Act of Kindness Philosophy

I am assigning the final a bit early so you have more time to work on it. Our final project will lie in my favorite branch of Philosophy, in Ethics. It is, at base, the way we live moment to moment. It reveals our character in a most telling and intimate manner, and lies at the foundation of who we are. I am asking you to take on a project in applied ethics – how it plays out in the day to day.

I had the good fortune to have a student tell me the following story. He was quite humble and matter of fact about it, not in any way boastful. He said that he and his girlfriend bought $40 worth of treats and usable items and created a beautiful gift basket. Then they meandered around town until they found a random person in apparent need to gift it to. He felt so good about doing this simple, but profound, thing in the midst of the holiday season. I was blown away by his account. Particularly his simple telling of it, and of the surprising joy he received in return for this gifting of a stranger.

My personal core ethical belief is that all that matters in human life, is kindness. The rest is detail, or superfluous.

Your final assignment is to do something really, wondrously kind. It can’t be for someone you know or are related to. It can’t be a donation to an organization. It can’t be volunteering for an organization you already have engagement with. It has to take courage and significant effort on your part. It need not require spending a penny. It may be finding a homeless animal, taking he or she in, and finding a good home for her or him. It may be mentoring a youngster that is in dire need of support. It may be cleaning up a natural area in town that has been trashed.

One student, who is a hairstylist, brought several of his fellow hairstylists to a homeless shelter and did hair, played music, and gifted the people with an afternoon of joy. He said they all had a great time, dancing, acting up, making people’s hair look great. Another student began by offering food to a homeless man. The man said he didn’t need food, he needed a job. My student asked him about his job skills and found he had some experience in welding, which is what he himself did. He told the man that he would take him to meet his boss. But first, he bought the man some simple clothes, brought him home, had him take a shower and shave and dress in clean clothes. When they went to meet the employer, he not only hired the man, but also told him he needed someone to watch the warehouse at night and would he like to sleep there? So, from my amazing student’s initial contact and willingness to go out of his way to be kind, this man now has a job and a safe and dry place to sleep at night.

The sky is the limit. What beautiful gifts do you have that can be shared and will make a profound impact, even (and especially) if the thought of doing so scares you silly? We all have so many talents, skills, heartfelt ways of being in the world that can benefit so many.

Document your act of kindness with photos and a detailed narrative. Submit both the paper and photo files in BB by the deadline, which is Sunday, August 16, the last day of our class. The written portion of your paper should be at least 3 pages long and tell the story of your experience. Why did you choose this particular act of kindness? What did you learn about yourself and your own ethics as a result? Did your personal philosophical world view play into your choice of project? Did any aspect of this experience surprise you? How can you apply your own ethical code more fully to your life going forward?

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