I wish I was the kind of girl who would rise and shine and the prospect of brightening 25 people’s lives but reality turned out to be a little bit more complicated than that. The discrepancy was so stark that I felt like I was part of my own “How I met your mother” episode. At various points of the day I heard Bob Saget’s voice in my head: “Kids in the fall 2011 Kristen decided to to attempt the 25 acts of kindness challenge. This is how she imagined it: beaming people everywhere, cuddling, high-fiving, startled and happy to have someone do something for them which was totally unexpected. But this is what really happened:
everybody politely held the door open for her. On every other day she would have been delighted at the kindness of others but today was different because of the pressure of the task. In the bus she felt paranoid that the bus driver would yell at her for fixing post-its onto the windows containing a beautiful German poem. When she snuck some cash into the vending machine she was scared that someone would think she’s crazy. Nobody got hold of her then but later that day some people would think even worse than crazy. But first let’s back up a little.
It started off easy enough:
1. post a nice comment on a blog
2. review something you like favourably (2 reviews)
3. thank someone who everybody loves to hate which is why sent a thank you to our politicians (including the ones I hate more than the others)
Due to the vampire friendly weather outside my body suddenly realized that I’m seriously sleep deprived so the energy reserved for kindness was used instead for my sorry attempts to stifle yawning. It’s suboptimal soil for cultivating kindness, believe me. To survive the 25-acts-of kindness-day you have to be physically fit. Of course I couldn’t help but notice that not only did I not manage to be super-kind, I didn’t even match up to my regular mood. So on this special day of kindness I felt more irritable than on any other day. Still I proceeded with my mission and bought a tasty snack to place in the meeting room for whoever was going to be there later. And that felt not remotely as good as I had expected but it left me unfazed so I went to top up three vending machines with some cash. Then I checked out the blood donor website and figured that I would have to dash from the office across town to make it before they close. I guess those with more Mother Theresa traits than me wouldn’t mind. But I hate running around like that and so the embarrassing truth started to dawn on me: to me this felt like doing chores not the happy challenge I had so enthusiastically imagined. So I started feeling miserable and the only thing that is more infuriating than being so pissed off is knowing that you are 100% responsible for your misery. So before I sped out of the office this is what I had done:
4. wrote up a nice poem and fastened it to the bus window
5. put change in three vending machines
6. anonymously gave a pack of chocolate my office buddy loves but which is difficult to find
7. bought tasty snacks for random people
Once I was done donating blood things improved.
8. Helped someone clean up after they had spilled their drink
9. Filled out one of those Starbucks feedback papers with specific, positive comments
10. gave the flower lady all the change I had
11. stuck a welcome note and a flower on the wind shield of a car with a foreign license plate
12. handed out 10 sunflowers to people which in Zurich is not as easy as it may sound because most people suspect you are trying to sell, beg or rob them so not all took the flower. They only believed that it’s for free once I briskly walked away. One British guy asked me to give one to his little daughter and that was so unbelievably cute.
13. stopped to have a conversation with a photographer
14. explained the funicular to a Japanese couple who seemed very happy to learn about it
15. gave a big tip
16. left a thank note for the folks who take away the garbage
17. fastened a joke to a random car
18. put a stuffed animal in the letter box of a neighbour who has a little girl
19. smiled at tons of strangers because in this country you can’t compliment strangers (I know this from my own experience: they think you are messing with them or hitting on them)
20. put chocolate in another neighbour’s letter box
21. forgot counting the donating of blood
So I didn’t get to do 25 DIFFERENT acts but only 21 but I reached far more than 25 people, strangers and others alike.
What did I learn from this?
- trying out things teaches you more than thinking about it
- I prefer to be kind when I see and opportunity and not because I “have” to fulfill a quota
- doing something like giving flowers to people makes this day stand out from days when you don’t do these things
- once the people got that there was no hidden agenda they seemed genuinely happy
- to be a happy giver you have to take care of your own basic needs
- have back-up ideas if some things don’t work out
Done anything like this before? Or do you want to? Let me know.