One Thousand Acts of Kindness

It’s December 9, 2018.

I’ve just finished helping my parents move a few cabinets (one filled with old records, one filled with dinnerware, another filled with what I’ll call “an amalgam of randomness.”) I figured my mother wouldn’t want to stop sorting records to make lunch for everyone, so I went to get some pizza (hello other Ben at Little Caesars Shiloh!)

On the drive home, listening to my new CD from Brother Bird (Caroline Glaser), I had an idea: I should use one of my many tiny blank books to write down random acts of kindness. I wonder how many I could perform in a calendar year? Should I wait until January 1, 2019 to get started? No. That makes it so much lamer in my opinion - that turns it into a resolution, makes it needy and attention-seeking, and it delays getting started for three weeks. I should start today. Of course, that makes the calendar year concept a bit less tidy - so why not make it a round number goal?

One hundred…too few. This seems like the sort of Odyssean quest that demands rigor, a meaningful journey, a long opportunity to permanently enact meaningful habits/rituals. How about a thousand? That could take about a year if I put my mind to it…

So, I’m going to see how long it takes me to get to One Thousand Acts of Kindnesses.

my little black book

my little black book

Let’s skip back a bit, before we get to the list. You’ll want context for this.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months (longer if you count the VA social worker I saw before that) to try to work through some maladjustments in the way I process the world (especially social interactions.) Long story short, I’ve always been extremely insecure and self-deprecating, and a series of traumatic relationship events caused me to withdraw into a protective shell (a safe space, if you will.) I believe I dealt with these events by constructing a protective wall around my inner self that, while protecting me from further pain, also prevented me from receiving nurture from my interactions with others. As a result, I spent a few years withering down from someone who used to be a warm, generous, and loving soul into a timid, withdrawn shell of my former self.

I’m not happy with that, so I’ve been steadily taking a close look at myself, my history, and how I’ve reacted to it - and focusing on building myself back up to health, happiness, and kindness. In other words, figuring out who I am, who I want to be (or need to be), and how to make improvements and adjustments to get to a place where I am happy and healthy.

With a goal of connecting more with new people (making new connections, being open to making new friends and allowing them to get to know me) and with the intent on being a kind person (because frankly, that’s me at my happiest - calm, gentle, patient, loving, and kind) I decided to be more available to help others. To perform random acts of kindness.

Now, they can’t be self-serving (do something nice but with an ulterior selfish motive) and they can’t be chores or things I would normally be expected to do - they must be a genuine opportunity to be kind to another human being (we can also include other living beings like animals and plants, I suppose.)

There is also no requirement for reciprocation - as in, I can’t get angry/frustrated if my holding the door open for another person at the gas station is abjectly refused (as happened this summer when I held the door open for an older man and he stopped dead in his tracks, refusing to go through the door if I was holding it for him.) I can only control my life, my actions, and my responses - so all I should do is what I can do.

I’m also not going to back-date this in an attempt to include nice things I’ve done in the last week. The idea happened today, so it’s starting today. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future (I hope, anyway.)

Enough exposition, right? Let’s get on with…

The List (official)

1) December 9, 2018: Helped my parents move (and clean) three full cabinets

2) December 9, 2018: Brought pizza back so no one had to make lunch.

3) December 10, 2018: Let the damned cat into my room after I’d already snuggled into bed. (You know how, when you first get in bed, it’s almost as if you’ve found the perfect position to fall asleep…and if you move, you lose it forever?) And then I let her out again 10 minutes later.

4) December 11, 2018: Gave a stranger information on their coin PLUS went the extra mile in looking up auction results, including links.

5) December 11, 2018: Gave someone a recommendation for a local tattoo parlor (double kindness, as it helps the artist as well.)

6) December 11, 2018: Helped mom install a bird house.

7) December 12, 2018: Picked up Mama Kitty (an outside cat) for some love and then brought her some food.

8) December 14, 2018: Took Dad’s letter to the post office.

9) December 14, 2018: Gave Greg a coin for his collection (at no charge.)

10) December 14, 2018: Took 2 drawings to the ladies at MOBOT who connected with my work. They did NOT expect me to return! Haha…

11) December 14, 2018: Helped Mom & Dad put up the Christmas tree.

12) December 14, 2018: Cleaned outside windows for Mom.

13) December 15, 2018: Watched George’s booth at the flea market for 3 hours.

14) December 15, 2018: Waited for 40 minutes at Popeye’s (on a Sunday afternoon) for Mom.

15) December 16, 2018: Picked up food for gingerbread house party.

16) December 16, 2018: Kept Max occupied (inventing games) while Marisa finished her homework.

17) December 16, 2018: Took Mom’s Christmas cards to the post office.

18) December 18, 2018: Helped pass along some post-breakup advice (that I’d received and found a bit helpful) to a stranger who had also just ended a relationship.