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Random Acts Of Kindness
To Coach Becky Haugen, it just seems to make sense. If baseball pitchers have coaches, football quarterbacks have coaches, movie actors have coaches, and even writers have coaches why shouldn't everyday folks have coaches?
Unless you play sports, chances are you haven't had a coach since you were a child. But a new profession is developing to provide support, training and tools to help people grow in their personal, work, social and spiritual lives. Haugen is part of a new breed of personal helper. Part friend, part motivator, and part consultant who works with managers, entrepreneurs and just folks to help them define and clarify their goals.
Haugen said that just as coaching in sports or the arts isn't psychotherapy, it isn't in the business and personal world either. Haugen said some of the techniques may be close, but coaching is more skills-based, much more of a personal partnership to help people deal with their problems and go beyond the ordinary to achieve their best.
"I first got interested in the field about a year and a half ago when I wanted to make a change career-wise, but I didn't want to end up in just another bureaucracy. I didn't want to take on other people's burdens in the workplace, and end up on a double-edged sword," Haugen said.
"I enjoy working with people, and coaching seemed to offer a way to be part teacher, mentor and overall support person to help people move from where they are, to where they want to be. Since most people are too close to their problem or situation and don't have a clear view of where they are, I serve as an outside external voice to help them redirect or redesign their future."
"Just as in other professions, my role is helping people become more successful, kind of like sports coaches who help the athlete build on their strengths. Just as in the sports world, coaches help plan for whatever situations they may be going to face," she said.
Haugen said coaches do not pretend to be professional counselors for people with genuine emotional or other personal problems. She said people seeking out coaches are doing so for reasons entirely different from their need for a professional counselor.
Haugen says that coaching has emerged because of the transient nature of today's society, and the work pressures of the high-tech age in which we live. "In this day and age people frequently move away from life long family and friends, the people who provided the personal support system for us to deal with our daily problems."
"Others say coaching is a response to more competition in the workplace. Companies have been hiring in-house motivators for years to help employees improve their performance," she said.
Published: Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee
Daily Review, Monday, December 30, 1996, P3
With our news media constantly reporting random cruelties and senseless acts of violence, it is a relief to turn to the following article spotted on an American computer network. It originated in Glamour magazine (USA) and was monitored for the Institute by Chris Welch.
It's a crisp winter day in San Francisco. A woman in a red Honda, Christmas presents piled in the back, drives up to the Bay Bridge tollbooth. 'I'm paying for myself, and for the six cars behind me,' she says with a smile, handing over seven commuter tickets.
One after another, the next six drivers arrive at the tollbooth, dollars in hand, only to be told, 'Some lady up ahead already paid your fare. Have a nice day.'
The woman in the Honda, it turned out, had read something on an index card taped to a friend's refrigerator: 'Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.' The phrase seemed to leap out at her, and she copied it down.
Judy Foreman spotted the same phrase spray-painted on a warehouse wall a hundred miles from her home. When it stayed on her mind for days, she gave up and drove all the way back to copy it down. 'I thought it was incredibly beautiful,' she said, explaining why she's taken to writing it at the bottom of all her letters, 'like a message from above.'
Her husband Frank liked the phrase so much that he put it up on the wall for his seventh graders, one of whom was the daughter of a local columnist. The columnist put it in the paper, admitting that though she liked it, she didn't know where it came from or what it really meant.
Two days later, she heard from Anne Herbert. Tall, blonde and forty, Herbert lives in Marin, one of the country's ten richest counties, where she house-sits, takes odd jobs and gets by. It was in a Sausalito restaurant that Herbert jotted the phrase down on a paper place mat, after turning it around in her mind for days.
'That's wonderful!' a man sitting nearby said, and copied it down carefully on his own place mat.
'Here's the idea,' Herbert says. 'Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly.'
Her own fantasies include: breaking into depressing-looking schools to paint the classrooms; leaving hot meals on kitchen tables in the poor parts of town; slipping money into a proud old woman's purse.
'Kindness can build on itself as much violence can.'
Says Herbert, 'kindness can build on itself as much violence can.'
Now the phrase is spreading, on bumper stickers, on walls, at the bottom of letters and business cards. And as it spreads, so does a vision of guerrilla goodness.
'The phrase is spreading, on bumper stickers, on walls, at the bottom of letters and business cards. And as it spreads, so does a vision of guerrilla goodness
In Portland, Oregon, a man might plunk a coin into a stranger's meter just in time. In Patterson, New Jersey, a dozen people with pails and mops and tulip bulbs might descend on a rundown house and clean it from top to bottom while the frail elderly owners look on, dazed and smiling. In Chicago, a teenage boy may be shoveling off the driveway when the impulse strikes. What the hell, nobody's looking, he thinks, and shovels the neighbor’s driveway too.
It's positive anarchy, disorder, a sweet disturbance. A woman in Boston writes 'Merry Christmas!' to the tellers on the back of her checks. A man in St Louis, whose car has just been rear-ended by a young woman, waves her away, saying, 'It's a scratch. Don't worry.'
Senseless acts of beauty spread: a man plants daffodils along the roadway, his shirt billowing in the breeze from passing cars. In Seattle, a man appoints himself a one man vigilante sanitation service and roams the concrete hills collecting litter in a supermarket cart. In Atlanta, a man scrubs graffiti from a green park bench.
They say you can't smile without cheering yourself up a little - likewise, you can't commit a random act of kindness without feeling as if your own troubles have been lightened if only because the world has become a slightly better place.
"Like all revolutions, guerrilla goodness begins slowly, with a single act'
And you can't be a recipient without feeling a shock, a pleasant jolt. If you were one of those rush-hour drivers who found your bridge fare paid, who knows what you might have been inspired to do for someone else later? Wave someone on in the intersection? Smile at a tired clerk? Or something larger, greater? Like all revolutions, guerrilla goodness begins slowly, with a single act. Let it be yours.
Anne Herbert, PO Box 5408, Mill Valley, California 94942, USA.
Conari, the publishers of an anthology of Random Acts of Kindness, organized a National Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th, 1995. The US Congress also declared the week of February 12th Random Acts of Kindness Week. It is understood that there are plans to repeat the exercise.
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