Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 31

Doing this project has been interesting. You know the kid that comes to the door selling bad candy bars, or the coworker's daughter who is selling overpriced knick-knacks for a school fundraiser, or the person collecting money for their preferred charity? A small part of me used to think, "aw man," when I'd see them coming. But now I go, "Oh cool! I can check today off my list!"

Today I gave some money to somebody who apparently really, really needed it. She asked me if I had a dollar or two so she could get something to eat. I didn't understand her, so she had to say it again. The second time her voice was faltering a bit. Once I understood, and saw how earnest she was, I gave her the five in my wallet, happy to be able to have today's random act accounted for. (I'm running out of obvious ideas, so if you have any - especially ones that don't involve much money - let me know.) Anyway, she shook my hand, thanked me, and walked away with tears in her eyes and a smile of relief on her face. In that brief moment, I thought it might have been the best five bucks I ever spent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 30

Today was a weird day on the random acts front. I kept getting thwarted.

First, I tried to buy a co-worker lunch on his last day with the company, but our boss stepped in.

Failing at that, I tried to put a quarter into one of those cardboard stands that raises money for some charity or another but knocked it over and made all the quarters fall on the floor.

Then I tried to keep the on-call phone an extra day rather than turning it over to someone else, but he caught me.

So I had to settle for putting some time into a Top Secret project that will turn up later in this blog. At least that plan didn't get foiled.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29

It's our wedding anniversary today, so who better to target than my wife of thirteen years? And what better way than with some beautiful roses?

No, no, no. Not those kind of roses. In a weeks' time they're a bowl of murky water with some lethal twigs sticking out, surrounded by a pile of litter.

No, more like this:

I'm talking about the kind that will be there day after day, month after month, year after year... on and on... long after you're just sick and tired of them, but you know you can't get rid of them without lots of scratches and scars.

Seriously though, my wife knows she's my favorite person of all time. It was just in danger of getting all mushy and poetical up in here.

And one of the joys of living in North Carolina is that you can still buy rose bushes, even at the very end of October.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 28

Today we participated in the NC Big Sweep. We cleaned up litter at a local park, particularly around the banks of the creek that flows through the park. The water eventually leads to Jordan Lake, a drinking water source for about a million people.

Besides the expected cans, bottles, and plastic bags, we also found three softballs, one baseball, one golf ball, a fake gold and fake jewel encrusted wristwatch, a lawn chair, and a few other items probably best left unmentioned.

My boys were reluctant at first, but once it became a treasure hunt, they didn't want to leave. If only I could convince them that their bedrooms are a much better treasure trove, and much less populated with worrisome and disgusting things more conveniently located...


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 27

Today I supported our local PTA, and had fun doing it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26

Today I thanked someone who has been very influential to me. I let him know how much he had helped me, and what a difference he'd made in my life.

Hmm, I don't really have a story here. See you tomorrow....


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 25

Today I was extra courteous on my commute. Whenever I had a chance I let people go ahead of me. I intentionally left big gaps when traffic got tight so people could merge at will.When no one was behind me at a right turn, I stayed put rather than turn to give pedestrians a free pass to cross.

Okay, so not as cool as helping sick kids. I can't be at the top of my game every day.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 24

Today I had my group of Webelos put together 70 hand-made cards and gift bags full of pencils and stickers and toys and erasers for all the children who are stuck in Pediatric Oncology at the NC Children's Hospital. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23

Today I donated to The Walk to End Alzheimer's in Cincinnati, Ohio. I donated in support of my friend Debbie, my mom (who does hospice care for Alzheimer's patients), and in honor of my grandma Martha.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22

Today could have been rough. I had some un-fun work stuff to deal with in the middle of the night, so I was very sleep deprived, and then I had some un-fun personal stuff to deal with during the day so I couldn't even go back to bed.

After all that was behind me, I had to run some errands. I just happened to have some a few one dollar bills and some change in my pocket. So I decided anyone I encountered who was looking for money was getting a little bit, until I ran out of ones & change. Homeless dude? Check. Animal welfare coin drop? Check. Homeless pets? Check. Tip jar at Five Guys? Check. Another homeless dude? Check.

I also decided everyone was going ahead of me through doors or in line. Crazy Cat Lady at Petsmart? Check. (Seriously, if you're buying 62 cans of Fancy Feast, I'm allowed to call you that.) Large Spanish-speaking family who couldn't figure out what they wanted in Spanish, much less in English? Check. New dad trying to figure out how to get a stroller through the door? Check.

