Random Acts of Kindness 2013 is coming to an end. I’m equally disappointed it is over and relieved to be finished. For anyone who missed out on what I’ve been up to, check out this post. For my birthday, I did 37 Random Acts of Kindness. (Let’s not discuss how random they actually were considering I thought them up and started planning in September. The randomness was more for the people receiving…right? Right!) The whole experience was more satisfying and more work that I imagined it would be, and I wouldn’t change a thing. (Although, when you start worrying about how “random” your Random Acts of Kindness are, a) may not have had enough sleep b) gotten a bit too detail-oriented or c) a & b are equally correct) Despite the lack of sleep and peering at all of the minutiae a little closer than necessary, I can’t wait to do this again. I will definitely do this again. In fact, I want to do this (on a smaller scale, thank you very much) all year…forever and ever. At the end of this post, you can find my original list with items marked off, changed and commented upon. (Did you think I could resist a good aside?)
I learned a lot through the last few months. Well, I already knew I had an amazing family and fantastic friends, but this just reinforced all that. There is no way that I would have actually completed all my projects if it hadn’t been for all of the wonderful support I generously received. They listened to the logistics…a lot, and they rolled with all the changes. They told me I inspired them, and when I got tired and just wanted to curl up on the couch and watch Doctor Who, that kept me working. (I still watched Doctor Who, I just worked while I did it!) For every call to check in, card colored, stitch sewn, reassurance given (and received), cookie baked, dollar hidden, card given, flower gifted, and mile spent next to me in the car, I am immeasurably grateful. Hopefully, this was as much fun for you as it was for me. If it wasn’t, please, please, please tell me how to make it more fun next time…because, fair warning, there will be a next time.
I learned I make a difference. The things that I thought were little (read: took the least work) are the ones that I saw change people’s day. Two of the biggest were “Awesome Cards” and compact mirrors. The cards were free from VistaPrint.com and said, “You are amazing! Have a wonderful day!” They are a huge hit! I had 250 of them printed, and I’m still handing them out everywhere I go. I’ve lost count of the number of people who told me that I absolutely made their day, just by handing them a card. Some of them even had tears in their eyes as they said it. Some of them hugged me and told me they wanted to pass it on to other people. (I gave them a handful of cards to pass on.) Other’s told me they wanted to keep it as a reminder. People were showing them off to their co-workers and friends, and still others were confused. Everyone was smiling. I really liked being sneaky, so I would hand it to them face down and just walk away. Then I’d stand out of sight to watch their faces as they read the cards. It was…awesome.
I learned it only takes one person to begin. My list of things mostly went out to help members of my community, but my story went a lot farther. All of you amazing readers of I Love Geekology 101, my family, friends, co-workers, former co-workers, and lots of others heard or read about what I was doing. My friend, Jim Stovall wrote a “Winner’s Wisdom” column about my Random Acts of Kindness project that went out to all his subscribers. That is millions of people who in turn email that column to friends each week, post it in their community and organization’s newsletters and share his inspirational words. Some of those people found their way back to me to let me know that I inspired them to go out and do their own Random Acts of Kindness, so it grows. There were people at every turn these last few days that told me they were going to pass this on to someone else, and were telling me their own stories about Acts of Kindness they do for people too. I’m going to pass on something from Doctor Who here. (Are you really surprised? I didn’t think so.) The Doctor said that in all of his years of traveling that he never met an unimportant person. I may have said I believed it before, but I think I really do now.
I learned that you can order stuff by the case at Dollar Tree online. I had mirrors that I passed out with a note inside that said, “You’re beautiful just the way you are.” At the mall, I passed them out to women I came across. People were really confused until I told them that I was giving away presents for my birthday. They were still confused, but at least they would take the mirrors after that. Lots of people told me, that was a new twist on things and “God bless you”. A couple of women told me they really needed a new mirror, and this was perfect. I got a lot of smiles and “Happy Birthday” wishes and thank you’s too. Someone even told me that I made their week by giving them the mirror. My friend told me that it took all of about three minutes to give away 36 mirrors. (there were only 36 in a case!) I was kind of sad when I ran out, because I was having too much fun!
I learned that some men are a little weirded out when a woman they don’t know hands them a flower, but they’ll still take it. I had 40 carnations that I gave away at a local park on Veteran’s Day. Lots of families, joggers, and people just enjoying the weather were out in the park that day. At first, I was a little worried about giving stuff to kids. I didn’t want to freak out any parents. (Strangers giving kids stuff at a park? Hmmm…) Then I was tempted to find some more men I could weird out by handing them a flower. (It was funny, come on!) After a little debate between the angel and the devil on my shoulders, I just gave flowers to everyone. If they were kids, I made sure that parents were always right there, and I handed them to the parents first and then the kids. Everyone smiled, and I loved it.
I learned that fire fighters love homemade cookies. (This wasn’t surprising. Who doesn’t love homemade cookies?) The boxes decorated with “Thank You” messages were filled with an entire batch each of chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter cookies. One gentleman rubbed his hands together in glee when I told them that there were peanut butter cookies included in the package, and it got us an invitation to breakfast at the fire house. Unfortunately, I had to decline. There was a lot of stuff on this list! I may have to come back by and take them up on the offer another time though. Breakfast looked and smelled really good! That thing you hear about fire fighters being able to cook? After seeing (and smelling) that breakfast, I believe it. They seemed genuinely grateful and touched that I wanted to do something to thank them for their service.
