What 365 Acts of Kindness Have Given Me

Countless cups of coffee. Many bunches of flowers. Hundreds of high fives. At least 365 smiles. Baked goods for neighbours and gratitude cards for friends. Compliments and positive post it notes. Volunteering time and donating clothes. Leaving small change in parking metres, vending machines and sometimes upturned hats. Food and conversation for those that didn’t have either. A fundraising BBQ for a friend and sleeping under the stars (or clouds) for the homeless. These are some of the things I gave during the Year of Kindness. So what exactly did I get?

Well, basically, some crazy, challenging, beautiful, unexpected, wonderful, confronting experiences and lots of life lessons…

Embrace uncertainty because you can never ever predict how someone will respond, even when your only motivation is to inject some happiness into their day. Fear? Anger? Joy? Hugs and kisses? Even the smallest act of kindness can create all of the above (and did).

Courage comes from believing strongly enough in something to ignore the fear that comes with it. Being kind to strangers is scary (due to the aforementioned uncertainty and strong possibility of public humiliation.) But a world without kindness is scarier.


Perception shapes reality by allowing us to see only what we believe. Some people were literally unable to see kindness when it was right in front of them, reacting with suspicion and distrust because they did not believe that kindness without hidden agenda even existed. And because they ran away from it, their perception remains their reality.

No matter how crazy you feel for dreaming your dream, if you share it you will discover other people out there who are just as crazy about it as you are. After believing I was a little bit nuts for wanting to make the world a kinder place, I discovered all of you – a whole army of incredible Kindness Crusaders all over the world doing just that.

All of these lessons, and many more, kind of boil down to one idea. In my very first post back in March 2010 I wondered: Can kindness be powerful? And I found out almost immediately that it could, but  it wasn’t until well after the very last Undercover Kindness Mission that I could pinpoint what it was that gave kindness its power. The mission was a kindness treasure hunt. The group split into three teams, decoded clues and headed out into Sydney to give flowers, positive post-its and birthday presents (27 presents for my 27th birthday). It went something like this:

It was a fun day, and as always there was an incredibly positive energy that comes from a group of people gathering with the simple intention of spreading happiness to others. But in all the organising and craziness I didn’t have much time to reflect on the very last kindness mission in a whole Year of Kindness. It wasn’t until a few days afterwards that an answer suddenly came to me about why it is that kindness is so powerful. Why people can react to kindness with anger or joy but very rarely indifference.  Why kindness gave me the courage to share my crazy journey with all of you and to decide to face uncertainty and fear 365 times over. Why it can alter someones day or even transform their perception of the world. And I think it is this:

The essence of kindness is validation. Everyone wants to feel important, heard, cared for, valued, understood, appreciated. And in an act of kindness, no matter how small, we are telling that person that we see them, we acknowledge them, that even if we don’t know them they are worthy of our help and our care.   And that is powerful. That one small act of validation truly can throw out roots in all directions that create new trees. So take a moment, think of how you might help, cheer, encourage, support, give, even in the smallest of ways, and go and do it. For in that simple act there is endless power and possibility.

Thankyou for joining me on this roller coaster ride of a year, and offering so much support, love and wisdom. You can catch me blogging about my Tanzanian adventure here: nextstoptanzania.wordpress.com. I hope life is kindful for you all, and if its not remember you have the power to be the change.

Cat

Spreading the Blogging Love One Last Time…

Well, the Year of Kindness is rapidly drawing to a close. In the next week the Kindness Recruits will be performing the very last Undercover Kindness Mission and I will be sharing it with you in my very last YOK blog. Sad and exciting all at once. Just in case you’re looking for some new reading material, I wanted to take the time to introduce some gorgeous blogs to you…

Astro Artisan – I adore this site. A beautiful and insightful blog drawing on a blend of astrology and art to show the importance of understanding the cyclical nature of life. Silver is very talented – so incredibly accurate! http://astroartisan.com/

Carrer Confessions – How do we find a job we truly love? Monica wants to help by providing a fascinating and inspiring blog designed to motive us all achieve our dreams. careerconfessions.wordpress.com/

