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The most genuine acts

  are those that happen by themselves; they are simply inspired in the moment without prior planning. Little things: seeing a single mother struggle to pull her stroller up a flight of stairs, and offering to grab the other end of it; leaving a bowl of water out on the sidewalk for dogs on hot days; holding the door for a handicapped person; holding an elevator open for the woman running to catch it; buying a meal for the homeless man holding up a sign that says “hungry”… Perhaps one of the greatest acts of selflessness a person can give is to be there fully for a friend in need. 

To confide in someone takes great strength. Conversely, to listen to someone takes a different kind of strength.

It means being prepared to listen all the time, whether the speaker is speaking positive words or negative words, because caring for someone isn’t a part-time commitment. It means caring for all of somebody, their positive parts and their negative parts, because those parts make up the whole truth of who they are. It means asking the right questions. And to do that, it means paying attention. It means that at the appropriate time, when there is a pause in the listening, it is then time to say something: only honest things; not just good things; real insights; true thoughts. It means this: one incredible act of empathy between two people. And that act of empathy in and of itself can be heartbreaking, to feel what a struggling life is feeling; but it is an attempt to walk in their shoes, to better imagine what they might be going through, and then to try and help tackle some of their problems from this outside perspective. And at the very least, it means hearing them out.

I practiced empathy today, and it feels bittersweet.

               

Day 22/30

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Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

—posted by Naomi Shihab Nye on Apr 26, 2007

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.”

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. “Help,” said the flight service person. “Talk to her. What is her problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.”

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. “Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, Sho bit se-wee?”

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used — she stopped crying.  

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I said “No, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late.  Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.”

We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her — SouthWest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out, of course, that they had ten shared friends!

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering questions.

Soon after, she pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same 
powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free (non-alcoholic) beverages from huge coolers and the two little girls for our flight — one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all Apple Juice and Lemonade.  And they were covered with powdered sugar too.

I noticed that my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Ah, an old country traveling tradition: always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, “This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.”

Not a single person in this gate — once the cries of confusion stopped — was apprehensive about any other person.

They took to the cookies. All I felt like hugging everyone else.

(via kindnessbomb)

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There’s a homeless artist who sits on the street nearby my work most  days; he paints and plays guitar and holds cardboard signs with  a-typical messages like “fuck, it’s just a buck" and "cops stole my art supplies, need money to buy more.” One day two traveling boys and their dog were passing through, and they joined him to also beg for money; their punny sign read “hungry hungry hobos.”
I gave the artist a handful of brushes and paints — extras that I had at  home since I haven’t been painting for a while, ten brushes and twelve  tubes of acrylic. He thanked me because he was running low and needed  more. We chatted a bit, then smiled and parted ways. He had very sincere & friendly eyes. 
               
Day 15/30

There’s a homeless artist who sits on the street nearby my work most days; he paints and plays guitar and holds cardboard signs with a-typical messages like “fuck, it’s just a buck" and "cops stole my art supplies, need money to buy more.” One day two traveling boys and their dog were passing through, and they joined him to also beg for money; their punny sign read “hungry hungry hobos.”

I gave the artist a handful of brushes and paints — extras that I had at home since I haven’t been painting for a while, ten brushes and twelve tubes of acrylic. He thanked me because he was running low and needed more. We chatted a bit, then smiled and parted ways. He had very sincere & friendly eyes. 

              

Day 15/30

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My tumblr feed is filled with pictures of inspirational quotes written on notes and placed in random locations; they make me smile when I see them, so I decided to take em off the screen and to the streets. 
I filled a pad of sticky notes with nice quotes — inspired mostly by thinkphreely, who shares a lot of really cool posts on his tumblr — and then stuck them around wherever I thought passersby may see them.
               
Day 12/30

My tumblr feed is filled with pictures of inspirational quotes written on notes and placed in random locations; they make me smile when I see them, so I decided to take em off the screen and to the streets. 

I filled a pad of sticky notes with nice quotes — inspired mostly by thinkphreely, who shares a lot of really cool posts on his tumblr — and then stuck them around wherever I thought passersby may see them.

