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Latest Random Act

Wall's Latest Random Act a Collection of More Heartwarming Tales

The Bakersfield Californian
August, 29 2000

Bakersfield College professor Chuck Wall, who gained widespread notoriety for his “random acts of senseless kindness” appeal for generosity and civility, is about to release his second book on the subject.

With the help of co-author Kimberly Walton, Wall has written, compiled and edited “Selling Lemonade for Free,” a second collection of letters and essays on individual, from-the-heart (and frequently spur-of-the-moment) kindnesses.

The book gets its title from a 47-word story written by a 10-year-old girl who, along with a young fiend, opened a lemonade stand one day. An overheated woman walked by, and apparently she looked like she needed a cool drink. The woman didn’t have the required 50 cents, but the two young entrepreneurs decided not to allow that detail to get in the way. Their gesture made the girls feel so good they started giving away lemonade to anyone and everyone.

Most of the stories in “Lemonade” describe more complicated situations, but none better convey the key to the “kindness” phenomenon: It just feels nice to be nice.

“Lemonade” further advances the theme of Wall’s 1996 book, “The Kindness Collection,” by delving a bit deeper into a supplementary premise: Kindness is contagious. Do someone a favor and they might be inclined to help someone else down the road, according to the theory.

Wall’s personal calling, which germinated seven years ago as an assignment for students in his Human Relations business class, has world-changing implications.

Charles Osgood thought so. He liked “random acts of senseless kindness” enough to feature Wall on his “Osgood Files” for CBS Radio. Oprah Winfrey liked it, too, as did People magazine and television evangelist Robert Schuller. Talk show host Leeza Gibbons was so fond of the concept she adopted it for her program, “Leeza.” Gibbons credited herself with the idea, a fact that irritated some of Wall’s students. But Mr. Kindness, in his gentle, Chuck-Wall sort of way, told them to shut up and celebrate the fact that the word was spreading.

And so it is, aided in no small way by other kindness advocates in other parts of the world promoting respect and decency in much the same way as the 59-year-old professor.

Wall, in fact, does not claim to have created the slogan “random acts of senseless kindness,” although he alone gets credit for morphing it into this more specific directive: “Today, I will commit one random act of senseless kindness…Will you?” An Australian Web site, the RAoK Project, credits San Francisco journalist Anne Herbert, who is said to have coined the basic phrase in 1982. Wall says the concept has probably been around for several decades.

The point is that the idea finds new champions. Walton, a 39-year-old Bakersfield College student, is an excellent example. She ran out of gas one summer day in 1982, and a man and his wife stopped to help. Two months later, at a police officer’s suggestion she decided to take her children and flee from an abusive husband. Unfamiliar with the highways much beyond her small Kansas town, she stopped at a moving-and-storage company to see if she might be able to shadow a westbound driver. Out walked the man who had come to her aid two months earlier. He and his wife helped Walton and her children to California.

Something clicked with Walton when she took two classes from Wall at BC this past spring. Wall needed an editor and Walton, a motivational speaker, was ripe for a worthy cause. Having been touched by the sort of kindness Wall extols, she signed on.

They spent many hours sorting through submissions (using far fewer than 20 percent, by Walton’s estimate), editing and organizing. Thanks to some financial help form State Farm Insurance Cos., it all comes together in the next week or so.

“Selling Lemonade for Free” (Central Printing, 144 pages, $8.95) has about 80 brief stories and kindness “tools.”  It is available in Russo's Books in Bakersfield as well as in the Kindness Store at www.kindnessinc.org.

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