Random acts of kindness urged by Berkeley editor


The next time you go to the movies, editor Will Glennon has a suggestion for you.

Buy a box of candy, take a piece and pass it down the row. Watch the surprised expressions as people encounter this random act of kindness.

"It's very simple, and it feels great," says Mr. Glennon in a telephone interview from his home in Berkeley, Calif.

Mr. Glennon's suggestion is one of many that appear in the book "Random Acts of Kindness" published by the editors of Conari Press in Berkeley. It costs $8.95 in paperback.

"We wanted to inspire people to be people, to return to humanity, compassion and community," he says.

Mr. Glennon traced the book's genesis to a phrase coined by a California woman. About two years ago, Ann Herbert saw graffiti that read: "Random acts of Violence." She wrote her own version: "Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."

The phrase received media attention and soon had a "cult following" in the Bay Area, Mr. Glennon says.

Instead of having an open house for a new office building, the Conari editors had a random acts of kindness party last June. Guests told stories of kind deeds that had touched their lives via a microphone or typed them on word processors.

"It was almost magical," Mr. Glennon says. "The impact it was having on people was extraordinary. People were crying."

The book was written to re-create what happened that night, Mr. Glennon says. "Random Acts of Kindness" was published on Valentine's Day. About 150,000 copies have been sold.

The book contains short stories about acts of kindness that people have given or received: The person who gave a quarter to a little boy who stood wistfully in front of an arcade, the $100 tip for a $20 meal given to a struggling waitress, a man who ran to deliver a missing plane ticket to a stranger moments before time to board the plane, and a stranger who dialed a wrong number, thought the voice on the answering machine sounded sad, and left a 20-minute message of comfort.

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