               

Day 12/30

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I wrote out five letters to strangers, shook off my hand cramp, went to Harold Washington Library, ran around the many floors, and placed each letter in a random book for someone to find.

Dear Stranger,
I don’t know who you are, but I know we have some things in common — this book, for one, and also our shared humanity…

I wrote the letters from my heart, and hope they will brighten someone’s day. In each letter I shared some ways my days have been brightened.

I really appreciate your smile today, the one you gave me when we made eye contact across the train. And that time when I got lost and was freaking out, you let me borrow your cell phone to make a phone call and I was so grateful. A few months ago I walked into your newly opened kebab shop, and I didn’t speak much of your language and you didn’t speak much of mine, but you were so friendly to me and I still think about the hours-long talk we had. And how could I forget, that time I got onto the bus alone late at night, and I put a dollar into the feed, a quarter, another quarter, and then panicked because there were no more coins in my wallet, you stepped up and handed me a dollar without me even asking.
All those times you were there for me, stranger — they’ve helped shape who I am today. Your compassion warms my heart.

If you want to write your own letters, these two sites accept anonymous submissions — Letters From Strangers and Love Letters From Strangers — or leave them around to be found! There’s a lot of freedom in writing to an “anybody”; you can take your letter in any direction you choose. Here’s where I ended mine,

So this is a somewhat unconventional love letter, which I wrote because I was inspired by you. And if nothing else, I am writing to wish you a joyous day, and offer this bit of advice. Live in this moment, and appreciate it. Enjoy the little things in life, for some day you will realize they were the big things.

               
Day 11/30

I wrote out five letters to strangers, shook off my hand cramp, went to Harold Washington Library, ran around the many floors, and placed each letter in a random book for someone to find.

Dear Stranger,

I don’t know who you are, but I know we have some things in common — this book, for one, and also our shared humanity…

I wrote the letters from my heart, and hope they will brighten someone’s day. In each letter I shared some ways my days have been brightened.

I really appreciate your smile today, the one you gave me when we made eye contact across the train. And that time when I got lost and was freaking out, you let me borrow your cell phone to make a phone call and I was so grateful. A few months ago I walked into your newly opened kebab shop, and I didn’t speak much of your language and you didn’t speak much of mine, but you were so friendly to me and I still think about the hours-long talk we had. And how could I forget, that time I got onto the bus alone late at night, and I put a dollar into the feed, a quarter, another quarter, and then panicked because there were no more coins in my wallet, you stepped up and handed me a dollar without me even asking.

All those times you were there for me, stranger — they’ve helped shape who I am today. Your compassion warms my heart.

If you want to write your own letters, these two sites accept anonymous submissions — Letters From Strangers and Love Letters From Strangers — or leave them around to be found! There’s a lot of freedom in writing to an “anybody”; you can take your letter in any direction you choose. Here’s where I ended mine,

So this is a somewhat unconventional love letter, which I wrote because I was inspired by you. And if nothing else, I am writing to wish you a joyous day, and offer this bit of advice. Live in this moment, and appreciate it. Enjoy the little things in life, for some day you will realize they were the big things.

               

Day 11/30

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pandan1991 said: Do explain to me this 30 day challenge

THANK YOU for asking this question, because it wasn’t until you did that I realized I didn’t know what the full answer was.

In short, I am doing (at least) one good deed or random act of kindness every day for 30 days.

My reasons for doing this challenge are harder to put into exact words… I guess in essence it’s a “seize the day” sort of thing — I want to make my life meaningful now, as opposed to working towards the goal of having a meaningful life. 

As a traveler I really learned to appreciate the kindness of strangers, and from experiencing life in different parts of the world I learned how universal compassion can be. I have come to value human connections as a purpose for existence. So I’m doing all these things — kind, compassionate, connecting acts — to reinforce for myself what life means to me.

Whenever I’ve received kindness from strangers, it has filled me with appreciation, gratitude, and a great desire to pay it forward — I can only hope that the little things I do will inspire a similar “care for mankind” to the people who experience them.

