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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

happy deeds #1: the firemen and the muffins

One of the extraordinary things things that happens after a national tragedy (after the shock, anger and heartbreak) is the overwhelming and all encompassing mass feeling of wanting to do selfless deeds for others. Immediately after the 2012 tragedies of Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook, stories started to pepper the news of random acts of kindness from rescuing animals trapped in rising waters to paying off holiday layaways at department stores.

It seems that in the deep unyielding darkness one single solitary act of goodness lights the way for others. This was especially evident shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook with the 26 Random Acts of Kindness that took Twitter by storm. For each child and adult senselessly killed that day at school, people committed themselves to doing one random act of kindness in the name of each victim. Reading the Tweets of random acts of kindness was life affirming. It was exactly what this nation needed in the wake of such random evil that touched a perfectly wonderful sleepy little town in Connecticut.

It was a flurry of good that made it feel like a blanket of kindness could possibly protect us from evil, like water putting out a fire. It worked. It did. To get a little scientific, these random acts of kindness are tied into self-transcendence, that feeling of being significantly tied to each other and the universe. These random acts of kindness brought people together 1:1 and added light to what was a terrible time in this world of ours. Then I wondered--what if? What if every single day we each committed an act of kindness, not just in the shadow of a tragedy?

What if today you let someone with one item cut in front of you in line at the market?
What if today you wrote a note to your high school English teacher to thank her for teaching you foolproof way to tell the difference between its and it's?
What if today you dropped off ten new collars and leashes at the pet shelter? 
What if today you paid the toll for the person behind you?

What if by doing this simple deed you give an otherwise harried mother a break and she doesn't slap her kid in the backseat?
What if by doing this simple deed your high school English teacher realizes on an otherwise tough day in the classroom that she does make a difference?

Think of it as the Butterfly Effect, the concept that suggests the possibility that a butterfly flapping his wings on one side of the planet could incite weather changes on the other side of the planet. You buy the coffee for the person in line behind you who is having a bitch of a day. Because of your act of kindness his mood shifts and he decides to buy his wife flowers on his way home from work. His wife who was thinking of leaving him because he never does anything thoughtful decides to stay and keeps the family together. This couple works out their problems and their well-adjusted, confident daughter goes on to law school and becomes president one day. It's kind of mindblowing when you think of random acts of kindness this way.

So, here we are then in 2013 and a fresh slate is upon us. On New Year's Eve 2013 will we look back on this year and the joy we brought to other people or will we look at the material things we have? What will matter more in this world-- an older dog adopted from an animal shelter or a new car that you really didn't need?

My vow to you is this: I may not be perfect, not anywhere near perfect. I may still covet the shiny new car and I may not always let someone cut in front of me in traffic but I will try every day to commit one act of grace, one act that will for even just one moment bring happy to someone else. I won't document them all here. I've thought about that but decided against it because at some point it will just sound boastful. Rather, I'll post ideas of what works, reactions, etc. Just know that each day I will be doing this. What if we all did? Every day? Imagine.

Happy Deed #1: The Firemen and the Muffins

I am in awe of fireman, of the fact that they will dart into danger to save another life. I don't think I could do that. I know I couldn't do that. So, to kick off Happy Deeds, yesterday (New Year's Day) I baked Banana Nut Chocolate Chip muffins and dropped them off at our local fire station. Maybe it's not a grand gesture, but I'd like to think that for one moment a part of their day is happy and blissful before that alarm rings again. 

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