Vital Signs

Calculated Acts of Goodness

How could this be? In a Catholic school? Here? This is what they're teaching our kids? I stopped, transfixed.

I had parked my car and sauntered into the Catholic middle school in search of my son. I was about to turn down the hall that led to his math class when I was struck by one of the big posters that lined the wall. I stared—no, glared—at the offending display.

There, in vivid orange, was the admonition to "Practice Random Acts of Kindness."

My first response was to consider a random act of my own. But that would be vandalism, not the kind of lesson I hope to impart to the rising generation. If I were going to fight, I'd have to do it with words.

The movement to practice random acts of kindness began as a message scrawled on a placemat. Then, in 1993, there was a book entitled (what else?) Random Acts of Kindness—sort of an everybody-gets-to-write-something kind of publication. Then came the popularization of the phrase.

What mass appeal! Ann Landers espouses it; bumper stickers on thousands of cars promote it; I've even seen a big billboard that trumpets the philosophy. And here it was on the wall at my son's school, right next to "Jesus loves us." But I'm having none of it.

In the first place, those who suggest this practice cannot know what they're asking. I suppose that most are guilty of nothing more than...

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