So I’m doing this challenge for me: to prove to myself that the things I do can matter, that anyone is capable of feeling love, and that people can be genuine. And I say I am doing it for me because I have no control over how my actions are received by others, and I am in no place to dictate that what I do should make a person feel better. Helping people makes me feel good. My actions are the only thing I can be accountable for, but if others benefit from them then I think that makes the world a better place.

:)

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Today was a good day,

 but it didn’t start out that way.

I was feeling frustrated by my lack of human connections being made in the city. I saw two friends unexpectedly today — one of my college friends came in from the ‘burbs to spend the day at the beach, and while we were standing in line at the French Market to get crêpes, an old high school friend appeared at the same crêperie — it was great to see them both, and to once again appreciate small world encounters. And yet at the end of my day I felt like I’d had no human interactions all day.

I walked and moped and sat down and wrote.

City folk are like the skyscrapers around them.
The buildings compete for architectural bravado, but en masse they’re just a concrete crowd in the sky. The modern buildings are shiny — all metal and glass — and on their surface is the reflection of the buildings around them. I can’t see what’s inside; I don’t pay much attention; and as I walk past, they remain unmoved.
City folk are hard.
They don’t smile, don’t say ‘hi’, don’t make eye contact, don’t have conversations, don’t have much care for each other. When I walk past their masses I can see my reflection in their shiny metal and glass shades: and I look cold, un-smiling, alone in a crowd, like them and the buildings around us.

On the whole, humanity is full of hurt and hurtful in return; people too self-absorbed to look outside of their own worlds. But every now and again, a single person breaks this norm, and it is surprising. They act kindly, speak truthfully, think selflessly, and help another person.

And isn’t the whole made up of its individual parts? 

I was sitting with these thoughts when I got onto the train to go home.

A little girl sat next to me, her father sat a few seats down, and I offered to switch seats with her father so they could sit together. She said No, that’s okay. A couple minutes passed, and while I was looking out the window she was staring at me - the curious, admiring way young girls sometimes look at older girls. I said I liked her skirt, and she said Thank you. A minute or so later she said she liked my earrings, and I said Thanks. We got to chit-chatting about summer, and she said she was going into fourth grade. I wanted to impart some wisdom, so I said Oh I remember fourth grade, (even though I didn’t…) It was fun, (except actually gradeschool was terrible for me, so I followed up with,) but sometimes not so fun. She nodded and said Yeah and the rest of the train ride was word-free.

But then a couple stations later, as she was about to get off the train with her dad, she said It was nice to meet you and gave me such a warmhearted smile. I was taken aback by how genuine that overused statement sounded when she said it, and I genuinely replied You too. Off the train, on the platform, she looked in through the window and smiled at me again, and I smiled and waved back while she talked to her dad (with much more enthusiasm and wordiness than she had to me, thankfully!). She made me feel better.

When I got home and checked my facebook, a lovely message awaited in my inbox. A really inspiring friend whom I’ve only met twice wrote me about a chance encounter she had tonight with a man who needed her unique help — an encounter that turned into an incredible act of kindness, and a bittersweet, humbling, hope-inspiring story. I’ll quote her here, and hope she doesn’t mind, but she ended with saying,

"I think every old person needs a willing ear to listen to their life’s story and I think (and agree with the old man) that us young people can learn a lot from our parents and grand parents if we listen to the wisdom they have to share." 

She also shared with me a list of great things to do, which I happily share with all of you:

“Let yourself fall / Learn to observe snakes / Plant impossible gardens / Let someone dangerous in for tea / Make small signs that say “yes”, spread them all over your house / Become a friend of freedom and uncertainty / Look forward to dreaming / Cry at the movies / Swing as high as you can on a swing at moonlight / Maintain different moods / Refuse to be “responsible” / Do it out of love / Take a lot of naps / Pass on money / Do it now, the money will follow / Laugh a lot / Bathe in the moonlight / Dream wild, imaginative dreams / Draw on the walls / Read every day / Imagine you are enchanted / Giggle with children / Listen to old people / Open yourself / Dive in / Be free / Praise Yourself / Let go of fear / Play with everything / Preserve the child in you / You are innocent / Build a castle of covers / Get wet / Hug trees”
— Joseph Beuys

               

Day 8/30 
(Today I witnessed more good deeds than I’d done, and I’m grateful for that.) 

