My Turn: A Good Time for Kindness

  • By Larri Irene Spengler
  • Friday, January 20, 2017 9:50am
  • Opinion

Some time ago, the snow was mounded everywhere, deep and wet. As I gazed from my window, contemplating shoveling, I saw a neighbor plowing out the nextdoor driveway and mailbox — and then chug over to our mailbox, and plow it out as well. Such a welcome and unrequested act of thoughtfulness, of kindness: it lifted my spirits!

Working these past few months with handful of good-hearted and energetic Juneau residents on the steering committee for Juneau’s Year of Kindness (sponsored by the Juneau Police Department) has also lifted my spirits.

The past year was hard in a variety of ways — personally, politically, economically — for so many people. It is thus welcomely life-affirming to be part of a movement aimed at treating others with kindness, at recognizing the basic connection we all have to each other as fellow human beings.

The word “kindness” is related to the word “kin,” which is the people to whom we are related, and we are pretty much connected to everyone else in one way or another. “The very word kindness comes from the cognate word, kinned, that is, one of the same kin … acknowledging and reminding us of the fact that all men are brethren — all of the same blood — and therefore they should all act as brethren.” (C.W. Bowes,

The goal of the Year of Kindness: to have each Juneau resident do (at least) one kind act each day, and (at least) once each week have the kind act be directed at someone of a different race, religion, culture, age group, socio-economic background, etc. This is aimed at communication and interaction, not spending money. Individual kindnesses could be as simple as letting someone in to traffic or giving someone a deserved compliment, or could be picking up litter, shoveling a neighbor’s path, or stopping to talk to an acquaintance who seems upset.

A website is being developed for Juneau’s Year of Kindness with the help of a national organization, Random Acts. Meanwhile, you can keep up with Juneau’s kindness acts and events by following the Juneau Police Department’s Facebook page.

Kindness is a goal that surely everyone can support. The diversity of collaborating groups demonstrates that so charmingly: a boxing club, a book club, the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, neighborhood associations, high school clubs, churches, a veterinary clinic, and more.

Thus, paralleling the ongoing kindnesses by individuals, each partnering group will sign up for a specific week in 2017 during which the group will do something it comes up with that expresses kindness. There are no pre-set guidelines for these weeks — it will be up to participating groups to decide what, where, and how. You ask about and sign up for available weeks by e-mailing

It appears that no entire community has ever tried this before, and Juneau is well positioned to attempt it. Our town may not be an absolutely perfect place to live (though it is pretty close), but one of the qualities already strongly present here is caring, which is so akin to kindness. So this year, let’s listen to each other, welcome one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt, pay attention to what could help ease the way or brighten the day for our neighbors — let’s be kind to one another.

Doing this won’t dispel healthy differences of opinion on a variety of matters, but it will ensure that even our disagreements are couched in civility. Thus, we can provide a bit of example and hope to the rest of our state, our country and our world.

As cartoonist Scott Adams reminds us, “there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Which is a very encouraging thought.

• Larri Irene Spengler grew up in Delta Junction, Alaska, has lived in Juneau since 1983, and in Thane since 1989. She is on the steering committee for Juneau’s Year of Kindness (2017), which committee can be reached by e-mailing

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