SXSW Goers Become a Light in the Darkness Through Acts of Routine Kindness | Shalom Austin

SXSW Goers Become a Light in the Darkness Through Acts of Routine Kindness

The Jewish Outlook

May 18, 2022

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone and Chana Lightstone of Tech Tribe at SXSW 

By Allison Teegardin 

On Sunday, March 13, 2022, at the Austin Marriott Downtown, approximately 20 people joined in a small conference room for a SXSW Meetup titled, Acts of Routine Kindness. Participants were seated in a circle as they discussed how to change the world with just one simple, kind act each day. The Meetup was hosted by Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, founder of New York based Tech Tribe, an affiliate of Chabad Young Professionals which brings together a community of young Jewish professionals in the tech and digital industry, and his wife, Chana, Head of Operations at Tech Tribe. 

In the spirit of technology, which is the buzz at SXSW, the conversation opened with examples of how technology has simplified and automated the act of monetary giving online, vastly increasing reach and impact. The conversation then shifted to physical acts, such as placing a coin in a box or volunteering time. The key to getting into a habit of automated physical acts of giving and kindness is having something in plain sight to signal the act. This was where the little yellow ARK came in. 

The ARK, which stands for Acts of Routine Kindness, is a type of tzedakah box where someone puts in money and donates it once the box is full. Rabbi Lightstone says the ARK was inspired by the teachings of the Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who is considered the most influential rabbi in modern history. Each day, the act of putting even just a penny in the ARK alters one’s mindset and starts the kindness chain reaction. Beyond giving money, the group discussed non-monetary ways to give to others every day.  

After two years of social distancing, one man extended his hand to fellow joggers on the trail and gave them a high five as they ran past each other. Someone sat and listened to another person in need. One man held the door open for another. A woman simply smiled at someone walking by as if to say, “I see you.”  

The goal of the exercise was to show the ripple effect kindness can have and that anyone can do it. As Chana said, “Every person has a deficit or needs help with something, and others have the gifts and ability to help them.” As many people tend to overthink giving and acts of kindness, the hosts emphasized that everyone has something to give, and no act of kindness is ever too small.  

As the hour ended, the question of whether kindness is an act, a character trait, or both was left open for each person to individually consider and answer. In his parting remarks, once again bringing it all back to tech, Rabbi Lightstone said, “An algorithm is only as good as the data that is in it. If your body is an algorithm, the quality of your life is a direct result of what you put in it, from food to thoughts.”  

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