Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Random Acts

Brian McLane had read with fascination about the random-acts-of-kindness movement that had spread across the nation. For absolutely no reason, people were doing nice things for strangers. According to these stories, committing random acts of kindness made them feel good about themselves. Brian McLane was not a happy person, so he decided to try it: One night, for example, he was in a bar and he bought a drink for a complete stranger, a woman he had never seen before. But within in a few minutes, she left alone. A few days later a store cashier gave him too much change, and rather than risk embarrassing her in front of the store manager, he kept the money. In a restaurant the woman sitting behind him left her pocketbook hanging wide open on the back of her chair and he didn't take her wallet.

But none of these things made him feel better about himself. Deep inside, he still felt angry and alienated. He still yelled at his family and friends for no reason. One day, though, as he walked down a New York street, he suddenly felt a strong urge to kick over a garbage pail. With one strong kick he sent it careening down the block. And as he watched the garbage being strewn all over the sidewalk, he felt a wave of satisfaction flow through his entire body. For the first time in months, he felt good about himself. In fact, he felt strong and powerful.

Brian McLane had committed his very first random act of hostility.

The next day, as he strolled down the same New York street, for absolutely no reason he snapped in half the antennas on five different cars! And doing so without taking credit made him feel wonderful. A few hours later he knocked over a pile of newspapers in front of a candy store, and the warm glow he felt as he watched the wind blow papers all over the street convinced him he'd discovered something quite special. And this was the beginning of the random-acts-of-hostility movement.

Once Brian McLane discovered how good being bad made him feel, he couldn't stop. On trains he would forcibly squeeze into a space between two people that was much too small, then play his radio as loud as possible. In movie theaters he would shout out the identity of the killer in the middle of the film. In restaurants he'd spill drinks on people, and he just loved calling up strangers in the middle of the night. These random acts made him feel like a different person. Even his family and friends noticed the difference in him. He had become so nice they wondered what was wrong. Eventually, Brian McLane shared the secret of his happiness. Initially many people objected. It wasn't nice, they pointed out.

That was exactly the point, Brian McLane said. Reluctantly, people tried it. At first it was difficult; most people had spent so long following the laws they had forgotten how to be bad. But it quickly came back. And after their first few random acts of hostility, many people found themselves enjoying a sensation they hadn't experienced in years; they were free to be bad! And it felt just great. The simple act of kicking over a garbage pail was the most liberating thing many people had experienced in years. It changed their lives, giving them an outlet for all their frustrations, making them happier with themselves and easier to be with at home and at work.

Brian McLane hadn't set out to the change the world when committed that first simple random act of hostility. But from that small piece of garbage, his movement has spread across the world!

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