Random Acts of Love from the Animal Kingdom

This month I’ve blogged about random acts of love and kindness. Too often it feels as if the world has become colder, harder, less kind. As February draws to a close, let’s look at how the animal kingdom performs random acts of love and kindness.

Acts of love from the animal kingdom include this dog allowing a cat on his back to drink from the fridge's water dispenser

Empathy

All month I’ve been asking you to perform random acts of love and kindness but perhaps you’re perplexed by this. Why should you love your fellow man? 

Empathy is …

… the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Empathy helps you make a partnership with your spouse. It tugs at your heartstrings when your child skins their knee. When your neighbor’s wife dies, empathy inspires you to take the widower a casserole. Empathy is part of 98% of all human beings. Yet, acting on empathy for a stranger takes…

I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.

Maya Angelou

courage. Acting on empathy for someone not-like-ourselves takes courage. We can learn that courage from animals who make interspecies friendships.

Image of a lioness, a bear, and a tiger nuzzling one another
Interspecies Friendship at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary
Image of a hen nesting over puppies
Hen that thinks it’s a dog.

Image of giraffe nuzzling heads with an ostrich
Bea the Giraffe and Wilma the Ostrich from Bored Panda, Image credits: PA

We often see images of different species of animals acting with kindness toward one another. If the animals can do it across species and against instincts, shouldn’t we be able to? 

Types of Empathy

Psychologists have identified three types of empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.

Cognitive Empathy is the ability to understand another’s perspective or emotional state. If you have cognitive empathy, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Emotional Empathy also called Personal Distress is the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental or emotional state. Babies cry when they hear another baby cry. You get scared when watching or reading a frightening scene. If you have a pet, you may remember a time when your dog or cat comforted you during a sad time.

Compassionate Empathy, also called Empathetic Concern, goes beyond understanding or responding with an appropriate emotion. It moves us to act, to help. Like Cholli the German Shepherd helped these cubs.

Image of german shepherd nursing cougar cubs
German shepherd foster mom raises cougar cubs in Russian zoo

Compassion

Showing compassion with a random act of love and kindness doesn’t mean you agree with the other’s religion or philosophy or politics. It means you can put yourself into someone else’s shoes, ‘feel their pain,’ and attempt to relieve it if only for a moment.

Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. 

Arthur Schopenhauer

I would rephrase Schopenhauer’s words a bit. 

Any person who is cruel to another person cannot be a good person.

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions. 

The Honorable George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States

Going Forward

Let’s all practice empathy every day. Show it through random acts of love and kindness. If you haven’t yet, read the other post about Random Acts of Love: Random Acts of Love, Inspirational Random Acts of Love, and Random Acts of Love May Save Your Country. An act as simple as holding the door for someone can turn a bad day around.

Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them. 

Elvis Presley

The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.

Charles Darwin

Take a clue from the animal kingdom. Find opportunities to perform random acts of love and kindness. You’ll help someone who may need it desperately. And you’ll reap rewards that will last you a lifetime.

Random Acts of Love May Save Your Country

In the United States of America, the news (print and electronic) says our country is in trouble. We’ve become so terribly, angrily divided by politics. Memes and click-bait stories scream inflammatory headlines. The computer and mobile phone cushion us from consequences. We say things out of anger and frustration or fear without thinking about the legacy those words leave behind. Random acts of love may be our only hope.

Those inflammatory headlines and the anger, frustration, and fear I’ve witnessed in the past few years inspired me to make this month’s theme Random Acts of Love. Read the first post, Random Acts of Love and then the second one, Inspirational Random Acts of Love.

I don’t know what your political persuasion is. And frankly, I don’t care. I care about you and about this country as both exist outside of politics. So when I read Dr. Karlyn Borysenko’s post on Medium, After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Aren’t Ready for 2020 , I knew I had to include it today. The lesson she learned is one I’ve been trying to practice and promote. Most people are good-hearted folk. They might disagree about politics or gender or religion but disagreeing with your position on those topics does not make them evil. Read the following selection of random acts and tell me what political beliefs these people have. Tell me what genders they support or what religion they follow.

So Simple A Child Can Do It

image of a row of shopping carts symbolic of the random act of love by this child

I was at Aldi (a supermarket in river head) and to get a shopping cart you have to put a quarter to reliece the cart. so when we were done shopping we loded the car and my dad told me to go put the cart back. and there was an old lady wit a cane going shopping. She needed a cart. so as she was about to put the quarter in I said ”here take my cart.” I gave it to her and she gave me a warm hug. I sprinted back to the car and buckeld up. —Kindness Stories.  

He Needed the Exercise

Leaving a store, I returned to my car only to find that I’d locked my keys and cell phone inside. A teenager riding his bike saw me kick a tire and say a few choice words.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

I explained my situation. “But even if I could call my wife,” I said, “she can’t bring me her car key, since this is our only car.”

He handed me his cell phone. “Call your wife and tell her I’m coming to get her key.”

“That’s seven miles round trip.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

An hour later, he returned with the key. I offered him some money, but he refused.

“Let’s just say I needed the exercise,” he said.

Then, like a cowboy in the movies, he rode off into the sunset.—Clarence W. Stephens, Nicholasville, Kentucky

Remembered with a Rose

a rose being handed to someone is another random act of love and kindness in this story

Seth Stewart of Spokane, Washington has spent the last eight years remembering the local widows, single women, and military spouses on Valentine’s Day. He and his brothers deliver a single rose to every one of those spouses on Valentine’s Day. He keeps a record of all the people’s names he has delivered roses to and each year asks his community on Facebook to help him identify additional people who need a remembrance on the holiday.

