500 Kindnesses Holiday / Christmas Card Drive


While we were on our the 500 Kindnesses journey last summer, on the hottest of days our spirits were buoyed by frequent well wishes and acts of Kindness pledged by the folks at The Moorings of Arlington Heights – a retirement community in Illinois. In the end we received over 50 pledges from them alone. You can see all of the pledges here.

I’ve talked before about how just a simple act of kindness – a smile shared, a kind word can make a huge difference. I can speak from personal experience when it comes to the residents of The Moorings. I remember clearly one day outside of Ottawa when the weather was *so* hot, the bugs so bad, and my hands were still numb from bad handlebar position. We pulled over for a break in the shade and I looked at my phone to find a message from the Activities Coordinator at The Moorings, Geri, cheering us on, reminding us to stay hydrated and sharing a huge list of acts of kindness that the residents had performed. It was always wonderful to hear from them and made me feel so good that even at the hardest times, even pushing the bike down a gravel path at 11PM, we would remember their kind words and push onward.

Now I’d like your help in returning the favour. The holidays are coming rapidly upon us. If you could join us in sending a holiday or Christmas card to the residents with *your* well wishes I would really appreciate it and I know the residents would as well. They take turns opening the cards, read them aloud, and hang them on the wall. If there are family photos or other personal touches I know that they’d especially appreciate it.

Your contributions on Share Something Day were nothing short of amazing. I’d love it if you could help me fill their mailbox to overflowing so I could begin to repay them for the happiness they brought us this past summer. For those of you who on Facebook, please join and share the Facebook event.

Cards can be sent to:

Geri Wozniak
c/o The Moorings of Arlington Hts
761 Old Barn Lane
Arlington Hts Il 60005

Fire Your Internal Quality Control Technician

Train surfing

I do a whole bunch of things with the time I haven’t sold to a company to support ourselves and one of those is Improv. I, and one or more others will get up on stage, and make up characters and stories usually inspired only by a one word suggestion. I’ve been doing it for about two years and surprisingly it taught me even more about life off stage than it did about how to manage on stage. And much of it ties back in to this project.

There will be times when everyone goes on stage, the audience gives a suggestion, let’s say “Anthracite”. Everyone goes to the sides of the stage and there’s an uncomfortable moment when perhaps some of the folks on the team are thinking “Wait, what is anthracite again?” or “What does coal make me think of? I have nothing.” But the show must go on, and usually someone will step forward, and start something. Maybe they knew anthracite was a kind of coal, and so they thought of pretending to be a thrill seeker surfing on top of a freight train. Now, though, the rest of the team is thinking “Oh no! What’s he supposed to be doing? He’s all alone up there, he must feel a bit put on the spot. I should probably get up there and join him but I have nothing.” At the same time a few of the less confident in the troupe might have some idea of what he’s doing and how he might step out and make a scene happen but then his internal voice pipes up and lets him know he thinks it’ll be a stupid idea and not only will the audience hate it, his teammates will also think it’s dumb so probably it’s best to just hold back and let someone more experienced and confident take it. And meanwhile, Jeff, the guy who stepped out there is now 30 seconds into pantomiming surfing on the stage. The audience is confused and unsure of what is happening.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned, and admittedly am still working on learning to actually put into practice consistently:

If you have nothing in your head as to what you will do when you step out to support your teammate, that’s fine. Quite often, the inspiration for what you do on stage can come from all sorts of different things. You could get inspired to be a character by how you feel walking out, or Jeff, seeing you walk out could call out to you “Officer! I have a perfectly good explanation for this.” And now you have a direction. The scene moves on and Jeff is supported.

And if you have something in your head? That’s fantastic, too. What I’ve learned from paying attention to my own inner monologue both on stage and off, is that I have lots of ideas, but my internal Quality Control group is often very conservative and sometimes cuts them off half way through the pitch. And in the process, lots of really great ideas get shoved back down. And the shame of this is that instead of even making an effort to help our friend Jeff, we stand by the sides thinking that we’re not qualified, or we won’t know what to do.

Another thing I have learned is that sometimes those inner voices are right. You step out with or without your idea, and things don’t quite go as you’d hoped. But I try to keep a couple things in mind. First off, those situations are not the norm and supporting Jeff is more important than a potential minor embarrassment at a scene that wasn’t what you’d thought it would be. The second is, it’s all ephemeral. After a couple minutes that scene will be ended and a new one started, and in 15-20 minutes, the whole show will be over. And finally, what are the consequences of this failure? A bit of discomfort and embarrassment, mostly in one’s own head – i.e. within your control.

But the thing is, if we don’t take those risks and go forward not knowing what will happen, or not being completely sure of ourselves, that is often where the magical things happen. The most fun I’ve had on stage wasn’t when I had an idea on the sidelines, and then everything on stage went exactly as I’d planned. The best times were those times when I didn’t know what was going to happen and discovered it on the way – or even more worrisome to the internal QC: when you walk out with one idea: “Jeff’s train surfing” and as soon as you step out, Jeff offers you a hoverboard of your own. Quick! Drop every idea you had, it’s all different.
Where the magic happens
Great, so what does this have to do with 500 Kindnesses?

Everything, actually. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know in my own head and from many I’ve talked to that internal QC person who vets your ideas on stage with tremendous harshness, also does the same job in our daily life.

First off, there are a lot of unknowns about taking on a bike ride of this scale and a lot of things that might not work out as we’d hoped. We know this. But I also know that sometimes, when it goes far from the way we expect or even want, it can be one of the most magical experiences.

