A few weeks ago I spent a day in King’s Lynn where I didn’t shop or go to see a film, but instead dropped books in random places for people to find and keep.
I did this because I had a few copies of the same book which I didn’t need, and because I thought it might be fun to see if anyone picked them up. I’d included my contact details inside, hoping someone would let me know they found one, but I didn’t expect to actually see people pick them up.
The plan had been to drop and go, but as I moved away from the Captain Vancouver statue outside the Custom House where I’d left the first book, several groups of people wandered through.
First came two women walking a dog, then an elderly man, and lastly two little girls with a man who I assumed was their father.
The first two barely stopped to look at the book before moving on, but the latter stayed around for ten minutes or so, flicking through the pages, turning it over in their hands and scratching their heads.
They seemed to be confused as to why a book would randomly be at the feet of Captain Vancouver.
I had decided to stick around for a few minutes to see if anyone would take it, and was stealthily perched on the wall by the river. They left it. I didn’t mind – if it didn’t look like their kind of book then someone else would discover it eventually – but something I noticed about the wave of people who had stopped to look before wandering on was that they all looked suspicious of the book.
I’d done it as a random act of kindness, but it ended up being a bit of a social experiment. I feel like our society has become completely unaccustomed to random acts of kindness.
A couple of days ago I watched a video where a group of American teenagers were handing out flowers to people outside the grocery store on Valentine’s Day.
Some of the recipients beamed and one cried with happiness, but most quickly looked away, totally ignoring them.
In this day and age where you never know if a cameraman could pop up out of nowhere along with a presenter saying, “You’ve been pranked for our TV show!” it’s almost understandable that everyone’s on their guard all the time. I just wish that didn’t have to be the case.
After dropping more books along the Green Quay, outside the library and at the hospital (I had also planned to leave one at the bowling alley, but I was too busy losing the game) I made my way back to the Captain Vancouver statue.
The first book had gone. I’d never done a book drop before, but I’d like to do it again when the weather’s a bit better, and maybe if more people did random acts of kindness every now and again it would become normal and less suspicious to other people.
This week, why don’t you do a random act of kindness for someone? If you see me in town, for example, I wouldn’t mind a cookie – preferably chocolate chip. Now there’s a suggestion…