that the only reason we perform acts of goodness is for goodness's sake itself.
  • We start recognizing all the many acts of kindness that other people do for us, and start appreciating them more.
  • We take more delight in life, letting good works lead our way and allowing ourselves to be surprised by the kindnesses that are returned to us.
  • We act from a "because I can" perspective, rather than a "because I have to" perspective. Performing beautiful, good works "because I can" is empowering and liberating to our soul. We begin to see that there are so many other things we can do, just "because I can."
  • We send out a ripple of positive energy into the world, an energy wave that radiates out and grows, perhaps gaining enough strength to transform the world.
  • We make a deposit into the bank account of our own self-worth and self-esteem.
  • We create hope in ourselves and others, and in the world.

It's no wonder that our Presidents have placed such an emphasis on volunteerism and helping our neighbors. I must admit, at first I didn't "get it." I couldn't understand the connection between counter-acting terrorism and volunteerism.

But now I do. Now that I've had the opportunity to reflect upon it and have tried to perform good works, I understand exactly what he means.

If we can start a force for good on our own street, in our own neighborhoods, wherever we are — the ripple effect of that wave of positive energy just might be able to transform hearts and minds around the world.

Giving Ourselves Credit

You probably do good deeds everyday anyway without thinking about it.

  • Are you supportive of your spouse or coworkers when they have a difficulty?
  • Do you hug your children just because they need one?
  • Are you there for a coworker who needs to talk?
  • Have you lovingly prepared a meal for another?
  • Do you enthusiastically perform favors for others?
  • Are you patient with your children?
  • Are you sincere when you speak with others?
  • Do you pick up strays?
  • Have you dropped a coin in an expired meter for a stranger?
  • Have you silently kept watch over the safety of a child while a mother's attention was distracted?
  • Have you run an errand for a family member, neighbor or friend when they've been in need?
  • Have you lent an inspiring book to someone who needed a pick-me-up?
  • Have you written a note or sent a card to a friend or a shut-in just because you sensed they needed to know someone cares?
  • Have you brought doughnuts to work just to surprise your coworkers?
  • Do you read your child bedtime stories?

These are things that we do without much thought, yet they add the gentle touch of human kindness to our days.

So, we do still perform these small acts of random kindness in this day and age. But do we consciously think of them as good deeds? If we did, we'd have an awareness of the goodness that permeates throughout us and we would probably be a lot happier with ourselves, seeing all the many ways we touch other people's lives.

Think about it! When you do a good deed, stop for a moment and say to yourself, "I just did my good deed of the day." Then smile, and feel good about it. You need to acknowledge yourself for all of the small things you do that you didn't have to — but just do "because I can." It just might go a long way towards making you appreciate all the kindnesses you receive every day, and make us appreciate the beauty in the world that we seem to have forgotten.

Random acts of kindness or good deeds may seem small and insignificant, but they do at least one thing: they make the world a better place for a moment. If we all got into the habit of doing a good deed of the day everyday, what a better place this world would be for all of us.

Gratefulness and kindness seemed to have been sacrificed in our fast-paced lives long ago. They are expressions of love for others and for ourselves.  As we strive to seek balance, it's time to bring those elements back into our world by taking the time to perform and acknowledge a "good deed of the day" everyday.

"Consideration for others is the basis of a good life, a good society." - Confucius

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