By Lilly Zeller
PUERTO RICO — It is still an unknown fact for many that we celebrate the Week of Random Acts of Kindness from February 12th to the 18th. For many, the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day takes center stage.
In many parts of Latin America, we also know February 14th as the Day of Love and Friendship. We see and feel the impact of how commercialized this week has become. Billions of dollars are spent on chocolates, clothing, jewelry, decorations, cookies, cards and so many types of gifts and gadgets to celebrate the week. We are conditioned to believe that we must buy gifts to “prove” our sentiments of love.
From the Third Sector, we offer a few alternatives to consider, celebrate and share during this week. Many of these random acts of kindness and solidarity cost nothing, but are “priceless”, as a well-known credit card advertisement would say. But, where do we start? Several solidarity acts that can be done this week are:
• Be compassionate with an abandoned animal
• Buy lunch and give it to a homeless person
• Consider donating something to the cause or charity of your choice
• Create your own personalized act of kindness
• Do something for someone who is not expecting your help
• Do something to improve the environment
• Donate a few volunteer hours to a cause
• Donate a garment or two from your professional closet to someone who needs it
• Donate blood
• Give the gift of a living plant or help make a small herb garden
• Give the gift of affection with a handshake or a genuine hug
• Give the gift of happiness through music, a story or a song
• Give the gift of silence
• Give out a genuine “thank you” to someone
• Give someone a small handmade token, with an inspiring message
• Listen to someone: Give the gift of time so that others may express their sentiments
• Make a gift or charitable contribution to an institution in honor of someone you love or may be deceased
• Perform an anonymous act of kindness, and just leave a note for the person suggesting to perform some type of anonymous act for others “Pay it Forward”
• Send a small homemade memento (like cards) to a Senior Citizens Home, to a Children’s’ Facility or to the closest hospital
• Take some food or a snack to someone who lives alone
The more spontaneous these random acts of solidarity are, the more they shall be remembered. These acts of solidarity can be considered as part of our PSR (Personal Social Responsibility). We have all heard about our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but, what about our personal social responsibility?
Through PSR, we can observe how our actions can make a positive and proactive impact among others. We can also think of it as how we would like others to treat us. These examples of acts of kindness and solidarity can be contagious. They are truly part of a “win/win” situation”.
When we perform them, we feel good because we have done something for others that benefit from genuine acts of solidarity. At the same time, we contribute to creating a better community, one action at a time. Our communities become better places. People rarely forget these little details.
We should never underestimate the impact of an act of solidarity. Aesop, the wise writer who lived around 560 BC, whose fables continue to shed important yet simple messages today once said “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”.
This week, I spoke to a friend who shared with me the way she celebrated her son’s birthdays this year. Instead of an avalanche of gifts for the two boys, their friends made donations to the Red de Varamiento de los Manatíes in Puerto Rico.
It was an unforgettable experience, for the boys as well as their friends. This is what it’s really all about. Something that will impact the lives of each and everyone involved, that has also become part of the solidarity legacy shared with the parents. An ideal gift!
With each of these examples and ideas, we break the chain of excessive commercialization and find new possibilities of making different types of gifts, either through donations or solidarity acts.
We don’t have to put them into practice only in February, but it is a great moment to consider starting to do some of them. Let’s start with this week, the Week of Random Acts of Solidarity, and get others involved to do the same.
These types of actions are among the best types of gifts we can leave as part of the legacy for future generations, a legacy of solidarity, a gift of love, that is indeed another way to portray philanthropy and solidarity.
This has been the way of life for my husband and me for the past few years. It has been very gratifying for us, and has helped us prioritize what is truly important. I suggest you leave a copy of this to your loved one, to give him or her idea of a few gifts of kindness that can be done this week. I assure you that you will be filled with passion, from the passion that stems from performing an act of solidarity and kindness for others.
(Editor's note: This post originally appeared in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero.
Latina Lista contributor Lilly Zeller is based in Puerto Rico where she represents the interests of the Third Sector via websites — Talking about Philanthropy and Third Sector Awareness, and in her position on a government committee overseeing the impact of budget cuts on Third Sector programs.