Friday, February 1, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #14 - God Only Knows

I've been thinking quite a lot about anonymous giving, the purpose of the Golden Receiver Club project, blogging my personal journey, and the role that social media play in sharing this story. And I've decided that I've gone about this all wrong. 

My main purpose for blogging, I thought, was to inspire others to do something similar in their own communities. That certainly seemed altruistic but there were pitfalls. 

When you put forth the effort it takes to create and maintain a blog, you ultimately want an audience. You're writing interesting posts and you want people to read them. But it doesn't end there. It's not enough that a few people are reading your posts. You want comments, too. So you brainstorm ways to grow your audience and create a community. You label your blog posts with search terms so that maybe, just maybe, Google will send a few readers your way. You check out social media tools like facebook and twitter. You find people and groups with similar interests and begin following them. Some follow you back. Then you obsessively check to see if you have new followers or fans, or if someone liked your status or favorited your tweet. You feel lost amid the cacophony of people and groups clamoring for attention. So you start using hashtags in the hopes that your tweet or status will stand out from the rest. 

Look at me, I'm doing random acts of kindness.
Look at Me, I'm doing #random acts of #kindness.
Look At ME, I'm Doing #Random #Acts Of #Kindness. 

And therein lies the problem. It's not supposed to be about me. But each time I document an act of kindness or charity and call attention to it, I'm making it entirely about me.* It doesn't matter that you, the audience, do not know who I am. I still get the acknowledgement and the praise. I get the attention. It's my endorphins that get released.

So I've decided that while I will absolutely continue to do acts of kindness and charity, I will no longer be blogging about them. Although I've put quite a bit of time and effort into the exterior of the project - its name, logo, and online presence - I believe scrapping all of it and returning to full obscurity is best for me and, paradoxically, what is best for the project. I will be free to concentrate on truly helping the needy. For example, rather than doing 10 or 12 small acts of charity in the course of  a month for the sake of blogging material, I can choose to put all of my funds toward one dire issue thereby making a greater impact.

I will likely maintain my twitter and facebook accounts if only to continue reading what others are doing. I have enjoyed the updates and many of you have given me ideas for future acts of kindness. I will post occasionally, too, but only to share the uplifting stories of others.

Before I depart for good (pun intended), I want to leave you with a couple of verses from the gospel of Matthew that have greatly influenced my decision.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
                                                  Matthew 6:1-4
Thanks for reading and best of luck in all your endeavors!

*The views expressed here about anonymity apply specifically to me and are not meant to suggest that similar types of blogs should also be discontinued. In fact, I think there is a lot of merit in the desire to inspire others to do random acts of kindness. The point of my project, going forward, will be to help the neediest among us and therefore should be considered to be random acts of charity. It's the charitable nature of the project that requires anonymity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #13 - Contributed to a Fundrazr Project

The Act of Kindness 
We donated money to help a teacher defray the cost of medical bills and living expenses.

Reactions and Highlights
Online fundraisers have become quite popular over the past couple of years. I've been following start-up projects on Kickstarter for a while now. I even tried running my own online fundraiser last summer. Our neighbor had incurred a huge vet bill while trying to save her dog's life and I thought it might be a good way to help her family. It was! And I couldn't stop watching last year's fundraiser for Karen, the school bus monitor who was verbally abused by the children in her care. 

For today's random act of kindness, we have broken our tradition of supporting people and causes in our general community to lend a hand to a teacher in another state. We learned that this teacher has been dealing with a very serious medical issue and has endured quite a lot of pain. He's been unable to work at his beloved school and has been on extended leave for many months. This has created a financial burden for his family. Hopefully our donation will help reduce the stress of mounting bills and let this teacher and his family know that people really do care and will provide support whenever they can.

Today's Takeaways

1. Until today our random acts of kindness consisted of a fair amount of planning. In a way, we've been staging these events by determining what, where, when, and who ahead of time. Conversely, today's opportunity for kindness came about unexpectedly, and it found us. We hope this begins to happen more frequently and that increasing levels of randomness enter the project along the way.
2. We never know what hardships people have to endure. Be kind to everyone!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #12 - Donated to a Food Drive

The Act of Kindness 
We donated canned goods and boxes of food to the Salvation Army.

Reactions and Highlights
Clearly, food has become a major theme of this blog. There is just nothing right about the fact that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and as much as I want, while others in my community have no such freedom. While the best solution is to provide more jobs, I really can't be of any help there. But I can do the next best thing which is to make sure I help keep our local pantries stocked with a variety of food. To that end, I went through my own pantry first and gathered up boxes of cereal, oatmeal, and pasta. We don't store very much food at home so I then headed over to Stop and Shop to see what I could find there. Much to my great delight, they were having fantastic sales on soup, tuna, and every kind of pasta you could imagine. I bought enough food to fill six grocery bags. Then we brought it all down to the food drive at Crossroads Community Church.

Today's Takeaways
1. Members of the church volunteer at the Salvation Army kitchen each month, helping to prepare and distribute a hot meal for all who come through the door. The next scheduled volunteer day is February 11 and I plan to be there.

