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

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A Rare and Wonderful Thing

“Kindness is a rare and wonderful thing.” A man told me this on the bus the other day, in complete shock after I paid for his ride when he didn’t have a prepaid ticket. The thing is, I believe he is wrong. Sometimes its hard not think that the world is full of nothing but selfishness, anger, hatred, and devastation. You only have to turn on the TV to see all these things every minute of every day. However, there is also positivity, courage, generosity, compassion and joy. This blog has given me the opportunity to “meet” incredibly inspiring and giving people from all over the world, all making it a better place in their own unique way. I believe that if you look a little deeper, the world is overflowing with kindness.

And I need your help to prove it. In just under four weeks the Year of Kindness will officially be complete. Crazy but true. There are just twenty eight kind deeds left until hitting the big 365. The Kindness Army is preparing to go out with a bang. The first way you can help is by using your amazing, creative, outside-the-box thinking to come up with kind deeds for the Kindness Army to spread maximum happiness. I have a few exciting plans for the last group kindness mission which I’m keeping completely secret from the Kindness Recruits, just to make it a little more fun. So if you have an idea please email me (yearofkindness@gmail.com) so we can keep it on the down low.

The second and most important way you can help the Kindness Revolution is to join it. The mission, as always, is simple: do something kind on April 5th, the very last day of the Year of Kindness. There are so, so many ways it can be done. Buy a stranger’s coffee, reach out to a lonely neighbour, talk to a homeless person, smile at someone and say hello. Make a connection. Brighten someone’s day. Remind them that kindness is everywhere. And it is wonderful.

Kindness #314: Valentine’s Day

The need: To brighten up Valentine’s Day for those that may not have received a Valentine!  Yes, its cliche and commercial but its also an excuse to show some kindness, which is never a bad thing in my book.

The mission: Handing out flowers at Wynyard train station, Sydney, to people making the daily commute home after work. Each Kindness Agent bought a bunch of flowers – pink and orange gebras, purple carnations and of course red roses. We also wrote our own positive or inspirational quotes to attach to each flower.

We found the perfect bustling spot standing in a line next to double escalators leading down to the station. At the front of the line Agent R held two signs reading ‘Random Act of Kindness’ and ‘Free Flowers’. Agents H, A, S, S and W handed out the flowers. I stood at the end of the line holding a sign saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’

People seemed quite surprised to see what we were doing. All the women generally smiled and took the flowers with a genuine thank you. A lot of men refused, with two that took the flowers feeling the need to explain: “It’s for my wife! Not for me!” Some people on the other escalator were quite upset they were missing out, so quick thinking Agent S raced down the steps to stand and hand out flowers on the other side too.


 This woman exclaimed, “Yes! Give me one! I need a flower today!”
I think we definitely brightened up a lot of people’s Valentine’s Day and we had a huge amount of fun doing it. Thankyou so much to the Kindness Crew for your positivity and enthusiasm and just general awesomeness! 

Undercover Kindness Mission: Positively Complimentary

“Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.” – Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen, Baz Luhrman

Imagine you are sitting down with your boss for a performance review. They describe one of your positive thing you have brought to the job and then point out one area of your work that isn’t up to standard. Which piece of feedback will you be focusing on for the rest of the day? If you’re like most people, it will be the negative one.

On average, we speak about 16000 words every day. But when it comes to remembering words that were spoken to us (or that we speak to ourselves), we tend to remember the negative, critical words so much more easily than positive, kind ones. Why is this? Apparently its all down to the ‘negativity bias’ of the brain. Our minds are wired to hold onto negative information so if we want to maintain a positive outlook we need at least double the amount of positive words to counteract any negative ones. *

With that in mind, today’s undercover kindness mission** was to spread positive words all over the city of Sydney, whether spoken, written with pens and paper or scrawled in chalk on the pavement. Here’s a little bit of what happened:

Welcome to Sydney (cruise ship, Circular Quay)

The only person that can make you happy is YOU (The Rocks)

 Thankyou! Best coffee in Sydney (Bacino, North Sydney – for Sydneysiders that love their coffee and haven’t been here, do yourself a kindness and get the cappuccino with real chocolate on top! Pure deliciousness.)

I hope your day was full of positive thoughts and kind words. And if it wasn’t, you know what your mission is for tomorrow…

*If you would like to read more about the power of positive words, check this out: http://www.peggybert.com/2010/09/30/positive-and-negative-words/

**There is less than three months left before the Year of Kindness comes to an end (eek), and I am planning some of the biggest kindness missions yet. If you are in Sydney and would like to get involved in a group undercover kindness mission, or have any ideas/suggestions, check out the YOK Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kindness-Army-aka-Year-of-Kindness/272045112862710.

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.

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