Random Acts of Kindess: a Lesson from Hollwood?

A while ago I wrote a blog about random acts of kindess. I’d kind of forgotton all about it, until I watched the movie “Evan Almighty” recently. One message of the film is about changing the world, one random act of kindness at a time.

Hearing Morgan Freeman say those words got me thinking: how does this idea play into my daily work life? Yes, I know I am trying to walk the walk and all in my personal/all-around life, but what about in the office?

The next day I received an email that gave me the answer. I kid you not, it was from a member of the public and said, “OMG! You are my new hero!” Now, just what warranted that kind of accolade? Nothing. That’s right, nothing. All I did was my job.

I’m not saying that anything I did should qualify as an act of kindness but….let’s take a look from this public’s view. He needed his outfitter/guide permit renewed, his livelihood depended on it. He is used to the Forest Service’s draconican processes and geologic timescale. So when I ended up processing his permit in less than 24 hours (with no inconvenience to myself or other work priorities), he was elated. Absolutely thrilled.

And really, this took no effort on my part. In my mind, “I’m just doing my job.” When I received the aforementioned heroic commentary, of course I enjoyed it but I also thought about how “just doing my job” made someone else so happy. And then I felt the twinkle of a blog post…..

Each of us possesses a different outlook on our jobs. Most of the time I just feel like I push paper around and help people jump our bureaucratic loops. But receiving a comment like this reminds me how much more it can me. It means a lot to people when we help them jump those hoops, when we help them navigate the dark halls of government requirements.

I thought about this and wondered, what makes the difference? Why do I receive such comments every now and then — just enough to be called “regularly” — while other coworkers receive none? It’s not that I’m such a stellar employee…..It’s just that I don’t act like the “bureaucrat” people are used to. I actually care about people’s needs, and take the “serving the people” part of the mission statement seriously.

I am absolutely not trying to toot my horn. I am just saying that by caring about these people’s needs and helping them — ie, DOING MY JOB — they can feel so happy, so pleased. Like I did something above and beyond.

A random act of kindness? No, just my job as a public servant. The moral of the story is that our actions can have a bigger effect on the public we serve than we realize. Maybe we, as gov’t employees, can change the world.

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It’s great to hear feedback directly from the public. Often we forget how many people’s lives depend on your action. Like an immigrant waiting to hear on whether they can stay in the country. A business person waiting to do your business. A great post.

Paulette Neal-Allen

I’m thinking about this post – this one citizen who is now happier with his government, at least for the time being – as compared to the blog post that I saw a couple of days ago that I can’t find now. In the previous post, and I’m sorry that I don’t remember who it was by, they were quoting an article that said the vast majority of citizens don’t trust the government to do a good job. If each and every one of us who is a public servant would remember what you did, GeekChick, and just do our best every day to serve the public, I bet that the next time someone asks about whether or not the government can be trusted to do their jobs the results would be a lot different!

Good for you, and for everyone else that does what you do but doesn’t get kudos for it!


I remember the post you’re referring to…..and it’s true: the public doesn’t trust the gov’t, and for good reason. And I think that’s the real underlying reason people get so thrilled by my just doing my job. Their expectations are so low, their past experiences are with bureaucratic do-nothing employees, and so forth. So when the gov’t actually comes through for them, they are ecstatic. The kudos feel good to hear, but there’s always a touch of bittersweet because of this.

This post has flowed naturally in my brain to another post…..So stay tuned for next week’s related topic!