It was like a 20 minute Perfect Storm of opportunities for the classic random acts of kindness on a small scale.

I also smiled when I saw the car behind me handing the homeless guy a care package, a la my Day 9 random act. Obviously it was a coincidence, but for five seconds I pretended it was somebody who's been reading this blog.

And after all that, I looked up, and the sky was blue, the leaves were turning, the air was crisp, and it was a beautiful day.

Still tired though.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 21

Today we participated in a crop mob at the Piedmont Biofarm. Basically a bunch of people showed up at the farm and helped harvest sweet potatoes and peanuts.

We started with the sweet potatoes, but we found that the kids did better with peanuts. After the peanut plants were pulled, our job was to dig around for any that were left behind.

My youngest was cracking me up, because even after gleaning several buckets full of peanuts, he was excited every single time he found another one. "Oooh, look, I found a peanut!" He also wanted to know why the peanuts were so dirty. You gotta love four-year-olds.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 20

Today we visited a friend who was volunteering at the newly opened Children's Museum of Alamance County. She was so awesome with the kids (not just mine), that when I got home I emailed the museum to let them know. I also made a donation to the museum.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 19

Today I picked out some of my favorite people and wrote unsolicited recommendations for them on LinkedIn. I also spent a good long while clicking "Endorse" on skills for as many people as I could, wherever I had specific knowledge. I figured in this economy, even if someone's not looking for a job, it doesn't hurt to have their skills acknowledged and endorsed. Plus, it's a very small way to give the people I've liked working with a pat on the back.

Day 18

Today I sent a BabyHawk baby carrier to a foster mom. (I have soooo much respect for foster parents.)

This was a baby carrier that got a lot of use at our house, but we're out of the baby business at my house and the carrier's still got a lot of life in it. It's been kicking around here unused for a couple years. My friend Sharon has had an infant in her care, and I knew she's been looking for that specific carrier. No brainer.

Boom. Done.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 17

Today, I took my kids to the park.

This sounds trivial, I know. And it probably is in the grand scheme of things. But given the fact that my wife's sick, I'm sleep deprived, and I have one kid who loves to argue, one kid who seems to be reinventing the "terrible fours" and one kid who is severely autistic (all of whom had behavior issues at one point or another today), it was no minor undertaking today.

I had another plan for today, but it didn't quite work out. I'll keep that one in my back pocket...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 16

Today I helped clean up after lunch for 150 people. Some employees organized a big cookout at my office, and afterwards I helped stack about 200 chairs and 20 tables, countless catering trays, racks, gel heating candles, condiments, plates, napkins, tablecloths, etc.

I went out in short sleeves in the breezy shade, freezing my butt off for lunch. So then I went back and got my jacket so I could move heavy things in the sun and roast myself.

I never said I was smart.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 15

Tonight we made dinner, served, and cleaned up for the wonderful residents at the Project Home Start women's shelter. They're so nice and so appreciative.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14

Today, for a variety of reasons, I never got a chance to leave the house. I have a list of ideas for just such an occasion, because in my life, some days are like that.

Today, I thanked two people who inspired me to do this project.

First was Syed Muzamil Hasan Zaidi. He made a video of 22 random acts of kindness in one day:

Watching that video led me to Google, which led me to my second source of inspiration: Ryan Garcia. He's doing one per day for the entire calendar year. He writes a blog called 366 Random Acts of Kindness. I've read through all 288 days (so far) and taking notes. 

So in addition to direct messages to these two men, here's a big public THANK YOU as well.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 13

Today I ran my Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k in mumblety-five minutes and 49 seconds, which is pretty good considering I did no training at all for this event, and I'm not exactly in top form. (I'm glad they put "Walk" right there in the event title, because otherwise I'd have to use the word "run" very loosely.)

There were SO MANY PEOPLE out there today. And every one of them touched by autism in some way. I'll admit it got "a little dusty" out there once or twice before the race. But once the race started, I was all business. For about four blocks. Then, rather than succumbing to heart failure, I used the upcoming crosswalk as an interim finish line. And the next crosswalk as a starting line. My finish lines gradually got closer together and my starting lines farther apart.

