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Posts Tagged ‘random acts of kindness’

Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I am open!

I wrote up a certificate that said “I value you & your story” to give to today’s recipient. I eagerly left my house ready to meet my $10 recipient.  I went to the bank with 4 $20 bills and asked for 8 $10 bills.  Seven bills were for my YOGI’s (Year of Giving Investment) this week and one bill was left over for me. 🙂

While I was at the bank, I overheard the teller next to me tell the young woman that she was in the negative.  I had been there before and bounced a check, so her situation hit home for me.  I wanted to hand her the $10 but she was with the teller, had a cell phone call on hold and her mom was waiting for her in the car.  Honestly, the scenario to give her the money at that moment didn’t seem like an open opportunity so I left the bank and ventured off.

I went to Panera for lunch, thinking this was a perfect place to meet a YOGI, but the place seemed crowded, busy and sadly the people felt closed off to making connections with a stranger.  I left and later set out to Whole Foods.  I was aware that it still seemed difficult to even make eye contact with people.  Everyone seemed to be in a hurry.  The customers seemed to be looking in their wallets, talking on their cell phones or focusing on where they were going next.

I did approach a woman shopping with her 4 year old child, and to my surprise she was not open to talk with me at all.  She quickly raced away saying, “My child is with me.”

I was let down for a moment and felt she really wanted to protect her child. I have always promoted Kindness in schools and enjoy connecting with children.  People tell me I have a natural gift for this, but I didn’t realize how challenging it is to connect with people I don’t know who are going about their everyday routines and schedules.

Feeling like I may fail myself and not find someone to connect with, I looked over at the last register and watched a middle-aged woman tap a man on the shoulder and point to a bill on the ground.  I believe it was only a dollar bill, but I observed this woman’s kind gesture.  The man was not even aware that he dropped money, but picked it up and graciously thanked the woman.  After the woman paid for her salad, I approached her smiling and gave her the $10.  I said I observed her gesture and that I would like to give her $10 as part of the Year of Giving.  She was shocked and surprised, so I started our conversation by explaining just what YOG was.

Cheryl F. accepted the $10 and told me she is the mother of four teenage girls ages 12, 14, 16 and 18. She said the hardest thing about being a mother was how close in ages her girls are and wished daily responsibilities did not get in the way of her spending more time with them. Cheryl works as a Home Health Aide and helps serve the elderly.  She shared how our elderly are a lot like children – needing lots of care and attention, too.  She said she enjoys her job and helping other people out.

When I asked how she will use the money, Cheryl said, “I will hold on to it and then pay it forward!”  She wanted to tell her daughters about what happened today.  I thanked Cheryl for sharing her story and for being so kind.  Cheryl was warm, friendly and cares about her daughters and the elderly!

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Are you unemployed and want something inspiring to do for the next seven days?  Well, I have a solution for you!  Become a Kindness Investor and give $10 away every day to a new stranger for a week and then share your experiences here on the Year of Giving. I need someone to start tomorrow!!! So please email me today if you or someone you know are up for this amazing experience.

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On Day 353 I went over to Books for America, a great nonprofit bookstore that I have frequented for several years.  As I was purchasing the book I decided to give my money $10 to someone working there.  Two of the clerks that I mentioned it to both pointed toward a guy slouched down behind a computer off to the side of the register.  “He could certainly use the cash,” one of the clerks said pointing toward Adam who had by now stood up and made his way over to the counter.

I gave him the $10 and he thanked me and said, “I can definitely use it.”  I asked if I could jot down a couple of notes and he invited me outside to talk to him while he smoked a cigarette.

Adam grew up in Maine and attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD.  “I studied Liberal Arts – what do you do with that?” he rhetorically asked.  Well, he ended up working at Books for America and told me, “This is the best job ever.”  Adam picks up donations of books around the city and brings them to the store where they are resold at lower than market prices.

“I one time went to pick up some books from this lady’s house and when I got there she was so upset about parting with her books that in the end I recommend that she hold on to them and think about,” Adam told me.  “I mean, books can mean a lot to people and I want the person to be comfortable with the donation, otherwise it’s not good for them or us.”  I don’t recall if the woman ever called back for Adam to get the books or not.

Adam, who is very thankful to be employed now told me, “The thing that really sucks about being unemployed is having to tell your friends and people from high school that you are ‘in between jobs’ when they ask what you are doing.”  This never really bothered me when I was out of work, but I know a lot of people have shared this same comment with me.

Adam shared an amazing personal story of giving with me.  When he was in high school he and some buddies decided to buy some strangers breakfast.  Their simple altruistic act of kindness lived on for years without them knowing it; until recently when he happened to be visiting one of the same friends that was with him that morning and they received a very unexpected phone call.  Check out the entire story…

My favorite part of his story is, “Her gratitude was so much greater than our generosity in the moment.”  That is beautiful.  It just goes to show you that sometimes the little things you do mean a lot more to others around you.

By the way, the 28-year-old’s ten dollars are going to be handed to a bartender at the Big Hunt in exchange for a few “Bad Ass Amber beers.”

Adam and his ten dollars

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So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.  

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen. 

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times at Loaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

 Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

 Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

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I am still trying to get caught up writing my blog…I am several days behind now…It’s been tough to stay indoors writing my blog when it is so nice outside.

Cole is a member of the United States Marine Corps (a big thank you to Cole for his service to our country!).  He has made two tours to Iraq and is looking forward to an opportunity to go to Afghanistan in January of 2011.  I notice that his left hand is injured and he said that he injured it while driving a military vehicle in Iraq.

When I meet men and women who have been on active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan I like to ask them what their impressions of our efforts are.  So, I asked him about Iraq.  “We have done our job” Cole says.  “The government is in place.  The Iraqi army is good.  The police are in place.” 

I was surprised by two things that Cole told me.  One was that the Iraqi people don’t want us to leave.  I hope that is representative of us doing a good job there.  The other was that the Iraqi people go crazy for the military issued sun glasses they wear.  They wear Oakley brand if you are curious.

Cole says he will give the $10 to someone else.  He is not sure to who…but he agreed to let us know.

And then something happened that has never happened before.  A man came up to me and gave me $10.  Keith had been nearby and heard what I was doing.  I thanked him but said that it wasn’t necessary, that I had made this commitment and was prepared to part with the $3,650.  He insisted saying that he was really inspired by what I was doing.  I accepted it.  

Thank you Keith!  That was beautiful and sincere and greatly appreciated!  I hope the act of giving made you feel as good as I feel every day when I give away my $10! 

I have given Keith’s $10 away…stay tuned to Day 86 to find out what happened to it!

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