But as much as it has to do with taking on a long bike trip, it has more to do with the presence of kindness in our daily life. We have great ideas for nice things we can do all the time that we shoot down before they happen because we think they might be dumb or taken the wrong way. Sometimes we see people who clearly need help but we don’t know what to do. And in both cases we do nothing when doing anything could be the best possible thing. And in most cases the consequences of failure are most likely very small, and in the majority of those cases, those consequences only occur in our own heads anyway in the form of embarrassment that only we feel because so often those we feel embarrassed in front of don’t even notice.

So I encourage you as you look at the Pledge link, and elsewhere in your life, bypass that internal QC every once in a while. You’ll be glad you did.

Train-Surfing Photo: Micah MacAllen

Share Something Day – Thank you!

Oh my gosh, everyone! When I came up with Share Something Day a few weeks ago I had no idea there would be so much enthusiastic participation. But friends shared it on Facebook, and their friends shared it, until over 4,000 people were invited. And of those, 425 people RSVP’d as participating. Sharing is one of the most basic of acts of kindness one can perform, and thus, we have received 425 pledges. Not only does this put us almost to our total for last year, this also means that because we donate $1 per kindness pledged to the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation, we will be making a pledge of our own: the maximum monthly amount we pledged to share with the Friends for Life Bike Rally. So at the end of November we will be giving that organization $200.

In addition to the simple act of “attending” this facebook event, many people told us about their experiences today on the wall of the event. Here is what people posted:

Helped to organize a “Community Swap” in a public park. About thirty people exchanged items. I called a pair over as they walked by. They were new to the area and trying to walk out to a big store–via the highway! They took a pair of boots and skateboard. I was offered the load of an automobile for the weekend, so instead of them walking on the dangerous highway, I loaded everything and everyone into the car and showed them all the entrances to the walking paths around town and where the skate park is, and then dropped them off at the store with info about how to use the bus. They were amazed at the welcome, and it felt great to do! – Willimantic, CT, USA
My daughter and I went through all her barely or not worn clothes we’re giving them to a little girl we know whose mom was out of work. I am also going to make dinner for a family that I noticed had a baby in our apartments. – Location Unknown

On Thursday night, I will make my famous shortbread cookies and will pack them in pretty bags, and donate them on my way to the office to the hungry people I see everyday on my way there. – Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I will donate to a local church that provides a bed for any child who needs one in our county. – Location Unknown

I gave some construction workers in our neighborhood a bag of chocolate covered pretzels yesterday, just to cheer up their day. – Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

I will be sharing my time by volunteering for a non-profit, charitable organization and attending their board of directors meeting. I will also be sharing my smile and my laughter. – Location Unknown

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my footfalls with those on the memorial walk for white ribbon day, a silent march increasing awareness of domestic Violence and commemorating those who have died from DV (an alarming 13 in Australia this year). – Australia

Well how about a free zip ride across TO city hall? I will be there at 2 pm if you see me (hmmm best identifier my white bike helmet with hearts on it…find me and we will sign up for a ride!) I am focusing my thoughts and energy on 2014 as I zip across…:) ha ha ha … – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We got an early start tonight! My husband was walking one of our neighbor’s dogs for them when he ran into another one of our neighbors. He is an older gentleman who lives alone and had no family to spend the day with. Upon hearing this, I decided to cook my turkey dinner today instead of waiting for this weekend and I delivered a big platter of Thanksgiving Dinner to our lonely neighbor. His face lit up, he gave me a big smile and he said ” thank you so much sweetie!” It made my Thanksgiving special! Sharing is caring ♥ – Sebago Lake, Maine

Today I bought my office timbits (Todd’s Note: For our friends outside Canada, these are doughnut holes from Tim Hortons) for a tasty treat and bought the person behind me in the drive thru his coffee. – Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada

I’m going to share a walk on the beach. And later lunch with friends. – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

We got our first snow of the year, I helped my ex get his Harley to the shop for winter storage. – Location Unknown

Today, when i wanted to just relax, I instead shared the gift of Shakespeare to my 5 children, ranging from ages 4 months to 11yrs old. We read, and somewhat acted out, “A Midsummer Nights Dream” Simply beautiful. – Placentia, California, USA

Here are some of the housewares I shared with Furniture Bank – a charity that helps refugees and women who are trying to start again after having been in shelters. – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

photo Ben Grey

Pledge #29: Family Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner

Act of Kindness Pledged: Something really nice happened today. A customer came through my line with a turkey, some veggies, stuffing and some gravy. I informed him if he just spent $5 dollars more, he would get a discount on his turkey. He told me,”no that’s ok, I am buying this for my neighbour, who is down on his luck and having a bad year. I am going to bring it by his house as a surprise, so he can celebrate Thanksgiving with his wife and family”. Well one thing led to another, and I told him all about 500 Kindnesses. He thought that was an awesome idea and told me it would be cool if I could add this to your list of pledges. – Pledge #29, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

photo AJ Schuster

Pledge #28: Sharing Shirts

The Browns and um the ones from the wash!

The response to Share Something Day has been fantastic so far. Here is one of the things being shared.

Act of Kindness Pledged: Yesterday, our 9 year old picked out some long sleeve shirts for a little boy whose family is in need of clothing for the winter. We don’t know the family and learned of them through St. Matt’s in DC. We’re hoping the shirts help keep that little one warm. – Pledge #28, Washington, DC, USA

photo Susan