When I was clocking in 14- to 16-hour work days, I always, always looked forward to holidays. While I could call in sick or schedule a leave, it’s not the same as having a holiday. When you take a sick day or a vacation, your colleagues are working, and so is your boss, so the chances of getting a call is high. Then there’s the mountain of emails that await your reply and action when you return to work.
But on a holiday, where everyone would more or less have to take a break, life slows down and you can draw in a lungful of air and just exhale.
Philippines marks about 20 or so non-working holidays in a year, and that’s better than the 14 they have in Singapore or the 11 celebrated in Vietnam. But I can’t help but envy Thailand with 26 days of break, and of course Malaysia with its 50 holidays!
So to amuse myself, I peppered my calendar with “fun” holidays, from Word Nerd Day to Opposite Day to National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. There are also “feel good” holidays like Make Your Dreams Come True Day, and today’s Random Act of Kindness Day.
I can’t tell you when this movement started but I embraced it only 5 years ago. I was thinking then that I will do this to help others, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that it helped me too, maybe even more than the ones who were in the receiving end of my random acts.
The first year I decided to celebrate it, I kept it simple and brought an extra reusable bag with me while doing my grocery run. At the checkout, I offered my extra bag to the lady behind me. She was clearly shocked, and did not know what to do. She was hesitant to take it, and I could see in her eyes her doubts and suspicion. I assured her the bag is clean and was in fact never used. She could use it, or leave it at the counter for another shopper to use. And then I left.
She did not say thank you, and I admit my action and her reaction made me feel foolish. I realized that springing generous acts on strangers will not always be welcome. And then I put myself in her shoes and grasped that I would likely have had the same response. I did a little better the following year and the year after that, so much so that I became bolder to do not just one but several acts when February 17 rolls around, and even on other days of the year.
Slowly, these acts restored my faith in humanity – mine and in others. We can choose to look at things in different ways. It’s easier to get upset with people who cut line in queues or those who eat in fast food dining areas and leave a mess behind.
Or you could turn it around and be grateful that you can afford to wait because you’re not in a hurry, and clean as you go not just when you eat out but also in a park or in a library.
My column’s title – Paying It Forward – actually draws inspiration from this holiday too. And you can say one of my random acts for today is to invite you to join the movement and pick one or more from ideas below so we can make this world a kinder place, one random act at a time.
#1 Leave a generous tip for restaurant waitstaff (some are paid less than the minimum wage and are on their feet for hours).
#2 Share your parking space (if you have a parking spot at work or at home and it will be available, share it with someone who needs it. In Makati and BGC, the cost of a full-day parking can be more than a good meal or a day’s wage).
#3 Donate to spark joy in others (not really a Marie Kondo fan but if you cleaned out your closets and have set aside items that no longer spark joy for you, find them a new owner and home and save the planet too).
#4 Sign an online petition so your voice will be heard (you may be too busy to go out and join a protest or write a letter to your congressman or senator to share your views so this is a snap-in-a-finger way to make your views count. You can start with a petition for ABSCBN’s bid for franchise and public service extension).
#5 Compliment a stranger (I’m too timid to do this but I’ve been planning to catch a frazzled parent with a baby and say something nice about them like how they great they are in caring for their child...because I wish someone had done this to me).
#6 Prepare meals for beggars (you can find them in many street corners and they will never say no to a sandwich or a packed meal, even leftovers from guests leaving restaurants).
#7 Empty your pockets of loose change (some will tell you not to give coins to vagrants as it will encourage them to continue living on the streets or that they are part of a syndicate out to scam us. But I say if it makes a difference whether they eat or not for that day, let my coins help make that happen).
#8 Start a piggy bank for a cause (how about to send a child to school or help with medical expenses for cancer-stricken patients or to send relief care packages).
#9 How about a judgement free day? (while it can be easier to blame others when something goes wrong, or to feel better by putting someone down…don’t).
#10 Write a positive note (can be a text message, a post on someone’s Facebook page or Instagram feed, liking a tweet, or something like what I wrote, my first random act of kindness for today).
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.