And unfortunately for me, since I had surgery on my toe about two years ago, my left foot has never been quite right. Walking at a normal pace is okay, running isn't bad, but speed walking hurts like a -- well it hurts a lot. I think I'm due for another talk with my doc. 

Anyway, at one point in the last mile, I was near a mom pushing a kid in a three-wheeled jogging stroller. He wanted mom to go fast again and gave her a "one... two... THREE!" and she'd run a little and then stop. Pretty quickly he was counting again, and she'd run a little more. Eventually she started trying to distract him, divert him, or otherwise delay running again. (I pushed a stroller last year, I know how it is...)

At that point they were right next to me and he was getting upset, so I asked him if he could give me a three count to get me going again. He looked at me, and hesitantly started his, "one..... two...... THREE!" and I took off running. He squealed and shouted "one-two-THREE!" after me, which made me run faster.

I tried to run the last quarter mile full tilt, but a huge throng of one-mile walkers were merged into the route and I got caught up in traffic ten yards from the line. Ah well, so much for my glorious finish.

At any rate, twelve hours since the start and I'm still feeling it my legs and in my lungs.

But what was great about this event was all the people who supported me in this. Thank you Fiona, John, Suzanne, TJ, Cheryl, Laura, (another) Laura, Dana, Helen, Judith, Kay, Gerry, and Casey. You all kept me going through all five kilometers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 12

Today I made a small donation to The Monday Life. I know... it's not Monday. I'm doin' it wrong.

The story behind this organization resonates with me for a number of reasons. Joey McMahon started the charity at age 23. He wanted to make Mondays not suck. He wanted to do something meaningful. He began, not by asking people for a check, but for pocket change. And only on Mondays.

The money raised was used to make life for hospitalized children just a tiny bit better. 

Two years, one lawsuit from the Children's Miracle Network, and one name change later, The Monday Life has expanded to hospitals all over the country.

To see the difference they're making, you can find them at the link above, or on Facebook.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 11

Some days you just don't have it. I woke up early this morning, tired, irritable, and out of sorts.

My random act today was to smile and be extra nice to everyone I interacted with. I won't say it changed everything, but I think it helped me survive a pretty trying work day, and in a better mood than I started with.

It wasn't much, I'll admit. It was the best I could muster today. And I'm going to bed a good two hours early so I can be back at it tomorrow full strength.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 10

This time I did something I told myself I wouldn't do. I've crossed the Rubicon. I've stepped into the void.

I volunteered to lead my son's Webelos den this year. Not just any den, mind you. The biggest den in the most active Cub Scout Pack I've ever encountered. I am now responsible for shaping the character and ensuring the safety of eighteen fourth graders who can't wait to tear through the poison ivy to poke fires with sticks.

Of course, I'm already trying to get out of some of it. I'm proposing splitting the den into two smaller dens and recruiting someone else to lead the other half. But still, this time it wasn't a random act in passing. I'm stuck with this one until at least May.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 9

Today I handed a care package to a homeless man: Travel size tissues, mouthwash, toothpaste, and floss, deodorant, a bar of soap, a disposable razor, peanuts, raisins, a granola bar, and an old multi-tool -- All stuff I found in my house, unused and/or unlikely to be missed.

I'm sure this man is used to being invisible. He stands at the same intersection all the time, hot or cold, rain or shine, while all of us driving by or waiting at the stop light pretend he's not there.

When I slowed down and got his attention to hand him the bag, he had a look of gratitude that I won't soon forget. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8

This one's for my daughter Amelia. And also for Jalen, Josiah, Moya, Clare, Eli, Henry and so many other I know and have met.

Today I scraped together enough change from my money jar to register for the Autism Society of North Carolina's 5k Triangle Run/Walk for Autism.

(And yes, until payday, I am that broke. See? Twenty-five $1 dollar stacks. I didn't even have to break into the pennies. And there's still enough left in the jar to buy myself something deliciously unhealthy.)

So if you have a coin jar, maybe you can scrape together a little to sponsor me. The race is next weekend, so don't dawdle (like I did).

If you can donate, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If not, believe me, I understand. 

UPDATE: I will make you all a deal -- For every person who donates at the above link, regardless of the amount, I will add one more day to my "42 Good Days" project.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 7

I used a gift card meant for me to buy a Lego motor kit and "idea book" for my kids. (Okay, so I might play with it a little too.) Initially, I tried to find something to buy myself, but there wasn't anything I urgently wanted, and I just didn't see any point in talking myself into something I don't particularly need.