Intentional Acts of Kindness – If you need a kindness fix, read about the adventures of another brave soul, David, just starting the challenge of 365 days of kindness!  intentionalactsofkindness.blogspot.com

12 Novels in 12 Months – In a very different kind of year-long challenge, an incredibly disciplined and self-motivated writer, Sandra, is blogging about her personal mastery goal to write 12 novels in one year. 12novelsin12months.wordpress.com/

I would also like to extend a big thankyou to some beautiful blogging friends who have been a huge inspiration and support me: Eric for your wisdom and generosity (resolvetogive.wordpress.com/), Roberta for your beautiful photos and kind heart (inotherwordsandpictures.wordpress.com/), Brittany for your courage and thoughtfulness (theshynessproject.wordpress.com/), Cameron for being the kind of teacher every child wants and deserves (verdant123.com/), Kathy for your creativity and insightfulness (pocketperspectives.wordpress.com/), Lesh for your positivity and passion for kind food (themindfulfoodie.com/) and Steve (growthjournal.org/) who always makes me think about things from a new perspective.

And as for me, I am beginning a very different journey, although it will still involve giving – namely volunteering my writing services to share the stories of some amazing volunteers and children in a community centre in Tanzania. And it will involve some blogging:  nextstoptanzania.wordpress.com/. However, the universe has conspired to ensure it also requires a fair bit of receiving (through fundraising), which is the much harder part for me. Seems there is always more to learn when it comes to the art of kindness!

If I do make it to Tanzania, I’m sure my African adventure will provide many more life lessons to blog about!  In the meantime, check out the incredible blogs above and stay tuned for the YOK grand finale…

When Life Gives You Lemonade…

Life is full of lemonade. Joyful smiles. Music that makes your heart sing. The laughter and comfort of good friends, of knowing there is a soft place to fall. Everything in life that is hard, overwhelming, beautiful, meaningful, pushing you to expand out beyond your current self into something bigger and better.

Right now my cup of lemonade is overflowing. I am so grateful for it, but I have also come to realise that when anything overflows it means something else is lost. The Year of Kindness has indirectly lead me to take on many new adventures that constantly provide moments of real challenge and real joy.  But these new adventures have left very little time for blogging, and so I haven’t written a Year of Kindness post in a while. I’m still doing kindnesses but rather than being conscious decisions they are more often then not things that just seem to happen while I’m busy making other plans. Things that have somehow become second nature without me even realising it – paying for someone’s bus fare when they don’t have change, stopping to talk to the homeless man down the street, positive post it notes anywhere and everywhere, volunteering for causes I really believe in, money in expired parking metres, buying organic, chatting to the bus driver, trying to actively listen and really be present for friends and family, just saying yes.

When I started this project I was restless and frustrated and a little lost. I wanted to prove that every individual has the power to create something positive amidst the chaos and cruelty of the world. That there is so much good all around us if only we look close enough. That you can be the change you want to see in the world. Now I know all these things to be true. But in these lessons I’m faced with a decision – do I try to get re-inspired, keep challenging myself with new and different kindness missions and continue to write about these experiences? Or do I accept that it is time to let this blog go, to enjoy the lemonade of small spontaneous kindnesses and stop trying to catch the overflow? Jury is definitely out…

10 Surprising Lessons from 6 Months of Kindness

1. You can only give to people who are open to recieving. (You cannot save people. You cannot change people. Some people will say no and some people will run away. Seriously. You can only give to those that are open and eager to accept what you have to offer.)

2. Kindness to self is the hardest kindness of all. (Life will always contain too many shoulda woulda couldas. Cut out the negative tapes in your head. Speak to yourself as you would your best friend.)

3. Some people just “get it”, love it, support it – no matter what. (These are the wonderful, incredible, beautiful cheerleaders that will provide you with chocolate and rainboots in those inevitable moments of overwhelming doubt. They are the ones like my amazing Kindness Crew who join me on the craziest of missions without question, whether its high-fiving commuters or handing out flowers to hospital patients who speak no English, as we did on Wednesday. More on this later…)

4. Inspiration is fleeting. (Keep on truckin’, put in the perspiration and when inspiration returns you will be glad you did. And while you’re waiting, hang out with your cheerleaders as much as you can.)

