RAKs

There is a group on Ravelry – actually, a number of groups – that are devoted to Random Acts of Kindness.

How do they work?  Each month many people post their wishlists of tangible items they would like.  Usually related to knitting, but not always.  Things like certain patterns, specific yarn, notions…or pens, postcards, ornaments…and just about any kind of thing that someone may need or want.   Sometimes there’s a story involved, sometimes not.  Group members read the lists and find what they can spare, or want to send…and send it off to the person who wished for it.  The group moderator has a list of addresses, or you can message the person directly to find where to send the RAK gift.    It’s not a swap, nothing is expected in return, it’s just an opportunity to fulfill someone’s wish and do a mitzvah.  It can be anonymous or not, that depends on what the giver wishes.  The forum provides a place to thank others, let people know what has been gifted already, and more. There is also a place to ask for non-tangible things, like good wishes and prayers, or blog visits/comments, internet votes, or to announce giveaways, destashes and the like.

I only recently joined this group, and this month was able to send some RAKs.  Some postcards to knitters’ kids who collect them,  a few patterns that some people wanted, some stitchmarkers, and other little gifts.  Can’t handle much more than that right now.  I posted my own list, and so far have received many patterns that were in my queue, from other RAKers all over the world.  I’ve also been told that some surprises are on their way to me.

In the big things in life, I have found that people are often there for others, with support or help.  But in the midst of an everyday world of me-me-me, of people with a sense of entitlement, of cynicism – this group is balm for the soul.  Each little RAK gift I receive from someone brightens my day just a little, and I love that something I sent brightens up someone else’s day.   It matters, and it lightens the heart.

I was brought up in a home where  giving was important.  We had a charity bank on a shelf.  My father would drop some spare change in every evening, and we would add coins to mark anything significant.  If I got a good grade on a test, my mother would say, “Quick, go put a coin in the bank…in your joy, you give.”  Rough times were also a time to add to the bank.  When the little bank was full, we would hold a family conference and decide together where to donate the money inside.  Usually we donated anonymously.  So giving is very much a part of how I was raised.

There are other organizations, websites, TV and radio shows, all  devoted to promoting random acts of kindness.  The phrase “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” may have been coined by peace activist Anne Herbert.   Herbert says she wrote it on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 or 1983.   In 1993 Conari Press released a book called Random Acts of Kindness and later published follow-up books including RAKs for kids.  Author Catherine Ryan Hyde is reported to have said that the RAK movement inspired her to write the book Pay It Forward, which in turn has sparked an entire Pay It Forward movement.

It’s not a new idea nor is it exclusive to Ravelry, of course.  But I love that there is a special place for RAKs connected with fiber.

Have you performed a random act of kindness today?

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