Thursday, August 6, 1998

The Random Acts of Foolishness Fribble
by Selena Maranjian

How many of you have heard of a quiet little movement called "Random Acts of Kindness"? You may have seen bumper stickers urging people to "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty." Intrigued, you might have searched the Web and stumbled onto some of the many websites supporting it, and might have discovered a book that's fueling the fire, Random Acts of Kindness, published by Conari Press. These random acts have been defined as: "Those little sweet or grand lovely things we do for no reason except that, momentarily, the best of our humanity has sprung, exquisitely, into full bloom."

What does this have to do with Foolishness and you? Is it all so treacly that you feel a cavity developing in one of your molars? Trust me, there's a point to this. Just keep reading. These random acts are sometimes very random indeed, such as when someone stops at a tollbooth and not only pays his toll but also the toll for the driver behind him, a stranger. Other times the acts might seem random to the recipient of the kindness, but they're not. Here are a few inspiring examples:

"I was a teenage refugee in Vienna, in December after the 1956 Hungarian revolution. I was traveling on a crowded streetcar. My knitted gloves were outgrown, and had holes at the fingertips, but I wore them carefully folded over, so the holes would not show. At a stop, a woman pushed her way through the crowd to get off. As she passed me at the door, she thrust her leather gloves into my hands, along with a 20 shilling note inside them. She was gone before I could return them, or even say thank you. Those were the most expensive gloves I ever owned. I have paid thousands of dollars ever since then, to various charities, trying to pay for them. I have passed similar favours on to strangers, in hopes that kindness might be contagious." (Someone in Toronto)

"To enable random acts through the year I've asked several friends if I may keep their children while they go out on their anniversary. So I've got two scheduled and 10 months to go." (Someone in Albuquerque, NM)

"I regularly have breakfast at a local cafe, which is in an area of town that's undergoing renovation, but is still an area where homeless men tend to gather. One morning I saw a man sit down to eat in the furthest corner who looked like he was wearing his only set of clothes and hadn't eaten in a long time. As I was leaving, I quietly told the cashier I was paying for his meal and did so. She brightened and said 'Oh! A Random Act of Kindness!' I left quietly with a wonderful feeling of being able to do this one small thing." (Someone in Rocklin, CA)

"When we go to the State Fair, I buy extra ride tickets. I then seek out a family of four or more children and then hand the tickets over to them. The excitement on the children's faces is worth the few extra dollars." (Someone in Raleigh, NC)

Now that you have the idea, I'll go on to make my bold suggestion. Let us launch a new little movement today -- let's begin trying to practice "Random Acts of Foolishness."

Imagine the effect of this. You know how wonderful it is to begin learning about investing and how exciting it is to start taking control of your financial future. You've experienced sounder sleep at night, knowing that you've bought stocks that are likely to outperform most Wall Street professionals. You have a calmer countenance now that you're much more likely to have a comfortable retirement than you were a year ago. But how about everyone else? Think about your relatives near and far. Your colleagues at work. Your circle of friends from school, from past jobs, from church, from dog-walking groups, from pick-up basketball games, from quilting bees. How many of them are Fools?

If you have teenagers (or heck -- clever pre-teens will do, as well), sit them down in front of the computer and have them explore our new area for kids that teaches them all about how money grows.

If you have an Aunt Ida in Dothan, Alabama, who invests in the stock market, urge her to read her local paper, the Eagle, where the Fool has a weekly syndicated newspaper feature. If you have some cousins in Walnut Creek, California, who don't have a computer but need to learn about investing, tell them to open their Contra Costa Times. (We're in some 140 other papers, too -- here's a full list.)

If your local paper doesn't carry the Fool, consider giving the editor a jingle and telling him or her that you'd like to see them run our feature. Also -- for those of you who do read us in your paper, if you can, please send me a note telling me which paper you read us in and what day the feature runs -- we're trying to collect this information.

If a buddy of yours has been down-sized (or right-sized, or disemployed, or between-job-ized -- whatever euphemism is in style today), introduce him to our Ask the Headhunter area -- it's been widely acclaimed as an incredibly rich and helpful area. (I'll second such kudos, as it helped me land a pretty cool job, too.)

If your parents are a little nervous about investing on their own, invite them to our new Investment Clubs area, where we explain how to form your own club or join an existing one. Investment clubs are amazing ways to learn and profit as you socialize. You can learn with and from others and not have to make decisions entirely on your own. Small communities of investors -- how Foolish.

If you have a colleague at work who's really into technical analysis, studying charts of price movements and all, print out and hand him a copy of an article like the "Rats" piece in an old Evening News. If your colleague is always jumping and buying shares of the latest hot stock, with lackluster results, give her a copy of this Fribble on Tulipmania. If she's reluctant to invest in mutual funds, let her read "Dear Dad." Perhaps scribble on the top of the printout that there's more stuff like this at

[Whoops -- I've just been approached by TMF Law, who's wearing a look of great concern. He points out that we're not authorizing wholesale wanton printing and duplication, but rather a single copy here and there that can be passed from one person to another. He also adds that you could even give your loved (or liked) ones a book -- there are three exceptional Fool books, of course, but FoolMart offers scores of other very helpful volumes.]

You don't even have to surprise a friend or loved one with Foolishness -- surprise a stranger! Leave an article you read in Fooldom and really liked on the seat next to you on the train to work or in a doctor's waiting room. Consider adding a note to your e-mail signature recommending the Fool -- you never know who will end up taking you up on that recommendation -- it might change their life.

Am I overdosing on Fool promotion here? Are those sirens I hear getting closer, as professionals in white jackets prepare to whisk me off to the nearest hospital for my own good? Is my family nervously hoping the deprogrammer will be able to return me home safely from the clutches of Fooldom? Nah.

It's true that I've done a bit of hawking here. But it comes from the heart. I've worked for other companies where I wouldn't have engaged in such promotion. But at Fool HQ we all really believe in what we're doing. It's important stuff. We aim to help as many people as possible take control of their financial futures and improve their lives. That's why we're trying to get the word out any way we can -- online, in books, on occasional TV appearances, in newspapers, in magazines, and so on. Perhaps one day we'll be using a Foolyear blimp and carrier pigeons.

We hope that we've made at least a small difference in your life and we invite you to practice "Random Acts of Foolishness" so that you might be able to make a difference in the lives of others. Welcome to the revolution.

Fool on!

(This Fribble first appeared as a Fool Portfolio report on 3/31/98)

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