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Do random acts of kindness make a difference? On the whole, the answer is yes. The BBC quoted Kelsey Gryniewicz, a director at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation: “It’s not just about single acts, though,” she says. “It’s about changing your mentality from day to day.” [read the entire article here]

The BBC cites the World Giving Index of the Charities Aid Foundation, which issues an annual report that measures charitable donations, volunteering and helping a stranger, worldwide. It’s interesting to see how this varies across the globe. The U.S. is #5, by the way. Australia is #1, but that country suffered horrendous floods that year. Typically, natural disasters increase charitable impulses.

The lone dissenter on the benefits of kindness is Barbara Oakley, author of “Pathological Altruism,” who told the BBC, “”There’s a misguided view that empathy is a universal solvent. Helping others is often about your own narcissism. What you think people need is often not actually what they need.” I have the book on hold from the library (its Kindle price of $42.89 would not be very kind to my wallet.)

How do you make sure that your acts of kindness are altruistic rather than narcissistic? What tips do you have for figuring out what people really need from you?

Etymology moment: I looked up altruism in the OED and discovered that the word was invented by French sociologist Auguste Comte, from Italian altrui , meaning “somebody else.”

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