Random Acts of Kindness
clearly trivial to quantitatively material
Though we are not keen to admit it, as accountants we love to complain as much as anyone else.
The aircon is too hot, the aircon is too cold, nobody notices me, I wish people would stop noticing me, I can’t wait to be done with this audit so I can get back to the office, I can’t wait to go on audit so I can get out of the office. These are some of the things we complain about every day.
But why do we like to complain so much? I daresay that it is fun. Being, or aspiring to be, a Chartered Accountant is tough (though equally rewarding). Partners working after sunset and then getting up early the next morning again to ensure only the best quality work leaves the offices. Trainees stressed about time and budgets, while balancing studies and that wedding that just had to be this year!
Then you get to drive home in heavy traffic, with your windows turned up to avoid the people who badger you into buying stuff you do not need and the fifth guy approaching your car holding a placard telling you about his three-legged son, his fifteen dogs and his incurable disease. Sometimes, somewhere deep inside you, you just want to scream: “Get a job!”
Afterwards, when we get home, we complain a bit more to make us feel better about how we felt towards those people.
Newtons is an accounting firm based in Bloemfontein. At Newtons we have a collection of core values (or apples as we call them) that include not only the attributes all Chartered Accountants are required to have, but also a few other apples every Chartered Accountant should have. Amongst the latter are Humility, Respect and Fun. It is in that spirit that a first-year trainee, named Nico, suggested that Newtons embrace the Random Acts of Kindness movement. It seemed more interesting that complaining, so we went for it. That was way back in 2015. Since it has grown from an effort to give a hundred breads to hungry people on the street to donating water for drought-stricken areas. In between there was a visit to and fundraiser for the Sunflower Hospice and taking much needed supplies to an animal shelter. The basic concept is that a year group would do something “random” for charity. Once the year group has completed the challenge, they would show a video of what they did at the next office function. After showing the video and sharing their experiences, they would challenge another year group to do a Random Act of Kindness. At Newtons we started with the first-years, then the second-years, eventually went up to the managers and partners and are now doubling back to the new first-years.
Truth be told, Newtons (like many other accounting firms out there) has a long history of embracing charity (e.g. helping to clean up the neighbourhood and supporting Bandana Day). What makes Random Acts of Kindness unique is that, over time, it involves every person in the firm in a little bit of charity, instead of simply leaving it to the usual suspects. This is an effective way to spread the love. Newtons is just one of the firms doing this. Imagine what could happen if every firm across South Africa would embrace the concept.
Best of all is that when you are standing at that robot again, having accidentally forgotten your window open, desperately trying to push stuff out of your car that the street salesman is trying to push in while the guy with the three-legged kid is mumbling nonsense at you, you get a moment to smile. You get the moment because you know that, although you cannot fix everything, these people are in a way people just like you. They also have problems and are also just trying to make their way in the world. You are most probably not going to help one of them that day, but you did help another not much unlike them not too long before. If that theory about the Butterfly Effect is true, your small contribution to someone in need could improve the street salesman’s and the mumbling guy’s life as well someday. Clearly trivial, extrapolated across the population, can indeed become quantitatively material. And that is something worth smiling about.
For more information, please refer www.randomactsofkindness.org,
as well the blog section at www.newtons-sa.co.za for more information on projects undertaken by Newtons personnel
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