Sunday, December 12, 2010

#15 - Random Acts of Kindness

For the last month, I have made an concerted effort to spread kindness into the world.  I don't know if anything I did was a success for anyone else, but it certainly made me think about all of the advantages that I enjoy in my own life.  After my week of not complaining, I decided that working on this goal would make a nice antidote for the struggle to keep my mouth shut about minor annoying things - sort of attacking the negativity problem from the other end. 

My self-imposed rules for this project were:
  • if a person asked for something, the action didn't count - I had to be moved to do whatever it was of my own accord
  • if I knew that a person needed/wanted/would like to have something but they didn't ask, the action did count
  • I had to do at least one action per day, multiple kind deeds could not be stored for the next day
  • things that I would have done anyhow, but were not asked for, counted

The hardest days were those that I had off from work simply because I tend to become a hermit during "staycation" moments - mostly as a way to let my introvert personality recharge after working with the public regularly.  However, I did find ways to make the world a little brighter every day.  The easiest days were those that I spent out running errands; this was not something I expected, but I guess sometimes it is easier (or less potentially embarrassing) to do something for a stranger.  I thought that my days working with the public would be the easiest; however, the first rule knocked down most of the nice things that I did as part of my work hours because someone asked me to do them.

Among the items I tried to do (and, yes, I kept a list) there are some stand-outs.
  • There were several days when I shoveled snow for a neighbor who has been having some health problems.  
  • A whole string of entries on the list included giving cookies to people - this is a big thing for me this time of the year, but I decided that it counted.  I not only give cookies to friends and work associates, I also make up plates that I hand out to random people who use the library who I know could use some cheering up for one reason or another.  Those plates go fast - I gave out 25 in two days this year.  
  • I tried paying ahead twice; by this I mean paying at least a portion (or all) of the bill for the next person in the checkout line - it's hard to know what the next total will be.  The worker at the drive-thru window at Arby's took it in stride with the comment of "that's really nice of you".  However, the grocery store clerk looked at me like I was insane when I tried to explain it to her.  The more I thought of the disparity in reactions, the sadder it seems ... everyone needs to buy groceries, so I could have really been helping someone out (given the date and time I was shopping that was actually extremely likely), yet my gut feeling is that most people who get drive-thru fast food can probably afford it.  
  • The most truly random thing on the list was leaving Operation Beautiful notes in different spots in town.  I have no idea who saw them.  Operation Beautiful is a movement to boost self esteem for women; check out their site here.  This was the cheapest, quickest, most anonymous thing I tried (on more than one day); I hope it made someone's day.  
  • This morning, as the last day of my month, I sent flowers to my parents with a note saying how much I appreciate them.  I'm sure this last act will brighten their day immensely ... a good way for me to end my goal.

I loved this goal; although some days I was wondering in the late afternoon what I was going to be able to add to the list, I always came up with something nice to do.  I spent time thinking about the "no complaints" week I had recently finished and concluded that it's easier for me to be positive by doing something kind for another person than by trying not to complain.  I often found that being nice to the next person who happened along was just as effective in relieving stress and frustration as venting.  And there were some "karma moments" along the way ... I had never seen another actual Operation Beautiful note, but, last night, I went to a play and there was one on the bathroom mirror.  One of my friends came over to walk with me and brought her shovel to use on my sidewalk - it would have been a wonderful treat after all the shoveling I had been doing, but, alas, I had already finished it - thank you for the thought Amanda!  And my friend Nina took over my two least favorite holiday baking associated tasks - unwrapping candies and helping with packaging the final products - she deserves the "queen of repetitive tasks" award and huzzahs and alleluias. 

No comments:

Post a Comment