Most of us see poverty or marginalized people, and think, “Oh that’s so sad.” Or, “There is just so much of it, what can I do?” Some of us donate to various charities, and, at a stretch, we might give money to a homeless person on the street. That’s not what Shyamalatha Devi of Hyderabad, Telangana, India does.
Since 2017, Shyamalatha has taken on a personal challenge to do at least one random act of kindness (RAK) for one disadvantaged person every day for the month of December. She calls it her RAKChallenge.
My #RAKChallenge , Season-3 begins today.
This #challenge is about doing one #RandomActOfKindness every day during December.
Saw these kids nearby a local store. Explained them NOT TO step out, #WearMasks , wash their hands and bought whatever the snacks that they wished to buy pic.twitter.com/jP2qONohUE
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 1, 2020
Every year Shyamalatha becomes Hyderabad’s Fairy Godmother. She sprinkles kindness all over her community: in schools, orphanages, slums, senior centres, on the bus, in the streets, and even in her own apartment building.
My ritual of gifting a #plant to a neighbor goes to Jyothi this year along with a note telling how awesome she is😊
There must be someone who you think is nice/ cool/ awesome. Would you to tell them that today?#RandomActsOfKindness #BeKind #Compliment pic.twitter.com/FkQuKv0DL4
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 10, 2020
Shyamalatha’s favourite thing about the RAKChallenge is how many coincidences she experiences. “There are so many surprises! I plan something, but it doesn’t work out, but then something happens that is just meant to be.”
For the last few years, Shyamalatha has made a point of visiting a particular family living in a slum. This year, armed with a big bag of vegetables, she found their place was locked. As she was turning to leave, Shyamalatha saw a mother holding her baby, the cute little boy waving his hand, trying to get her attention. They were just stepping out to buy groceries. “I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Shyamalatha smiles.
Bought vegetables as many verities as I can to give them to a family that's in my mind. This cute boy caught my attention waving his hand and smiling. Surprisingly they were stepping out to buy veggies and boom! the bag goes to them 🙂#RandomActsOfKindness pic.twitter.com/MbE5EVBNpe
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 4, 2020
But Shyamalatha really does plan. For a whole month, she gathers supplies: books, tupperware, containers, school supplies, stickers, makeup, purses, plants, clothes, food, and anything else she can get for people (and even animals!) in her community. She plans out 40 or 50 acts of kindness to make sure she has enough for the whole month, as she usually does more than one act of kindness a day. She also plans her days around doing acts of kindness between meetings and work.
Gave Pens, pencils, scales, notebooks, crayons and all the stationary items to Tejaswini, a 9th standard student/ our watchman’s daughter with a request to take whatever needs and distribute the rest to others.#RandomActsOfKindness #BeKind #Stationary pic.twitter.com/suCCR6OFeh
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 17, 2020
Shyamalatha loves seeing people react to the gifts she brings. This year, she encouraged her friends and family to donate gently used sarees to give to women in nearby huts. After washing and ironing, Shyamalatha tried for several days to deliver the sarees but couldn’t quite catch them, “These women leave for work before 6 am and return late at night.” Finally, she was able to give the sarees to their new owners. “People are so surprised, they say ‘This stuff really happens?’”
“I want to reach out to every kind of person,” Shyamalatha says. That’s why she seeks out garbage collectors, sanitation staff, students, the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, people living in huts or slums, construction workers, and people who identify as third-gender. “I want everyone to feel a little hopeful,” Shyamalatha says.
#RAKChallenge , Day-11
Humor seems to be a hack to face the world and the bitterness against these humans. I apologized them for being rejected as humans and getting discriminated for being who they are. Gave them some money for their breakfast#RandomActsOfKindness #ThirdGender pic.twitter.com/HpIuG4QfYJ
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 11, 2020
One of the most important things for Shyamalatha is getting to know the people she helps. “I don’t just want to drop something off and leave,” she explains. She says she gets far more from the people she helps than the other way around. “When I have personal problems, helping people is the thing that motivates me.”
Shyamalatha’s advice for anyone who is wanting to take on a personal RAKChallenge? “It’s easy. All you have to do is bring some positivity with you throughout the day!” Shyamalatha promises you will receive much more than you give.
Maybe you’re not ready to go quite as far as Shyamalatha Devi. That’s okay. It doesn’t take much to become a Fairy Godparent of your city.
Bringing a few small items in your bag that you can give away (especially snacks!), taking the time to smile at strangers, and saying hello to people will go a long way towards spreading kindness where you live.
#RAKChallenge Day -5
Met these lovely women who are cheerfully sweeping all the garbage that we throw on the streets irresponsibly. Thanked them and gave the bananas which packed separately for each one of them. #BeKind #GHMC @GHMCOnline #RandomActOfKindness #garbage #sweepers pic.twitter.com/yqObMyswN2
— Shyamalatha Devi (@shyamalathadevi) December 5, 2020
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