5. We all have superpowers. (How are you going to change the world?)

6. If karma exists, it certainly isn’t instant. (Doing anything for the sole purpose of getting something out of it never works. But guess what? You can create your own positive karma by letting go of expectations and enjoying the process.)

7. Every person has a story and a lesson. (When you start to really look and listen, you can find wisdom in the most unexpected places .)

8. You are not alone. (No matter how crazy your journey may seem, there are always others on a similar path. Be brave and shout out your deepest loves, fears and dreams – I promise you will find kindred spirits.)

9. Listen to your instincts. (They always, always know the right thing to do. Always.)

10. Kindness is powerful.

Kindness is not weakness. Kindness is not foolish. Kindness is not the easy option. Sometimes you feel like a lunatic being kind. Sometimes it seems like the world has run out of kindness altogether. But actually, it is everywhere. And it is endlessly powerful. It creates smiles. It brightens days. It builds bridges. It is contageous. It opens up doors to experiences, connections and lessons that otherwise would have been lost. It ripples out beyond giver and reciever in the most unexpectedly wonderful ways. Year of Kindness has not always gone according to plan and that’s a good thing. Despite the unexpected twists and turns (or perhaps because of them) I believe now more than ever in the power of kindness. And you should too.

Kindness Army: We Want YOU!

I can’t quite believe that I am now almost six months into my Year of Kindness. Seems like only yesterday I was stumbling through my very first day, offering smiles to strangers and recieving very few in return. I didn’t like all the negativity, selfishness and cruelty I saw all around me. After a long time of feeling frustrated and helpless, I decided I would do something about it. I wanted to prove (to myself as much as anyone else) that despite all the inevitable bad stuff in life, even the smallest acts of good can be powerful in the most unexpected ways and every single person has the power to make the world a kinder place.

Last time I asked for your help I was overwhelmed by how eagerly and wholeheartedly you took on the challenge, spreading little ripples of happiness and positivity all over the world. Wednesday, October 12th will mark the exact halfway point of this project. And I’d like to once again ask for your help with a collective kindness mission. It’s simple: do something kind for a stranger. It does not have to be big, but on the other hand what have you got to lose? Why not challenge yourself to do a kindness that you wouldn’t normally take on? When buying your morning coffee, pay for the person in line behind you. Instead of walking past a homeless person and avoiding eye contact, offer them a sandwich, a smile, a kind word. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it might seem, and there’s a pretty good chance it will lead to an interesting connection you would not have otherwise experienced.

So go forth and be kind, recruits! And be sure to tell us all how you get on.

Undercover Kindness, Old School Style

In this fast-paced, techno-obsessed age, there is something extra wonderful (and yes, kind) about taking the time to do things the slow way. I have written before about my hippy tendencies, about my vague but persistent urge to embrace the ‘peace and love’ movement. Whenever I am feeling a bit lost, the things that ground me again are getting back to basics – cooking a slow meal, surrounding myself with nature, reading a good book, connecting with others.

So after a couple of weeks of being overwhelmed by “life stuff” and wandering off the kindness path, I decided the way to get back on track was going old school – slowing down and simplifying. I also did around two kindnesses each day to make up for lost time! I spent a day smiling and saying hello to people (always a challenge even to get eye contact). I made brownies for my new housemates. Went for a bushwalk and picked up rubbish. Bought a Big Issue and talked to two homeless people. Helped a lost boy find his father and lost tourists find the train station. I stuck post-its in public bathroom mirrors with comments such as “Hey, good looking! You’re gorgeous – don’t doubt it!” I also sent hand written cards to two of my most beautiful friends. There is something wonderful about recieving mail that is not bills or advertising, especially when you are not expecting it. Knowing someone thought of you and took the time to put pen to paper makes it feel like there is happiness and love tucked inside the envelope amongst every word.

