Twelve San Antonio women eventually agreed to interview about six years of random acts of kindness. They made the decision, hoping others would do the same.
SAN ANTONIO – A courteous but curious email chain. A few phone calls. The members-only lunch at the Giraud Club gave twelve San Antonio women time to interview the reporter who would be interviewing them.
“We don’t want to be recognized. We really don’t want recognition,” said Barbara Gentry. “We just want to do good things, do nice things, and inspire others to do the same.”
Gentry is one of three women who strategically selected members of a group called “Random Acts of Kindness.” Karen Presley and the late Lorenda Collier Wright are the other two. The other members do not want to be identified.
“We wanted to make sure that first of all, everyone had a passion for service and care; that was the base,” said Gentry. “But we wanted a group that we thought would work well together and be cohesive.”
The model was borrowed from a friend. But women quickly made decisions about how things should go.
For example, their private meetings are usually held at a member’s home. No fancy food allowed. It is a zone of non-judgment where brotherhood and the cause reign supreme.
“The twelve of us see each other as kindness sisters,” said Gentry.
Each July, women choose a month in which to perform acts of kindness. This is the basis, not the limit.
$ 300 starts the monthly “pot of kindness”. Actions are not limited to this amount, and group courtesies should not be about money.
“It’s really mind-driven like that,” Presley said. “All of a sudden, God is just going to reveal something, or someone is just going to feel like I have to go in that direction.”
Actions are as anonymous as women can do them. Even though the members are known to secretly hang out to watch the reactions.
They leave a business card with a print on both sides as a mark of kindness. One side reads, “Love your neighbor.”
The other side, “Never believe that a few good people can’t change the world, you can do it one act at a time.”
Most of the women worked for the USAA or had senior military husbands. While they can find examples of service from both, kindness is a way of life.
“I guarantee you; I’m the one at the end of the day who received the greatest blessing from any act I’ve ever done or thought of doing,” Presley said. “I’m just overwhelmed by the returning goodness.”
Their acts of kindness are filed in a brown filing cabinet. So far, they have six years of reports and images documenting their actions.
Presley remembers going to an emergency room waiting room to hand out gift cards so families could get a free meal. The group helped the victims of the fires who lost everything. They helped the children with glasses and hearing aids. The duty called on them to buy clothes for the homeless and the elderly that could be offloaded with paper scrubs to wear around the house.
“People who are overlooked or who you don’t always stop to talk to,” Presley said.
The maids gave gift cards to the maids who clean the rooms of the roadside motels. They also distributed gift bags to San Antonio Police and VIA Transit bus drivers.
“You have a lot of similar spam,” said Cara Pitts. “But something about this one, I was like, let me answer.”
Pitts and her husband, Marcus, opened Southern Roots Vegan Bakery in 2019. The company is an online business recreating southern plant-based classics.
They received an email from the women of random acts of kindness. The women wanted to donate $ 500 to cook treats for healthcare workers in hospitals.
“We matched their donation and then we ended up being able to provide treats for the entire Baptist Hospital,” Pitts said. “It was over 1,200 employees. We wanted to make sure that every staff member on every shift received, you know, a certain kindness.”
This act kept the Pitts connected to the women who became frequent customers.
The spirit of kindness goes a long way, said therapist Kimberly VanBuren.
“We say nice so easily,” she said. “It’s such a widely used word that it’s almost trite, but a lot of people don’t know what kindness is, and they haven’t experienced it.”
VanBuren, who practices family and marriage therapy, faces his share of conflict. She sees the family and community system the same way.
“So recognizing that we’re all a system. So that family is the mic. But then we look to our community. It’s our neighborhood, isn’t it,” VanBuren said. “This is our country, all of these things. But we are all connected. And so you have to look at things from other people’s point of view.”
The political and racial conflicts of recent years have dominated news cycles and social media feeds, areas where kindness seems lacking.
“Usually the conflict is that we think so much about ourselves,” she said. “And we want what we want. We want it now. And so, being kind is a way to solve that.”
VanBuren said kindness is something to be practiced on purpose. It is a concept that has not escaped the women of Random Acts.
“I don’t think you can be included without kindness,” Presley said. “And I don’t think you can have kindness without inclusion. I think they’re absolutely inseparable.”
For women who come together for a purpose, divisive topics are disappointing.
“It’s just not important,” Gentry said. “We have more important things to do than to care about. We have to take care of. We have to be kind to go out and do. And we have an example to set for others, can we do it.”