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I chalk-bombed some city sidewalks with colorful hopscotches today.

My bestie helped me throw down this first one, the most multi-colored of the bunch. It’s in front of a church on Petersen & Francisco. She wrote the “Have Fun!”, and the sign beside the hopscotch reads “Jump for joy! (You don’t need to stay inside the box.)

The next one is by the Salvation Army on Devon & Leavitt. It reads, “If you can hopscotch from here to there, you’re in good shape for the day.

Hopscotch #3 is next to the Jewel on Broadway & Berwyn. Its sign is covered in hopscotch-ing pebbles & says, “This stone is your problem. Throw it into a box (compartmentalization), hop to it (step-by-step), pick it up (it isn’t so heavy), and keep going.

By the time I got around to hopscotch #4, I ran outta chalk — so the “Be a kid.” poster stands alone, inside some hearts, on the sidewalk, between a bus stop and the Mickey D’s on Clark & Bryn Mawr.

               

Day 6/30

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30 good fortunes for random strangers all around Chicago.

The fortune cookies say things like, “What you do is meaningful,” and “Opportunities await your grasp,” and “You inspire others.” Pictured above are only a few of the locations I left them around — in a grocery store, in a park, in a gift shop — I also left a couple in elevators, dressing rooms, caf
és, & random benches. 

I made them by recycling some old manilla folders my mom had bulk of in her office, and traced the circles out from the base of a flower pot — talk about a green creation! (haha?) 
If you wanna make your own paper fortune cookies, I learned from this tutorial, & the picture below is also a helpful diagram.
How to Make Paper Fortune Cookies 
If you have ideas for what else the fortunes could say, and where else to leave them, please let me know! :)

               

Day 1/30 

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My 30 Day Challenge

I heard someone reading this poem the other day, and listening to it made me want to be one of those random do-gooder types.

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard, 
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay —
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face —
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost —
Then count that day as worse than lost.

—By George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) 

Then I watched this TED video challenging anyone to Try Something New for 30 Days. Stick em togetha and whadya got? My 30 day challenge.

Conveniently enough, today is July 1 — a new month, a fresh start. So for each day forward I’ll be counting my acts: something exceptionally good and randomly kind, each day.


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"I am a passionate believer that one of the better ways of learning valuable life lessons is to travel the world. It can be fun, at times unconventional, and travel definitely broadens the mind. There is something about finding a way out of our comfort zones across the vastness of the world that titillates my mind…"

—Leon Logothetis, a man definitely worth some further blog-reading & video-watching & adventure-following.

I first came across his name in this coverage of a random do-gooder passing on acts of kindness to strangers in L.A. 

The quote above is from his blog post on the greatest classroom of all, filled with some of the lessons he’s learned and the experiences he’s had while traveling the world. They’re interesting and inspiring, for sure (particularly his tales of living off of $5 a day and the kindness of strangers), but the thing I appreciate most about his writing is that it’s truly personal. He speaks with I and my, and it makes his stories easy to relate to on a human-to-human level. So many times people share their wisdom in a preaching manner, to you. This isn’t always a bad thing, and can be used as a powerful literary tool. But as a reader, if I am directly addressed by what I’m reading, I can interpret it as a challenge or an attack: I don’t like to be told what I’m feeling; I’d rather read about what you’re feeling and relate to it.

This guy Leon Logothetis is incredible at relating to people. He wrote this series of articles about an Advice Booth he opened up on the street in L.A. — “The Amazing Adventures of the Traveling Advice Booth,” Part One, Part Two, & Part Three — and in them he answers some questions I’ve been struggling to answer in my life: questions about connections and communication between people.

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The SF Mirrors Project (by Akin Bilgic) is a public art project with one simple purpose at it’s core - to spread a bit of random happiness. The idea is to create a public art installation overnight throughout the city of San Francisco… spreading messages of inspiration, encouragement, and hope.

The SF Mirrors Project (by Akin Bilgic) is a public art project with one simple purpose at it’s core - to spread a bit of random happiness. The idea is to create a public art installation overnight throughout the city of San Francisco… spreading messages of inspiration, encouragement, and hope.