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Rise up and become a RAKtivist

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Although the forecasted Snowmageddon didn’t materialize last week, we did get a few inches of snow in Tonganoxie. When I eventually decided to venture out, I found my sidewalk shoveled, my car windows cleared and the area around my car cleaned.

This not-so-random act of kindness was done by the parish’s Knights of Columbus, who also took care of the sidewalks around the church.

I’m sure that they were not aware of it, but the Knights were anticipating Random Acts of Kindness Week, which is celebrated this year from Feb. 13-19. The movement apparently started out as a single day, Feb. 17, back in Berkley, California, in the early 1980s. Writer Anne Herbert penned that famous phrase — “Practice random acts of kindness and acts of senseless beauty” — that was popular on many bumper stickers ages ago.

We can never know when the smallest good deed will have a profound effect. This story, told of herself by Mary Ann Bird, is a prime example:

I grew up knowing that I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate. When I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I must look to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, a crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech.

When asked about it, I’d tell classmates I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass.  Somehow, it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard. She was a short, round, happy and sparkling lady.

Annually, we would have a hearing test. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something and we would have to repeat it back — things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” Finally, it was my turn. I waited there for those words which God must have put into her mouth, those seven words which changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.” (Story adapted from “Mrs. Leonard,” found in William J. Bausch’s “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers.”)

How grateful I am for all the people who give of themselves around the parish in so many kind, usually unnoticed, ways. They’re the ones who unlock church doors, coordinate funeral dinners, change burned-out light bulbs, straighten up chairs in the worship center, count the weekend collection, launder altar linens, water flowers and plants, pick up trash in the parking lot . . . and so much more.

For us Christians, doing random acts of kindness — loving our neighbor as ourselves — should not be limited to a day or even a special week in February. In fact, most of us need serious work in tackling those “sins of omission” — the many opportunities that come our way to do good that we don’t notice or choose to ignore.

This upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week is a wonderful time to start a new, good habit. From sending a care package to a college student to leaving a positive review online for your favorite restaurant to thanking your child’s teachers to feeding birds in the winter — the opportunities, as well as the needs, are bountiful.

Why not start right now? Put down this Leaven and become an avid RAKtivist (a great word coined by the RAK Foundation). Let’s inspire our world to make kindness the rule, rather than the exception. Ah, what a blessed world that would be.

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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