Student club infuses kindness into campus and community culture

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Random Acts of Kindness at UCLA offers free hugs on Bruin Walk several times a year. Passersby can order any one of a dozen varieties.
Random Acts of Kindness at UCLA offers free hugs on Bruin Walk several times a year. Passersby can order any one of a dozen varieties.
How many UCLA students does it take to give a hug?
 
It seems the answer lies in what kind of hug it is.
 
A cinnamon roll hug could require up to a half a dozen people or more. “You all hold hands, stand in a row and wrap around that one person who is positioned in the center of the roll,” explained Megan Weber, a fourth-year chemical engineering student and co-president of Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) at UCLA.
 
But other varieties, like the “bear hug,” the “long, uncomfortable hug,” the “just friends hug,” the “long lost lovers on a beach hug” and even the “you’re drowning, but I’m here to save you hug” can be accomplished with just one other person.
 
Each kind of hug on RAK’s “hug bar" menu is offered by student members once or twice a quarter to anyone on Bruin Walk or in Bruin Plaza. On these occasions, passersby can order up any of these free hugs.
 
RAK’s aim is to do nothing more than to bring smiles and happiness to UCLA and the surrounding community by performing frequent and small gestures of kindness. Founded in 2011, RAK is one of the more than 1,000 student clubs operating through UCLA’s Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement office.
 
“I love seeing people smile,” said Eric Kang, a third-year psychobiology student and co-president of RAK, who joined the group as a freshman. “Naturally I’m just a positive person, and just the idea that a small little act can have such an impact is amazing.”
 
Megan Weber, center, co-president of Random Acts of Kindness at UCLA, helps hand out free cookies on Bruin Walk.
Megan Weber, center, co-president of Random Acts of Kindness at UCLA, helps hand out free cookies on Bruin Walk.
From Feb. 11– 16, RAK at UCLA will be demonstrating courtesy, goodwill and benevolence as part of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation's International Random Acts of Kindness Week.
 
The idea is simple, organizers explained. Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. It could be something as basic as holding a door or elevator open to let someone in, treating someone to a cup of coffee, complimenting someone’s appearance or style, or simply offering help to anyone in need, said Kang. “Often, the simplest random acts of kindness are the ones that can make the biggest difference,” he said.
 
If you need more suggestions, go to RAK’s website.
 
“It’s very satisfying and rewarding to see other people smile as they walk by or tell you, ‘This made my day,’” said Weber. “It makes me feel good too."
 
Throughout the academic year, Weber and Kang, along with other RAK members, are spreading positivity by cheering on Bruin Walk each week, handing out notes with uplifting messages, reminding people to have a good day, wishing fellow students good luck on exams, sending cards and notes with positive messages to librarians during exam weeks, and making posters and signs for staff working in the dining halls to thank them for all their hard work.
 
And the goodwill doesn’t stop there.
 
The group also organizes a quarterly blood drive for the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center and participates in the annual Dance Marathon and Relay for Life, and in the Academic Affairs Commission's quarterly Stress-Free Days.
 
In addition, members spread kindness off campus by playing with and providing snacks for children at the Salvation Army Westwood Transitional Village, which serves homeless families. They also visit residents at Westwood Horizons, an independent and assisted-living home for senior citizens.
 
“The residents love them,” said Lucy Ramos, activities director at Westwood Horizons. “Some of our residents don’t have immediate family or anybody who visits. Having these kids come by is like having grandkids. It makes their day. It’s so hard to express in words.”
 
Group members enjoy performing acts of random kindness in the community, including stopping by Westwood Horizons to enjoy a Valentines Day party with residents.
Students enjoy performing acts of random kindness in the community, including stopping by Westwood Horizons to participate in a Valentine's Day party with residents.
On Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., RAK will be handing out Valentines with kind messages, along with stealthily “RAK-attacking” people by pinning pink and white clothespins on their clothing or backpack. Each clothespin will have words of encouragement or a kind message written on it.
 
RAK will also have a typewriter set up at the bottom of Bruin Walk for people to type love letters or notes of gratitude to those they care about. Letter writers will be given a tiny bottle of glitter to either keep for themselves or give as a gift.
 
“It’s almost like a bottle of love,” said Kang.
 
When the week is over, Kang and Weber hope that kindness will continue to flow at UCLA not just through their group, but through individuals from all areas of campus.
 
“Bring a little kindness into the workplace, make a stranger’s day on your way to class, or reconnect with friends and family,” said Kang. “These acts might seem small to you at first, but the impact it can have on another person could be immeasurable. From my experience, I have come to realize that kindness is a universal language. … It can be communicated from one person to another through words or actions. It can be shared and learned and eventually become a more integrated part of culture.” 
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