Growing up I had a cousin Larry who always bought presents for everybody else when it was his birthday. It wasn’t until much later in life that I fully understood what at the time seemed like really odd behavior. There is nothing quite like doing something for someone else for no reason. It always leaves people surprised and grateful and always shifts energy in a positive direction.
As I was driving to work one morning about a month ago I was thinking about my upcoming birthday, letting my mind wander with what I wanted to do. I like most of us really don’t need or want anything but I always try to do something a little special on the landmark birthdays. While I was thinking of different options my thoughts drifted to Larry and his unusual custom of giving to others when it is was his birthday. Then the thought occurred to me that it would be great if I could do 55 random acts of kindness for my birthday. It seemed totally doable and I had almost three weeks to get it done. As I started to thinking about all the fun things I could do the thought occurred to me that it would be really great if I could get 55 other people to do one act of random kindness. I thought it would be an incredible gift to all the recipients, act givers and me. So I started asking my friends, the kids, neighbors and any patient that I thought would be willing and in a day and a half had reached my goal of 55 people. Everyone was incredibly gracious and so willing that I figured why not go big. So I set my sights on getting 155 people. The requirements were simple enough. You could do your act before during or after my birthday. You could tell me or not tell me what you had done and the only requirement was that if you had agreed to do an act of kindness that you did it. Simple enough, right? Gratefully, the number ended up much larger than 155.
This was without question the best thing that I ever did. The response was incredible and the things that people did were amazing! The acts of kindness included all kinds of big and little things. Some of them were such things as:
- A meter maid who let 55 people go who’s time had run out on the meter
- Paying someone’s gas bill anonymously so their gas wouldn’t be turned off
- Picking up an elderly woman’s newspaper during a downpour and putting it at her front door so it wouldn’t get wet
- Carrying groceries into the house and putting them away for the next door neighbor on crutches
- Giving a homeless woman 20 dollars without her asking
- Taking baked goods anonymously to the teachers at her school with a note that read “For all the hard work you do that is never acknowledged”
- Paying for 55 people behind him at the 400 toll booth (the toll booth attendant said she loves when that happens because it is so fun for her to deliver the news and watch the peoples faces)
- Multiple driving kindnesses by many people
- Paying off a ridiculously high vet bill for a pet rescue foundation
- Giving someone a 20 dollar tip for a five dollar meal and walking out before they could thank them
- Helping a neighbor get their sick great Dane in the car and then going with them to the vets
- Paying for an ill friends house to be cleaned
- So many, many, many, more to numerous to mention.
People would come and tell me that when they had done one act of kindness it felt so good that they intentionally did several more. I smile ever time I think about all of the goodness and positive shift in energy that had to occur. Some people already do regular acts of kindness but commented that the intentionality seemed to make a difference and that somehow doing this act for me for someone else made it more special for them. People called and wrote me to say that they heard what I was doing and even though I hadn’t ask them they just wanted me to know that they had participated and would then go on to tell me the things that they had done. It was magical and more than once brought me to tears. It has truly been a gift that continues to give. One person expressed that they had been so moved by the experience that they had decided to take a one hundred dollar bill out of the bank each month and give it to someone when they most needed and least expected it. I never anticipated this kind of response. It was an idea that just took off and I am so, so, grateful. This magical experience was simply without question the best birthday ever. Even though it was really all about doing kindness for others it was the best kindness I had ever done for myself. I invite you to consider doing a day or a birthday or any day of intentional acts of kindness. I believe it may shift you in ways that you haven’t yet imagined.