Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thoughts on the First Month
Well today marks the end of the first full month of my kindness project, so it's a pretty good time to reflect a bit and share some of my thoughts and observations. Including my 3-day headstart, I've now had 34 days of doing a wide variety of intentional acts of kindness. Some of involved money and some haven't; some have been for strangers and others for people I know; some have been anonymous and others known; and some have been totally spontaneous while others have been more planned. I've learned something from all of them. Let me start with today's act/lesson, and then reflect on the month as a whole.
I was once again at Wegman's today (this will happen a lot this year!), and as I was about to enter the store, I saw an elderly man coming out, struggling with what appeared to be two heavier bags. I approached him and asked if I could assist him with his bags. He declined my offer, saying "I got it." While I would have liked to have been able to help him, the incident left me thinking about two things.
First, I noticed that, because of this kindness project, I'm so much more conscious of looking for people who might need help and extending myself to help them. While in the past I might occasionally do such a thing, it would only have been in situations that were much more obvious. Now, I'm actually looking for those opportunities.
Second, I've been noticing people's mixed reactions to offers of help. I think today's refusal to accept help seemed to me to be more about pride; and I totally understand and respect that. When someone offers to do something for me, my first kneejerk reaction is almost always to decline the offer, even if I could use the help. I think it has something to do with both pride, and an attitude that getting help is somehow a sign of weakness. Intellectually, I know that's not true, but emotionally, many of us have been somehow socialized that way.
There have been other times this month where people have rebuffed my attempts at kindness, albeit for other reasons. Remember the crossing guard who didn't want hot chocolate, or the older woman who didn't want flowers, or the man on Main Street who didn't want a Starbucks gift card? I think all of these had more to do with distrust, or at least discomfort, with a stranger. Over the coming months, I'll be giving more thought to how to lessen that potential discomfort and whether or not there are things I can do to influence people's response.
As I look back over the month as a whole, I can honestly say that I'm having a lot of fun, though certainly there are times where I feel some pressure to think of something to do. I definitely find myself in a more consistently positive, optimistic, generous frame of mind than ever before. Perhaps most surprising, but rewarding, has actually been the response from my many readers. There are an average of more than 200 people reading my posts each day, and they're from 9 different countries in addition to the U.S. I've gotten many e-mails from people telling me that they're not only enjoying the stories, but more importantly, letting me know that my project is having a meaningful impact on them. I guess this kindness stuff really does spread, which is certainly a big part of what this year is about.
I want to thank you for joining me on this journey and ask you to share my blog with as many of your friends, family members, and co-workers as possible. As the calendar turns to February tomorrow, I'm excited to discover what's in store!