“Random Acts of Sneaky Kindness.” 

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This blog  post is dedicated to Mr. Jeff Locke, my grade 9 science and religion teacher, and a true inspiration.

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“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-4)

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When I was in grade 9, my religion teacher, Mr. Locke, challenged us during Lent to perform what he coined “Random Acts of Sneaky Kindness.” Every day, we were challenged to do one nice thing for another person, but to do it without looking for praise or acknowledgement, ideally without the recipient of the deed knowing at all.

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To be kind for the sake of being kind. It was a good lesson to learn, that you can make a world of difference without telling the world about the difference you have made; a lesson that I think is especially important today, in the age of the internet and social media.

We live in a society where social media has resulted in the idea that we are constantly living our lives in front of an audience. Memories that were once preserved in a family photo album or scrapbook are now publicly available on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Details that were once reserved for close family and friends are broadcast to “followers”, who could be anyone from family and relatives, to co-workers, to an acquaintance met through a friend.

In an earlier time, we documented memories and took pictures in order to preserve a moment in time. Now, more often than not, it just seems that they are for the sake of self-gratification and self-pity.

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Sally and Suzy went out to dinner at a new restaurant in town, and the food, enhanced by a photo filter and symmetrically placed by 2 wine glasses, was delicious. Rachel took a selfie in the library today because it’s Saturday and she’s studying; 60 people liked her post, 5 friends commented on how lovely she looks, and 5 more commented that all her hard work and weekend studying will pay off.

End of term for university always brings a mini-feed filled with “humble brags” of students that are “happy to announce” that they have, once again, managed to get a 4.0 GPA.

 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:16)

We are the hypocrites, announcing our every move with metaphorical trumpets, expecting praise and encouragement for every feat and an outpouring of sympathy for our trials and tribulations, as we disfigure our faces in front of our virtual audience. Being dependent on the opinions of others for happiness can lead to vanity and a deteriorating feeling of self-worth, a path that leads away from God and from meaningful relationships.

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So how would we move closer to God? By turning the time spent attempting to record life on social media into time building more loving and meaningful relationships. Instead of publicly posting a status to thank people on Facebook, send each person a card, or call them on the phone, to personally thank them and to let them know how much they are appreciated.

Take time to eat mindfully and give thanks for the delicious food in front of you and for the company that you are enjoying it with. Turn minutes scrolling into minutes for self-reflection.

Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not your own. (Philippians 2:3-4)

 The worth of one’s actions is not dependent on the number of witnesses, likes, or shares. Indeed, we could all benefit from being a little more sneaky.

Kathryn Bautista is an alumna of St. Bonaventure's College. She graduated from Memorial University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, then from the University of Toronto with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She practices as a physiotherapist in St. John's. She is a track and field athlete and coach, and plays trumpet at her church, St. Pius X.

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