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ASU embraces Random Acts of Kindness Week on campus

From small acts to grand gestures, some ASU students and faculty say random acts of kindness benefit both the giver and receiver

Photo illustration done Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.
Photo illustration done Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

Free hugs, compliments and helping hands are just a few of the random acts of kindness taking over all four ASU campuses this week.

For ASU, Feb. 13. through Feb. 19. marks the celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Week, which is dedicated to promoting small gestures of kindness among students. As Feb. 17. is recognized nationally as Random Acts of Kindness Day, students reap the benefit of not only receiving, but being able to participate in these acts.

Sarah Tracy, a professor in The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, studied how people create compassion through communication. She said compassion, in many ways, is similar to kindness.

Tracy said her research looked at how compassion was used by a woman who encountered a potential school shooter.

“Usually we think the way to deal with this is to arm yourself or run away," she said. “Instead she saw that he was suffering and was able to act kindly to him and through her caring ways, he chose to lay down his weapons and surrender.”

Tracy said what drew her to the study was seeing the power of compassion and kindness.

“It’s not just all about making people feel good, but it can actually be transformative in addressing some of our larger social problems,” she said.

From her own research partnered with reading the research of others, Tracy has seen a link between kindness and the giver’s happiness.

“What we learn is that by doing kindness for others, especially when it's random and anonymous, it really brings a high of happiness for yourself as well,” she said. “It seems kind of counterintuitive, but actually by being kind to other people, we are more likely to be happy ourselves.”

Tracy said while there are all different ways to give kindness, the way to impact people most is to be empathetic. 

“For elderly grandparents, maybe the greatest act of kindness you can give is to go over there and listen to their stories, wisdom and advice,” she said. “For someone else it might be that they really need some praise, and for others maybe they just need a ride to the airport.”

Tracy also said it does not take much for students to participate in random acts of kindness on campus.

“Kindness does not have to cost very much money, and it’s a way to really balance your happiness,” she said.

Nick Carlson, a freshman exercise and wellness major, said he felt even the smallest acts of kindness impacted the giver and receiver in a positive way.

“If someone drops something, pick it up,” he said. “It makes people feel better about themselves when someone helps them, and it looks good for our university and our community if students are doing that for other people.”

Dayna Kloeber, a graduate teaching associate, teaches a class called Communication and the Art of Happiness at ASU. Her students were assigned the task of performing random acts of kindness during class and then writing about their experiences.

Kloeber said her students participated in various acts of kindness around campus, even those as simple as holding the door of the MU open for other students.

“One group intended on putting little positive messages on the mirrors in the women’s restrooms,” she said. “One group was going to give compliments to people they saw on campus.”

Kloeber said while such acts do offer instant gratification, they also have a lasting effect on the giver.

“When we step outside ourselves and when we do altruistic things, it gives us a more permanent level in our level of happiness,” she said. “After watching students grow throughout the semester, one of the things that they recorded having an enduring effect was doing nice things for other people.”

Kloeber said random acts of kindness act as a community builder on campus.

“As many people as we have on campus, it’s tempting to exist in our own bubble and I think this is a way to cultivate some community in a positive way,” she said.

Kloeber said she thinks the trend will spread around campus if people continue to pay it forward.

“After someone has held the door open for you, wouldn’t you be a little more likely to hold the door open for the next person?”

Bree Walker, a freshman majoring in criminal justice, experienced a random act of kindness herself that she said impacted her day.

“Today I was handed a lollipop by a random person and it made me really happy,” she said. “Even just simple acts, like smiling at someone, can totally change their whole day.”

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