Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day in the US. In fact, the second full week of February is designated as Random Acts of Kindness week. It is celebrated on different days across the world. For example, it is celebrated on September 1 in New Zealand, and November 13 in many other countries. The phrase “random acts of kindness” comes from the longer, now famous, phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It was meant as an antonym to the common news phrases “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.” I do want to celebrate the notion, but I’ll add a small qualification or two.
First, I do not like designating ONE day (or one week) as the time to do good stuff, so that you can be a selfish jerk for the other 364. When I was married, my late wife and I NEVER did anything special on St Valentine’s Day. Our reasoning was that if you love someone you do loving things for that person whenever you feel like it. I have given chocolates, flowers, jewelry, to girlfriends on random days of the year because I feel like it. I do not need ONE day as permission to do it. I do think that the word “random” is important, however. The essence is to be kind to strangers, or to be kind for no reason. I like that. When Jesus said “love your enemies” he was making a somewhat similar point because he added, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5). If we are kind to people who are kind to us, there is no real merit to the kindness. If you are kind for absolutely no reason, you are doing something far greater. The world needs that sort of kindness.
Second, it is important not to practice random acts of kindness because you expect thanks. Some of the random acts of kindness discussed on websites are expressly anonymous so that the recipient cannot thank you because that person does not even know who you are. For example, in Naples there used to be a custom called caffè sospeso (literally “suspended coffee”) In the working-class cafés of Naples, when a person had experienced good luck he/she would pay for two coffees, but drink only one. The second payment was left until a person enquired later whether a sospeso was available. That means that if you were broke that day and could not afford to buy even a cup of coffee, you might benefit from the kindness of a stranger. I like it.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) was founded in 1995 in the US. It is a nonprofit headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Its website is: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
Anne Herbert, originator of the phrase, put out a book called Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty 1993 detailing true stories of acts of kindness.
Some special days are difficult for me to find recipes for. Searching the internet was not very helpful. Several sites suggested sharing your favorite recipe, but I have already shared numerous favorites. In looking around, though, I found a recipe for ground beef and rice that reminded me of a dish I concocted back in my student days when I was just learning how to cook. I do not remember how I hit upon it, but I used to make it all the time. I never measured anything, and I dumped in what I had most of the time, but here’s the basics.
© Tío Juan’s Ground Beef and Rice
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced.
½ lb ground beef
1 cup long grain rice
fresh parsley, chopped
Grease a heavy skillet lightly. Sauté the onion and pepper over medium heat until they soften. Add the ground beef and brown, stirring frequently.
Add the rice to the beef and vegetable mixture and stir to coat with oil. Add beef stock to cover and bring to a steady simmer. Add oregano and parsley to taste.
Keep a pot of stock simmering separately.
Continue simmering the beef and rice, and as the rice absorbs the stock add a little more from the spare pot.
After about 20 minutes, check the rice to see if it is cooked. You are trying to balance things so that when the rice is fully cooked the mixture does not have excess stock. By being vigilant you will know when to stop adding stock.
Serve hot from the skillet.
NOTES: You can add pretty much any vegetables you have on hand such as peas, tomatoes, green beans, or zucchini. When I was broke I always had something on hand to add for variety.