Oftentimes, we may hear or read quotes related to kindness telling us to “be kind” or “show kindness.” However, it may be difficult to know in what ways to express kindness or if our kindness truly affects others. In light of Random Acts of Kindness Day coming up on Feb. 17, I talked with some students and staff at Hope who impact others with their kindness, and, in turn, whose lives have been influenced by the kindness of others. Through their anecdotes, they provide new perspectives on how to approach kindness.
First, I talked to Natalie Ginestre (’27), a freshman at Hope who has been involved in Volunteer Services since October of 2023. Ginestre shared a favorite memory from volunteering at Hope and noted how kindness played a huge role in the experience. “I really liked Hope Serves,” she told me. “For an entire morning, groups of students could sign up to volunteer at different sites in the area. It was really fun, you could pick what you were interested in, and they would pair you with a site. I ended up volunteering at Compassionate Heart Ministries – a place where people with mild to moderate disabilities participate in activities and socialization together in a Christ-centered community.” Through talking with Ginestre, it was clear that her volunteering experiences harbored long-lasting kindness in her life.
Similar to the sentiments of Ginestre, Assistant Director of Student Life and the advisor for Volunteer Services at Hope, Andrew Haggerty, told me about an experience that exuded kindness towards a specific community: “In my previous job I helped run service-learning spring break trips (similar to Hope’s immersion trips) and we prioritized going to the same locations year after year. We knew that it’s hard for any single group of students to make a long-lasting difference in just a week, but by committing to a community year after year we were able to build long-lasting relationships that lasted even when specific people transitioned, and inspired everyone.” For Ginestre and Haggerty, it seems like social connections in the volunteering realm play a large role in their definition of “kindness.”
Katherine Polick (’24), a student director of Volunteer Services noted how she expresses her faith through volunteering. “I think volunteering advances kindness because it allows us to serve others the way that Jesus intended,” she said. “You can love and support others in an intentional way! I have experienced this through so many volunteer events. I have found that although I go to serve, I end up learning more and experiencing God’s love through the individuals I am with.” Polick noted how the relationship between those who volunteer and those who are receiving the services flourishes in a wholesome way. “I see kindness exuded through the individuals volunteering because here at Hope, no volunteer event is required. Because of that, when individuals volunteer, it is so genuine and from the kindness of their hearts. I also see kindness exuded from those a part of the organizations that we volunteer at by being able to create genuine connections and learn about their stories, especially [about] how God has been at work in their lives.”
Similarly, Ginestre also expanded on the relationship among the students who volunteer. “We have meetings bi-weekly, and it’s such a great conversation every time. Everyone has to host a volunteer event, and everyone has such amazing ideas. We all have a love for service and volunteering.” Haggerty expanded on the value of human connection as a way to express kindness. “…volunteering gives everyone involved an opportunity to practice thinking of others more than themselves, listening more than speaking and building relationships more than working alone. So volunteering and expressing kindness helps us stay rooted in human connection, reminding us that relationships should be transformational instead of transactional.” This concept of human connection can be applied to more than just volunteering, too.
Taking a broader look at simple acts of kindness, it may seem like their size is insignificant compared to the seemingly global struggles reported everyday – which can be quite discouraging at times. However, small and unexpected acts of kindness have more of an effect than one may think. “I think that kindness can help us focus on the things that are right around us instead of being overwhelmed at things that are out of our control,” Haggerty said. “While I do think it’s important for society to have large-scale activists and world-changers to bring awareness to social problems and potential solutions, I think it’s equally valuable when people focus their efforts on their neighbors, their classmates, and their families. There are a lot of ways to show kindness, but most involve being face-to-face or at least having a relationship with a person, so being kind can help quell some of the overwhelm we feel about massive, messy issues by reminding us that our call in any given moment may not be to fix those, but to be kind and caring to the person in front of us.” Additionally, Ginestre brought up an often-forgotten fact about small acts. “Remembering that what you do is making a small impact is key – we have to take small steps towards big things.”
In light of this, Ginestre and Polick both noted how simple acts of kindness have had positive effects on their lives. “Some of my classes are really hard, and it’s comforting because everyone encourages each other before big tests,” Ginestre noted. Polick added her experiences too: “I have experienced small acts of kindness through the individuals that I volunteer with! Last week at Legacy Thrift, the workers began by praying for us, and then gave us coffee and dessert at the end of the shift! That was a small act that was very meaningful because we all felt so loved and appreciated!”
All three interviewees commented on various ways people can express simple acts of kindness within daily interactions. Ginestre expressed the importance in developing inward kindness toward cultivating this positive environment. “Having places for people to find community is great. It can help advance a sense of belonging,” she said. Haggerty emphasized the value of human connection as he stated, “…the core of it comes down to what I said. . . about staying rooted in human connection. There are plenty of excellent habits people could adopt to begin showing kindness more, but at their foundation is a mindset that we love and care for other people.” Polick expanded on the small, everyday aspects of life. “I think students at Hope can easily utilize small acts of kindness to benefit others because it is so easy to open the door for someone, compliment them or even just smile as you walk by!”
Random Acts of Kindness Day provides an opportunity to show kindness to ourselves and to others. As stated through the above anecdotes, kindness can be expressed through self-care and compassion; being kind to oneself. It can also be expressed through meaningful words and courteous actions towards others. Through talking with Ginstre, Haggerty and Polick, it is apparent that kindness is a reciprocal quality, positively spreading from individual to individual as it permeates throughout everyday life. On this Random Acts of Kindness day, consider this meaningful cultivation, and help be a force of kindness in your own community.