I can't recall when I first came across the phrase, but it was on a postcard that had the full sentence - 'Practice random kindness and acts of senseless beauty'. I liked it because of the play on words - so often we hear of random violence and act of senseless cruelty. There is a lot to be said for both parts of the sentence - beauty doesn't always make sense but can greatly enrich lives, lifting the spirit, providing comfort and inspiration. Equally, an act of kindness when least expected can create a lasting memory and change the way we perceive our relationship with those around us; the world isn't always such an uncaring, isolating place.
Yesterday at British Quakers' Yearly Meeting Gathering I attended a short session introducing the two teaching materials that have just been published by QPSW, Conviction and Conscience . As part of the session, we were given a taster exercise, using one of the case-studies in the materials, in this case focusing on the life and action of Emily Hobhouse. We were asked to reflect on her qualities - what was it in her remarkable work that drove her and can inspire us still? On the one hand she had come across by chance serious issues that needed a loving and humanitarian response, whilst on the other became very organised and strategic in working for the change that was needed, making herself hugely unpopular in so doing.
So yes, random acts of kindness are good, but at times a more organised and planned effort is desperately needed to create real change. At its best, this organised work is still seasoned with the small practical loving gestures that remind us of our common humanity and of the beauty of the world we are striving to make a better place for all who live in it.