ARK Philosophy

I’ve always been a strong supporter of the ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) philosophy. I can’t remember when I became active in practicing it, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t do it.

See the car flashing its lights and making a hand movement to indicate to go ahead and pull out in front of me when traffic is especially heavy? That would be me. See that person who, upon approaching the door to a public place, opens the door and stands aside so the person exiting can do so before entering? That would be me. See the person who sees stray shopping carts left askew in a store parking lot and gathers a few of them to return to the store on the way in? Yep, that would be me, too.

Now, before you think I’m taunting my niceness to get a pat on the back of some kind, let me tell you why I do it. Yes, there is something to be said for giving our fellow man a hand when it takes little from us to do so. But, in equal portions, I feel joy inside for doing something nice for someone else with no thought of repayment. I’ve done some things much more “out of my way” – an example is the time I saw someone walking home (which turned out to be over a mile away) in a misty rain carrying two plastic bags of groceries, whereupon I pulled up and got the person in my car and took them the rest of the way home and, when offered a couple of dollars for gas, my response, without thought was, “You can repay me by paying it forward.”

I believe in the idea that what you give out comes back to you ten-fold. I believe that these small, seemingly insignificant gestures in the general scheme of my life have no cost in giving them. I also believe that there is the possibility that something I’ve done to assist someone else may have an impact on their day without my ever knowing it.

When I get a wave, a nod, hear the words “thank you”, sure, it makes me feel even better, knowing that what I’ve done has been appreciated by the recipient. But, even without the acknowledgement, I will continue on with the same actions because I like how they make me feel for doing them. Ironically, it’s become such a way of life for me that it’s almost awkward for me to be the recipient of an act of random kindness. This is something I’ve had to learn to accept as graciously as I can, reminding myself that others also practice the ARK philosophy and I mustn’t stand in their way of doing so. Maybe it’s just that old adage that “it is better to give than to receive”?

Do you practice the ARK philosophy? What are some of your common gestures in doing so? And how does it make YOU feel?

4 thoughts on “ARK Philosophy

  1. This one really made me think. I can see some of the same behaviors in myself, but I would not say I fully prescribe to the larger ARK philosophy. There are certainly opportunities to apply that philosophy that I miss through lack of empathy or simply a lack of focus. It is not the consistent application of a philosophy that provides greater awareness or a better ability to recognize the opportunities to apply the philosophy in my own life. Sometimes, I just do something nice. Like you, I do not do it for the recognition or applause. And, also like you, it always feels good to put others first. I, too, would prefer the recipients of my kindness pay it forward in lieu of any friendly gesture or verbalized thanks. But that is not within our control. A random act of kindness is like tossing a pebble in the pool. You know it will create ripples, but you have no way of knowing where the ripples will go or what they may influence along the way. You just throw the pebble and let nature take its course.

    I do believe in karma, so the philosophical idea that what we do and say returns to us is not lost on me. But, I think, that neither of us would say that is WHY we do it. And, I cannot say it is based on an adopted philosophy. For me, I believe this behavior is a reflection of how the people in my life, the examples I looked up to and tried to emulate, acted in their own lives. I was taught to be kind and considerate, not because you want to avoid some religious retribution or blindly follow some golden rule, but because you can. And more importantly, because you should. And, you have always been the best example of that kind of caring and connection to the world around you.

    But, recently while holding the door for a customer to a local diner, the elderly woman thanked me saying “You are such a thoughtful young man” (she may have been flirting a little too, as I am not that young). My immediate response was, “My mother would roll over in her grave if she knew I didn’t”. I have to believe the good I do, as rare as it may happen, happens because that was the way I was raised. Good or bad, our parents set the minimums for our acceptable behavior long before we could discuss philosophies. Our own lives have reinforced the desire to act this way. And although kindness is not a given in human nature, it has become a part of our nature. Me for one reason, you for another. But the path, in this case, is less important than the destination.

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  2. I’ve stood outside the diner with you enough times to know that it is, by instinct, that you reach for the door when you see someone preparing to enter. Male, female, old, young, etc. Our world is so divided by politics these days that my cynicism allows me to paint a picture of another 9/11 event and wonder of those loyalists of a party would ask someone which party they supported before deciding whether or not to provide assistance.

    I know of a time when you did something of great kindness and later, when I shared with you what a difference that kindness made, you shrugged it off with the response of “it was the right thing to do”. But whatever your motivation, whether it was intentional, unintentional, because of the way you were raised doesn’t matter to me – what matters to me is the kindness of your gesture and the support it offered me at the time.

    I know you to be a very kind and caring person not only to me, but with others in my life. The Wentlings, for example, think the world of you, and that’s because of your actions, no reflection on me in any way. So just keep being who you are and you will be practicing the ARK philosophy!

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