2. Grocery stores sometimes run incredible sales with very deep discounts. I'll be on the lookout each week and will stock up on non-perishable items to help keep food pantries full year round.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #11 - A Whopper of a Meal

The Act of Kindness
We paid for the people behind us in the drive-through line at Burger King.

Reactions and Highlights
This is the second time we've bought a meal or snack for a fast food patron. We brought our Golden with us because she's recovering from surgery and was going stir-crazy in the house. We had to wait a while for someone to drive up behind us because people were opting to eat inside instead. Finally, the drive through began to get busy so we got into line and prepared for our 11th act of kindness. The passenger was a lone woman who was probably picking up lunch. The Burger King employee did not understand what we were trying to do so we had to spend quite a lot of time explaining what a random act of kindness is. She eventually understood and helped us make the payment. We also gave her one of our Golden Receiver cards to pass along to the driver. Then we parked down the road a bit so our Golden could gobble down her Whopper while we ate the fries.

Today's Takeaways
1. I enjoyed this act of kindness because of the ease of anonymity. Too bad there aren't more drive-through windows in Framingham.  
2. The more I do these acts of kindness, the more I realize how unusual it is. Even though the Sandy Hook tragedy has popularized the idea a bit, people do not seem familiar with the concept in my area. Hopefully, the Golden Receiver Club will change that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #10 - Books on CD

The Act of Kindness
We donated money to a Framingham kindergarten classroom.

Reactions and Highlights
The students in this class are English Language Learners who enjoy listening to stories read aloud by their teacher. To build upon this interest, the teacher would like her students to have access to a listening center with CD players and audio books. In her project description the teacher explains that listening centers are important for young students because they can hear what it's like to read with fluency and expression. They help students build comprehension, discover new words, and follow along with a text. Recorded books encourage students to practice reading from left to write, allowing students the opportunity to point to the words as they listen. Lastly, listening centers and books on CD allow students to enter the magical worlds created by authors and illustrators.*

The CD player that the teacher currently uses was donated and no longer functions properly. This is frustrating for the students because they do not get to visit the learning center as often as they need. A new CD player and a set of audio books will give these young children a head start in literacy. The teacher was happy to receive the donation and responded quickly upon being notified.
Today's Takeaways 
1. 85% of the students in this school are English Language Learners. The students are predominantly from lower income families. We need to learn if there are other ways to help this community.
2.Teachers are very receptive to random acts of kindness.

*Description taken from the teacher's project summary on the website.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #9 - Subway Sandwiches

The Act of Kindness
We gave Subway gift cards to Walmart shoppers.

Reactions and Highlights
The original act of kindness was to pass out Subway cards to employees at the Walmart store in Framingham. There's a Subway restaurant right in the store and we thought the cashiers would enjoy a sandwich for lunch or dinner. We found out, however, that Walmart employees are not permitted to accept gifts from customers. This surprised us and we had to shift our focus instead to the people shopping at Walmart.
Almost everyone we approached wanted to know what the catch was - what we were selling or marketing and what we wanted in return. But after a bit of explanation, each shopper accepted the gift and gave us a big thank you. We also gave a gift card to a young man who was collecting money for veterans at the entrance to the store. He was the most receptive to our gift and was genuinely touched by this random act of kindness.

Today's Takeaways 
1. We may need to do a bit of research before carrying out random acts of kindness, particularly ones that involve corporations and organizations. 
2. People are generally skeptical of free offers and, more unfortunately, the people who provide them. They have a "nothing is free" mindset. That makes it difficult then to imagine that something can truly be a gift with no strings attached, with nothing tangible to be gained by the giver. Hopefully, as more and more people begin to do random acts of kindness, this will change over time.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Random Act of Kindness #8 - Helped Feed Four Families

The Act of Kindness
We donated to the Feed-A-Family program run by the United Way of Tri-County.

Reactions and Highlights
It's hard to imagine there are families in need of a meal in a town whose residents have easy access to hundreds of restaurants and grocery stores. But once you move beyond the disbelief and come to accept the truth, the very next emotion can only be compassion. And if you've been going about your life with even a single blind eye to the misfortunes of your fellow neighbor, there's likely a good measure of shame as well. I know.

The United Way of Tri-County opened the Pearl Street Cupboard and Cafe back in October, 2011. Since then, it has provided hunger relief and essential supplies for many Framingham residents. Nearly 400 volunteers helped out this past year giving more than 2900 hours of assistance. In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, United Way began running the Feed-A-Family campaign to help provide a holiday meal for 3000 families in Framingham and neighboring Marlboro. While the holiday themed meals ended in December, the additional funds will be used to purchase food for year round meals at the Pearl Street Cupboard.

Today's Takeaways
1. I would like to volunteer some time and assist the people who oversee operations at the cafe. Part of this journey of kindness is about connecting with people. While an anonymous donation will no doubt be put to good use, I'm sure I have much more to offer through a donation of time. 
2. There are people in my town who are not always able to provide a nutritious meal for themselves or their families. In contrast, my husband and I have an abundance of food and support the local restaurant community more times than we probably should. This is not okay. In fact, it is most certainly wrong. We will have to make some serious changes in the way we manage food.