My most fun kindness was an undercover mission to the library armed with my heart post-its, inspired by Kindnessgirl. Many people claim that books will very soon be obsolete with the invention of all the various electronic reading devices. The thought that one day books will go the way of CDs and videotapes is quite horrifying to me – I think there are few greater pleasures in life than curling up with a pre-loved novel on a rainy day. Or sharing a much-loved book with a child. There is something completely irreplacable about the feel and the smell and the very idea of a book and all the promises it has kept and made. A great book has the power to entertain and amuse and inform and inspire – to change your perspective and your life. I read a short story once that said the only people that would truly be able to live forever without becoming bored would be those that love books – there could never be enough time to read them all. For this mission I spent most of my time in the self-help and travel sections, imagining who might be picking up each book and writing notes of encouragement and positivity. For example, on a book about thinking your way slim: “The journey to your best self has already begun. Keep going!” And on a book about Brazil: “Rio Carnevale = the time of your life. Do it!”

I encourage you to take up the library challenge – it costs nothing, it might give someone a very unexpected boost of happiness and really is a lot of fun! Go forth and post-it. I’m off to read my book…

100 Days, 100 Kindnesses

For my 100th kindness I wanted to do something really meaningful, something I had never done before and something that would take me totally outside my comfort zone. Wanting to take part in the 100th Day of Kindness challenge, my Mum volunteered to help me with my act of kindness for the day. After much discussion and some dead-end ideas, I stopped for a moment and really thought about it. I know that the best kindnesses come naturally, and you just have to trust your instincts. The idea that has kept coming back to me this week whenever I think of people in need of kindness was the hospital. And since I had promised myself (and all of you) that I would give away flowers on my 100th day, I decided we should find a patient who didn’t get many visitors and would really appreciate a bunch of flowers. This was a big ask. I had no idea how we would go about this, but I told myself if it was the right kindness it would all happen fairly easily. And it did.

Mum called a friend of hers who works in a nearby hospital and explained the whole crazy 100 Days of a Year of Kindness situation (that would have been an interesting conversation). And almost immediately she gave us the name and room number of a lady who got hardly any visitors. Strangely enough, she was in the same ward as my beautiful Grandmother had been in before she died, just down the hall in fact. I decided this was a good sign. We arrived at the hospital, flowers in hand, and explained to the nurses what we wanted to do. As we walked to her room I asked Mum if she felt nervous, she insisted she did not but then promptly told me, “You do the talking, I don’t know what to say.”

We stepped inside and I introduced us and explained our mission, and so it was that I came to spend an hour with one of the most lovely, positive, warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. Someone that instantly reminded me of my own grandmother, whose generosity and love instilled in me the value of being compassionate and kind. I knew instantly that my instincts had been right on this one. And she certainly was incredibly grateful and deserving of kindness. She told us she did not get many visitors because her family lived far away and “at my age, you don’t have many friends left anymore”. Although she was a regular at the hospital and often stayed for periods of up to two months, she had never (never!) recieved a bunch of flowers. She told us that every day the hospital flower lady came around and every day she had to tell her there were no flowers for her to put in a vase – “Until today! Today she will come in and I can say, surprise, yes I do have some!”

She was extremely interested in my kindness project (or what she called “Make a wish come true project”), and wholeheartedly agreed that everyone needed a little more kindness in their life. She told us about her children and grandchildren and about living through a war and a depression. We learned that she was in extreme pain most of the time and found it hard to walk. She had experienced a lot of sadness in her life, but whenever the conversation veered too much to the negative she would bring it back to the flowers, about how she just couldn’t believe it, she was just so delighted, it was the best surprise she’d ever had and she would remember it forever.

I tried to explain to her that I was incredibly grateful to have met her, that I too would remember her always, that her story and her positivity despite all odds resonated far deeper than could be explained. I think she thought I was just being nice, but it is all true. And I didn’t say it at the time but I would like to visit her again, to talk to her more about her life over a cup of tea and her favourite pecan pie. I hope I can make that happen.

As we left the hospital I thought of the homeless man I had spoken to last week, and the lonely lady I met the other day. Despite their differences, they all wanted the same thing: to feel listened to and validated. It’s not about the flowers, or the sandwich, or the compliment, it’s just about listening and caring, and thats something we can all do.

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