A kindness mind-set

I was driving to work yesterday and stopped at a red light. In my rearview mirror, I saw a man get out of the car behind me and rush over to the truck to my right. Confused, I tried to figure out what was going on. Then I saw what he saw: a cell phone on the back bumper. The Good Samaritan picked up the phone and waved it in front of the driver’s side window. The driver of the truck rolled down the window and took the phone—grateful, I’m sure—as the man hurried back to his car.

It made me smile.

The kindness crusade my family and I completed last Saturday was a success—we committed 100 acts of kindness in a single day. And we weren’t alone. It was heartwarming to read the stories of others who joined in by performing their own good deeds. But it wasn’t just about that one day.

Watching the cell phone recovery reminded me of something a friend said at dinner the other night—how kindness is a mind-set and how, hopefully, all of my recent postings on the topic have kept kindness top of mind for many. This made me think of my neighbor (whom I know has been following my adventure in kindness). She recently told me a story about getting her nails done while sitting next to a 92-year-old woman doing the same. As this elderly lady shared some of her life story, my neighbor was inspired to pay for the woman’s manicure.

So while I’m proud of our accomplishment and happy we met our challenge on September 21, I think all the talk of kindness leading up to the event may have been the bigger win.

Over the years, when people ask how I get ideas for my writing, I say they often pop into my head spontaneously—but only if I’ve generally been thinking about the story. When we think regularly about kindness, I believe we’re more inclined to notice opportunities to be kind and to act on those impulses. Thank you to everyone who has done and will do something kind.

How much kindness can we spread together?

After spending nearly a decade disconnected from the writing world, I have felt like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon over the past several months. I’ve been continually gratified—by the writing process itself, by the feedback I’ve received, and by the communal spirit of the writing community online.

Two months ago, I never used Twitter. As a writer (of novels, not flash fiction), I feared I was too verbose for a limited number of characters. I struggled with believing that people would be interested in what I have to say, so Twitter seemed fraught with the constant need to answer, “What should I tweet?” But as I dipped my toes in the water, a magical thing happened: I found other writers.

Ready-made hashtags with daily prompts made figuring out what to say easy. And that ready-made community led me to other writers, other hashtags, contests, forums, and critique partners.

As I’ve worked this summer to establish my platform and to decide how I want to brand myself, one topic seems the most natural fit—as a way to stand out and as something my passion makes me want to talk about: kindness.

I’m proud of the happy task project I’ve created with Shawn and Ellie. But I’ve always felt it could be so much more. And now I have an outlet.

The idea started as an experiment to see if I could entice more people to follow me: last week on Twitter, I pledged to commit one kind act on September 21 for every new follower/retweet, up to a max of 100 acts of kindness in a single day. Once I tweeted my offer, I waited to see if anyone would respond. But while I wanted more followers to support my writing, I mostly wanted to accomplish 100 acts of kindness in 24 hours. It sounded fun, and I like a challenge.

Even before I posted my crazy scheme on Twitter, I knew I would perform 100 acts of kindness regardless of how many new followers I got. But I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm so far, and I have yet to start the main campaign.

Beginning this Sunday, September 1, I’ll post 5 kindness ideas each day leading up to the main event on Saturday, September 21. I’m excited to personally accomplish 100 kind things in one day, but I’m even more excited about how far this movement could spread. I’ve talked to multiple Starbucks stores that will let me put up a flyer promoting the Kindness Crusade; the PTO at Ellie’s school is talking about using Facebook to get other families involved; and the advertising agency where I work will run its own kindness initiative in support of my mission. I believe people want to be kind.

If you’d like to join in the crusade, it’s simple: just do something nice on September 21, then leave a comment to share what you did. You can comment here or follow the conversation on Twitter. If every person who reads this commits a single act of kindness, imagine how bright the world will shine.