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News for the Santa Monica College Community
  April 01, 2013

Rosalyn Kahn and Random Acts of Kindness

Q-&-A With Rosayln Kahn

This semester, you started assigning your students to do a “Random Act of Kindness” and to write about what they did. Why did you do this?

In his book, "Pursuit of passion, profits and purpose," Tony Hsieh discusses his own Random Act of Kindness in a grocery store by paying the bill of the person behind him. The next time he goes to the store the cashier remembers him and is so inspired by his generosity that he decides to start a movement.

I decided with all the violence in the world spread by the media, one feels almost insulated or nothing from the continuing stories of people dying all over the world. I wanted to encourage my students to try and see the world in a different light. I teach public speaking and saw it as a way to get students to overlook their fear and just simply tell their stories. 

What have been the results of this exercise?

The results have far surpassed my expectations. I really didn't think I would continue after the first assignment but the students were so excited to share their stories. The rest of the class was focused on hearing every last detail. The immediate effect was a true sense of calm and peace among my students.

One random act then inspired others to do the same. It took people who were not normally accustomed to doing things for others to begin to do these things. Once they did they found a great sense of inner pride. This created a willingness to continue the process.  

You are writing a book on “Random Acts of Kindness” and also giving talks on the subject. Tell us about this.

I have implemented the project with all the classes I teach, including my inner-city public speaking students at Royball High School in downtown Los Angeles and my international students at L.A. City College. I began collecting the students’ stories and once I reached 50, I knew had the making of a book.

A month ago I started talking to a Kiwanis Club member at a San Fernando restaurant and told him of my project. He invited me to speak at one of his meetings, which turned out to be an excellent venue. I look forward to giving more talks on this subject.

Also, a North San Fernando Valley newspaper is planning to do a series of articles on this project and some of the students involved in it.

An excerpt from Kahn’s student Melissa Hinojoza’s “Random Act of Kindness:”

Today, as I was driving back from work at noon I saw a teenaged girl fly off of her bike. No one had stopped to help her. I pulled up right next to her and got out of my car. I asked if she was ok, but she seemed afraid to answer. I told her I was only trying to help. She said she was fine but that her arm was hurting. Her elbow was scraped and her arm really hurt. I helped her move out of the middle of the road, called her mother and offered to take her somewhere but she said she’d wait for her mom. So I waited until her mother arrived. They both thanked me and her mom even offered me $20 for helping her daughter out. I, of course, did not take the money because I had done it out of generosity, not out of interest.

As I was driving home I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that I had been somewhat stressed over this assignment. Every time I did something kind I felt like I was being too aware of it and it wasn’t really coming from a humble place in me, but after this happened I realized I had truly just done a “random act of kindness.”




Rosalyn Kahn

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