Sure, go ahead and report that pothole. But would it kill you to note an act of kindness, too?
The city of Arlington has made good-deed reporting much easier, updating its “Ask Arlington” app to put a “Report an Act of Kindness” option atop a list of complaint options — potholes, overgrown weeds, nuisance vehicles, parking in the yard and many others.
In fact, at the June 27 City Council meeting, Mayor Jeff Williams challenged Arlington’s nearly 400,000 residents to report at least that many acts of kindness in one year. And he challenged his council members to do same “by the end of the week.”
“You know kindness is catchy, isn’t it,” Williams said at the meeting. “And it’s something we want to continue to grow.”
Committing acts of kindness isn’t new. But cultivating that spirit in a broad campaign is more challenging, one that schools, churches, civic organizations and others say will foster goodwill.
But entire cities are now doing it. Williams cited ongoing efforts in Louisville, Ky.; Huntington, W.V., where people hung coats on light poles for anybody who needed one; and Anaheim, Calif., where Mayor Tom Tait was elected in 2010 on a platform of creating a “culture of kindness,” inspiring elementary school students to take on and complete a “million acts of kindness” challenge.
“Several mayors I know have undertaken initiatives,” Williams said in an interview. “I felt it was great timing for us. With this very divisive national election, I felt it was important to continue our culture of kindness and hospitality and elevate it to another level.”
What constitutes an act of kindness? Williams said he was at a park with his grandsons, and a woman and her sons walked up and offered them ice cream sandwiches.
“I thought, ‘Wow, what an act of kindness!’” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
A citywide kindness initiative has many contributing parts. On Monday, Arlington officials showcased a project by Dalworth Restoration to refresh red, white and blue paint on a faded patriotic mural dressing up a retaining wall in front of a home on East Mitchell.
The event kicked off the company’s own “Restoring Kindness” campaign, which will include volunteer deeds in July such as offering bottled water to strangers and delivering snacks to assisted living centers.
“Restoration companies always come in after the chaos, after the disaster, and clean up,” said Amanda Florez, marketing director for Dalworth Restoration, among several companies of Dalworth Group. “We wanted to do something before that happens.”
The kindness movement has spread like wildfire through the restoration industry since a quick video of random acts of kindness shot in DFW was shown at three recent conferences, Florez said. About 50 companies have signed up to adopt their own initiatives.
The city originally launched its app Jan. 10 as part of a five-year, $209,000 program to address simpler issues while easing the call volume on its Action Center hotline, which received 360,000 calls last year.
The updated app was a project of the Community Relations Commission, empaneled last fall by the City Council to come up with programs to “build positive relationships in Arlington” and to spotlight good deeds. The commission ultimately wants to develop partnership initiatives with the business and education communities, but the app was a good starting point, said commission Chairwoman Devan Allen.
“You can already report potholes and code compliance issues,” she said. “Obviously, while you’re reporting those things, you can report things that are working well, positive things.”
From its unveiling at the council meeting through Friday, more than 30 people reported doing or benefiting from acts of kindness. (One person, apparently by mistake, used it to report a neighbor “parking cars in their grass,” among other complaints.)
A sampling of kindness reports:
▪ A police officer said that an “unknown male” paid for his breakfast at a restaurant and told the waitress to tell him, “Thanks for your service.”
▪ A mother of three, who didn’t have the $45 it would take for her kids to ride the train at a fireworks festival, said a woman noticed and “went to her stroller and came back with enough cash for all three.”
▪ “Sweet family made room for my family on the grass to watch concert at the Levitt!”
▪ A mother said her daughter-in-law returned home excited from her trip to the grocery store, where the cashier told her the woman in front of her paid for her groceries.
▪ One reported simply, from a pizza restaurant, “Cleaning up after the celebration.”