Hope, Love, and Kindness

From the child who gave his grocery cart away, to the barbers who give homeless men haircuts, to a dry cleaners offering to clean the clothes of any unemployed person going to a job interview, to women crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless, good-hearted people fill every corner of the world. They do random acts of kindness without regard to political, racial, or religious leanings. These random acts of love give one hope for our country and the world.

I hope my posts about random acts of love have inspired you. We express kindness and love for one another in the words we choose, the interactions we have, and the actions we take. It’s only through kindness and love for another that we can bridge generational gaps, gender gaps, and even political gaps. What random act of love and kindness touched your life?

Inspirational Random Acts of Love

Inspirational random acts of love are often an act of selflessness too. It’s sad that we need this kind of inspiration. Unfortunately, in the hustle-and-bustle of our daily routines it’s easy to get caught up in our own needs. Fortunately, there are people who perform small acts of love and kindness that inspire us to pay it forward.

Image of a red heart outline with the words Inspirational Random Acts of Love inside the heart.

This is the second of this month’s exploration of Random acts of Love (read the first one here.)

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

William Wordsworth

The Beginning

According to Wikipedia, the phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982

Today, if you do an internet search for “random acts of kindness” you’ll find dozens of articles identifying inspirational random acts of love for one’s fellow man. One such article, 10 Acts of Kindness by Strangers Around the World, appears on the National Geographic website. The article tells of a traveler touring the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. When her car broke down, many locals stopped to help. In Australia, a toy gifted to a boy came with a catch—that the boy pay it forward with an act of kindness to someone else. 

image of toy turtle

On the website Little Things, 25 Random Acts of Kindness includes a story about the employees who repaired a veteran’s wheelchair when it broke in the hardware store.

image of three hardware store employees fixing a broken wheelchair in the middle of the aisle.
image from LittleThings.com

Personal Experience

Recently, exhausted after helping my handicapped husband in and out of the car for four back-to-back appointments I struggled to keep going. Too tired to think about cooking a healthy meal, we went to a favorite restaurant. When we returned to the car, I helped my husband into the passenger seat and folded his wheelchair to put in the back of my Suzuki Aerio. I could barely lift the chair. A gentleman standing outside the restaurant talking with his friends came over and said, “Let me help.” He hoisted the wheelchair easily into my car. “Thank you,” I said. “You’re very kind.” And off I drove. But his act of kindness, of love for his fellow human being—me, will stay in my heart forever.

A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.

John Ruskin

What it Takes

All it takes is a little thought. It doesn’t have to cost money. Open a door for someone. If someone is wearing something that catches your eye, give that person a compliment. It takes so little to brighten someone else’s day. In performing small acts of love and kindness, you’ll feel brighter and want to do it again. And—you’ll inspire someone to pay it forward with their own random acts of love.

Why Take Part in Random Acts of Love 

When I pontificate, it sounds so, you know, Oh, well, she’s preaching. I’m not preaching, but I think maybe I learned it from my animal friends. Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself. I think that keeps you feeling young. I really do.

Betty White

If anyone knows how to feel young despite her age, it’s Betty White. I agree with her, it keeps you feeling young. And it almost always puts a smile on your face.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our time in this world is limited. Why not enrich your life by being kind to someone else? Your inspirational random act of love and kindness can be contagious. What random act of love have you received or performed? What’s your plan to continue doing random acts of love and kindness?

Random Acts of Love

February is the month of love. Romantic love is what most people think about. Romance is important. Connecting with the special relationships in your life requires a life of small acts of love and romance. But what about the other people around you? This month I will explore what others call Random Acts of Kindness, what I call Random Acts of Love. 

image is a looking at the end cuts of a stack of wood with one large heart-shaped log surrounded by small white logs--we're in this together, lets do random acts of love this month

We’re all in this world together. Sometimes stacked close like the logs above. You don’t have to agree with or have romantic or sexual love to perform a Random Act of Love. A short exchange. A small gift or a small gesture can make a huge difference in a life you know nothing about. 

Love For the Homeless

Image of a homeless woman sitting with her cart of stuff--she needs a random act of love

It’s winter in the northern hemisphere. The homeless have it tough. It doesn’t matter what their circumstances are—why they are homeless. The harsh conditions of living on the streets can break a person’s spirit quickly. 

Next time you see a homeless person give them a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or a hot sandwich. Or give them a pair of warm gloves or a scarf. (They can use blankets and hot meals, too, please provide them with that if you’re able. But this is about small, random acts of love for your neighbor.)

Love for Your Next-Door Neighbor

One of my neighbors makes candies. Only she and her husband live in their home so instead of eating it all, she makes little boxes of candy and gifts them to her neighbors. You might bake cookies or breads. (Avoid nuts and you’ll avoid most allergies—regardless, the act is kindness and love.) If you’re more athletic, you could shovel a driveway or a walkway. What would you appreciate someone doing for you? There’s your next act of neighborly love.

Love for a Random Stranger

This one’s a little tougher because we are more suspicious these days. But you can open a door for someone (regardless of gender). You could gift a candy bar or a gift card for a single drink or snack at your favorite coffee shop or fast food place. Paying for the next person in line’s purchase at the lunch line is a nice option, too.

image of pink butterfly with it's flight in pink dashes that form a heart-a random act of love

There’s so much stress and worry and conflict in the world don’t you want to leave a smile on someone’s face? Make February the Month of Random Acts of Love. Won’t you give it a shot? Try one of each of these acts of loves this week. This month love your neighbor. Love everyone. If you only “love” that person for the few moments of your exchange, it will improve that person’s day and yours. Try it. See how it makes you feel.