This is something my 9-year-old son has wanted for a while. He loves to build contraptions, look at things others have built, and figure out how stuff works. I've showed him a few basic concepts, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.

Day 6

I borrowed, and helped set up and take down a tent for a mom and son on their first-ever camping trip. We all had a lot of fun in the hot October sun yesterday, with flag football, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, fishing, and after-dark capture the flag. And of course roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire. Thankfully the rain held out until after everyone was asleep, and then it rained and rained all night as a cold front came through, stopping in time for us to pack up before another downpour started. I hope the new campers had fun. Me? I'm wiped out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5

Today I said a sincere and heartfelt "Thank You," in person, to our daughter's special education teacher, her speech therapist, her occupational therapist, her physical therapist, and her school's principal. I let them know how much their efforts and their expertise mean to us, and how grateful we are to see the developmental strides Amelia is making. I think they must not get a lot of "thank you's," because several of them seemed very affected by what I said. They have an affection and appreciation for Amelia that is obvious to me, and I'm so glad she's got such a great team helping her. Our school rocks!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4

Today I helped somebody exceed her fundraising goal in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. My mom's survived two different types of cancer, so I was glad to be the one to put Emily over the top.

If you are reading this, and can spare a couple quid, loonies, galahs, sawbucks, or dead presidents, keep it going for Emily.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3

You know, I'm only 3 days into this and I'm already seeing that the problem is not going to be ideas. The problem is going to be opportunities. I work from home a lot. We're a little on the broke side right now. Sometimes I just don't get out much.

And even when I do, there haven't been that many people to interact with. I mean, come on: the DMV. What a great place to do some small kindness. Let somebody go ahead of you. Compliment somebody. I go in the other day and there place is empty. Really, no lines at all. I got kindness block. Being nice to the DMV lady just wasn't enough to count here.

So today, charity began at home. While Lori was slumbering away, dreaming of trying to get some money from Tom Brady's agent to support their love child (Owen), I was up early folding laundry. And more laundry, and more laundry.*

*Except for the fitted sheets. For me, folding those is like folding a giant travel map** while driving on the interstate, and usually involves a similar amount of swearing, swerving, wreckage, and bloodshed.

** Paper maps, how quaint!

I tried to remove all traces of folded laundry, but I got caught anyway.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2

Today I delivered a cold six-pack to a co-worker -- discreetly wrapped in lovely plastic shopping bags, of course. He's somebody whose advice probably saved me dozens of sleepless hours on my last big project at work. I felt like that deserved more than just a "thank you."

He was surprised, thrilled, and eager to crack one open. And eager to help me again in the future.

I guess these random acts are not always entirely altruistic....


Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1

This morning I was chatting with a friend. Not just any friend - one of my closest friends. Someone who knows first hand the stresses and challenges we've been dealing with lately. Someone  who is always willing to listen to me whine, even when her problems are bigger than mine.

When we were down to our last working vehicle, a 14 year old car with 273,000 miles on it, no working turn signals, and a trunk that pops wide open when you go over a bump, they lent us their truck. And it wasn't the first time. Not even the first time that month.

So I thought that was a good place to start with my random acts of kindness. While we were chatting, she was telling me (as we often tell each other) about lack of motivation, stress and fatigue. A little snippet of our conversation:

Im tired
and i don't want to clean
not one bit
ME: I'll come over and clean for you.
HER: thanks
ME: just let me know what needs done first
HER: dishes

She was very confused when I arrived at her house and started actually doing her dishes.

Random: Check.
Kind: Check.
Highly amusing and bewildering for my friend: Check

One down, 41 to go.


42 Good Days

There are times when life wears you down. For me, this has been one of those times. I'm kind of sick of it, and I think I need to turn the tables on life.

Sometimes you need answers. Sometimes you don't even know the question. This might just be one of those times. Luckily, I have the answer even without the question. 

The answer, of course, is 42.

Today I turn 42 years old. 42 days after today is something called World Kindness Day.

So between now and then, I am going to engage in random acts of kindness. At least one per day, every day, for 42 days.

Grumpy? Too bad. Make it happen.
Tired? Tough. Do it anyway.
Sick? No excuses. Man up.

Feel better? Yeah I thought so. I'm so glad we had this little chat, Self.

Today, instead of telling me "Happy Birthday," do something random and kind.

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." - Aesop