I learned that Barnes & Noble is pretty crowded on a Saturday afternoon, so it makes it harder to hide money in the books. It doesn’t make it less fun though. All good stories need a good soundtrack, parts of this one include the Mission Impossible theme. (It is required when sneakiness is involved.) Two of my friends and I stuck $1 and a note inside 30 books in the store. I gave each of them $10 and 10 notes and told them to find their favorite books. It didn’t matter what they were. I was only a little worried about overlap, and we managed to make sure that didn’t happen. Other than the parts that required the Mission Impossible theme, my favorite part was comparing the lists of books we choose. It was hard for me to only pick 10 books that deserved the honor of giving their eventual recipient a little gift. I had to look at a lot of books to choose…that means that I forgot one of the books I put money in. Oh well, all of the ones that made it to the “consideration” list were well deserving. I also learned I should write stuff like that down at the time…next time!
I learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Handmade quilt=imperfections (that’s where the love hides, I think). Attempt to deliver get well cards to kids, and get denied access to the floors because you’re not there to see a specific person? That’s cool, and I’m thankful for all the effort to keep the children safe! Contact Child Life and give them the cards to deliver. Three days not quite enough time to complete all 37 acts? Well it is an ambitious project. Just keep going! A case of mirrors at Dollar Tree is 36 not 37? Good grief, girl, just roll with it! Police station closed? Am I supposed to be disappointed about going to meet more firemen? Nope! Bring the police cookies later. (Heck, there’s one officer I’ve been supplying with cookies for years!) The point is, the specifics don’t matter as much as the deed. I need to take a step back, and look at the big picture sometimes. This big picture is really beautiful!
Random Acts of Kindness 2013 List
1. Leave zip bag full of change taped to a vending machine in a hospital with a note. Since I couldn’t get into the Children’s Hospital on my trip, this didn’t happen. I went by the Cancer Ward instead on my way home from work one day.
2. Bake cookies for my neighbors who are always cool and do sweet things (like “practice” edging on my driveway and sidewalk) I made them a set of coasters instead of cookies. (Last time they did something I made them a pie. I had to change things up a bit!)
3. Send care packages for 37 soldiers, include thank you notes!Draw and color Thank You notes, Write a Thank you letter. Keep it to one page!
Choose units from www.anysoldier.com (has all military branches)(This has to get doled out a little at a time. I can only get 2 addresses a day, and I need 4 to get to 37, so…still working on it!)
4. Visit the nursing home to talk to residents, especially ones who don’t get visitors. My sister actually works at a local nursing home, so she’s going to help me set something up. (read: help me remember to come visit, since I ran out of time!)
5. Make a quilt for family and children’s services
6. Pick up the bill for someone else’s lunch/breakfast/coffee
7. Give a gift card to the mail delivery person
8. Donate a bag of dog food to a local animal shelter. G.I. Wishes got the dog food instead of the shelter…it fits!
9. Make 37 get well cards for children in the hospital and deliver them. Well, I’m still working on delivery. For security purposes, you can’t get on a floor in Children’s Hospital without having a specific person to visit, and I am completely on board with that! They have an organization, Child Life, that does things like this for the kids who are staying at the hospital that I have contacted about delivering my cards for me.
10. Give a gift card to a local restaurant to a homeless person for a meal
11. Create and give out cards to strangers with happy, uplifting things on them
12. Buy flowers or balloons and hand them out one at a time to people who could use a smile
13. Put money in a parking meter for someone else
14. Leave a treat on the desk for each of my co-workers. This is something that I’m still working on as well. My team is out of the office this week, so I get a bit of a cushion!
15. Deliver goodies to the local fire station
16. Deliver goodies to the police station in the neighborhood. My police station is closed on weekends and all holidays, so their cookies this time went to another fire station. However, I haven’t forgotten about them! They will get a treat. It will just have to come later.
17. Leave laundry soap and quarters at the laundromat
18. Let someone cut in line at the store
19. Hold the door open for people
20. Smile at everyone!
21. Give compliments
22. Cook a meal for someone else. Taking my friends out for a meal counts, right?
23. Mail notes to friends and family just to tell them how much you love them. Shhh! Don’t tell them! The mail hasn’t arrived yet.
24. Clean out closets and make a donation
25. Donate to the local food bank
26. Give compact mirrors with a note that says “you are beautiful, just the way you are” inside
27. Leave $ or a note inside a book/s at a book store
28. Do something kind for a friend or family member (cook a meal, mow the lawn, rake the leaves…) I helped my niece study so she could pass the written exam for her learner’s permit.
29. Go to the local college and leave coupons/money/gift cards in dorm mailboxes for students
30. Send a note/email/FB message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
31. Collect and return carts at the grocery store. I replaced this with baking for a charity fundraiser. Lemon Rosemary Scones. Yum!
32. Give/send someone flowers This got replaced with more baking! Chocolate Cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting. They went to the United Way fundraising bake sale. So good that I made them again as a congratulations celebration when my niece passed her test to receive her learner’s permit.
33. Carry someone’s groceries…this didn’t work. I was turned down. Any ideas on something else I can do this month?
34. Help someone with their yard-work/housework. I helped with a friend’s daughter’s homework for her college Psychology class instead.
35. Hide dollars at the dollar store
36. Give away three copies of Discovering Joye by Jim Stovall. This replaces coloring pages and crayons in the doctor’s office.
37. Give a very generous tip
‘Til next time,