Wednesday, August 30, 2006

RAK, Otherwise Known as Random Acts of Kindness

By Christina VanGinkel

Yes, this is about the world of hobbies, scrapbooking, and other hands on hobbies to be exact. As a member of several hobby related discussion boards online, I came across a post one day in reference to a RAK. I did not have any idea what they were talking about at the time, but the abbreviation caught my attention and I was soon intrigued by this growth of friendship between otherwise unknown members on a board.

If someone has something they wish to share, maybe they accidentally picked up two of the same instructional books, or they suddenly find themselves swimming amidst an overflow of patterned paper, yarn, embroidery floss, or whatever craft materials they might use for their hobby, they RAK them instead of selling them or tossing them in the trash. That old saying about one person's trash being another person's treasure is very true, as any crafter knows.

Sometimes a list is generated between members. You add your name, and in a rotation type way, people pass RAKs back and forth. This is a somewhat organized form of a RAK, but still fun. The RAKs might even be of a particular item, say 12 x 12 sheets of cardstock, or assorted embellishments. One round robin RAK that I thought sounded fun and would not eat up the dollars just covering shipping was for one-yard lengths of ribbon. Easily mailed, fun to receive, and a great way to pass on ribbon from your own stash that you have already used but still have some left.

Other RAKs are much more spontaneous. Someone will post that they have such and such stuff, and that whoever emails them first is the recipient. Others might ask for anyone who would like the items to be gifted to explain why they can use them. Sometimes a RAK is just a single item or two, and other times they can be quite extensive. I once came across one member on a board who had listed what surely amounted to a box full of stuff. She said she would pass it on to the first schoolteacher who sent her an email stating that she could sue the supplies in an art class or at least to fill up a craft closet in their room. I think it took about two minutes for the person to receive a reply. This one RAK actually then led to several more of a similar nature. People got their supplies cleaned up and thinned out and some much needed craft supplies made it into the hands of some budget minded teachers.

My favorite types of RAKs though, are those that stand true to their name. Someone will mention on a board that they are looking for something specific, or are in need of some particular supply and if someone happens to have just what the other is looking for, they will send it to them. The person on the receiving end is not actually asking for the item to be given to them. They are often trying to track down a place to purchase it, or if it is a discontinued item, they might be asking if someone has the item and are willing to sell it. When they become the receiver of a RAK instead of an offer to buy the item, you can hear the gratitude right through the exchanges.

With swaps already in place on many of these same boards, addresses might be exchanged previously between the members to facilitate a swap. If an address is needed, this is often when a RAK becomes known about before its actual arrival. Either way, I think it is fun to be both a giver and a receiver.

Someone once explained to me that a RAK is similar to a throwback to those simpler times when groups of women would get together to craft in one another's homes. Think of a quilting bee, was how it was explained. When women would get together to work on a quilt, they would often bring along other sewing projects too. If someone had extra fabric, extra buttons, what have you, they would often pass the unused items onto someone within the group that could use them.

The next time you join a hobby board online; make someone's day by surprising them with a RAK. Who knows, someday you might be on the receiving end!

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