Posted on July 27, 2010
What’s in a kindness?
Over the past few weeks the Areyvut staff and interns have been compiling a list of new kindnesses and sources for the 2011 “A Kindness a Day” Calendar. It therefore seemed incongruous to receive a few e-mails throughout the day about today’s kindness. The kindness action suggested for July 27, 2010 was: “When staying at a hotel, ask the cleaning staff for extra toiletries. When you get some, donate them to a women’s shelter.”
As someone who has a large hand in the compilation of the calendar, I have to admit, I was surprised by the e-mails I received today, until I realized that those who e-mailed their concerns about this kindness and I were looking at it from two different perspectives. From what I understand, the recipients of the daily kindness e-mail seemed to think that in some way, today’s kindness was aimed at stealing goods from one person or institution and giving it to another.
Those of us at Areyvut had a uniquely different view of the situation. First and foremost, we would like to stress that we do not condone stealing, thievery or robbery of any kind. In fact, in the first part of the kindness, we indicate that you should ask the cleaning staff if it would be permissible for you to have additional toiletries. At no point did we suggest raiding the cleaning cart while the housekeeper was not looking or taking items from the cart against his or her will. To be sure, that is why we suggest that you speak with the housekeeper or chambermaid in the first place. If the member of the cleaning staff is amenable to your request (as we would imagine they had been asked it before…in fact, this kindness was suggested to us from a calendar user, a prominent educator, not an Areyvut staff member or intern), then wonderful. You have positively impacted the world and in effect, had the opportunity to include the cleaning staff as well as other hotel personnel (owner, manager, etc.) in a lovely and meaningful mitzvah.
Conversely if the cleaning staff is unable or unsure about whether or not they can accommodate this request for these goods, that is fine as well. Firstly, a housekeeper or chambermaid may have to take this request to their supervisor for approval. Perhaps, the requests for these items need to go up the ladder of hierarchy within the management, thus posing an even better opportunity for giving. While someone who may work at a low level within the industry may only have approval for nominal requests, as one inquires up the chain of command, there is the potential for a receiving organization to benefit more and more. We are in no way suggesting (or thinking) that a management level staff member would provide someone with enough toiletries or other goods to bankrupt the hotel, but perhaps they have the ability because of their higher status within the company to give items in a higher quantity. If that is the case, wonderful…look at all the people that were given the opportunity to partake in a kindness that will effect the lives of so many others!
We also understand that perhaps some companies cannot afford to be as charitable, or prefer to give to certain causes or at certain times throughout the year, etc. If nothing else, just the initial inquiry about whether or not the toiletries could be donated provides people with a greater understanding about needs in their community that they may otherwise not have been unaware of. Indeed, the mere initial inquiry can eventually effectuate change.