I read this wonderful story this morning and wanted to pass it along to everyone who comes by here and reads about making a difference be it once a day, once a week, once a month or whenever you can. I hope you enjoy!
I had titled the event “24 hours of kindness.” The goal was simple: to stay out for a full twenty-four hours without sleep, performing as many acts of kindness as possible. Thanks to our local radio station, Coast 93.1, and the support of Tim Wright and Eva Matteson, (two of the most kindhearted DJs you’ll ever meet) all of southern Maine now knew about The Kindness Center’s crazy event. Now known as “The Kindness Guy,” this was my first attempt at something this big. The local and even national media buzz was incredible. Since 9:00 that morning, two of my kindness cronies and I had been all over town delivering free baked goods to nursing homes and schools, buying coffee for strangers, giving out hugs, moving furniture, giving free city bus rides and completely flooding the town with a rainbow of flowers and balloons. Since it was April 15th, “tax day,” we even spent time making grouchy taxpayers smile as they rushed in and out of the post office, a task we would repeat later that night with miraculous results.
It was now just before 5:00 pm and although there were still sixteen hours to go, my adrenaline showed no signs of waning. After giving out a few more flowers and offering up free hugs at the local grocery store, we were about to make our next stop, the local soup kitchen, before heading into the city for a night of non-stop kindness. Arriving at dinnertime, we walked though a sea of hungry souls waiting to get inside for their final meal of the day. After looking into the eyes of just a few of the children standing in line, my upbeat energy was quickly softened and it brought me down to earth. Up until this point, we had spent our time making people laugh and smile with our acts of kindness, but something about this stop was very different. Standing there and seeing the tattered clothing and leathery faces I instantly felt my heart breaking. I also couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the fact that I had a warm home and was blessed with all of the necessities in life. This also prompted the slight feeling of guilt.
Walking through the back door and into the kitchen, we found volunteers busy preparing salads, desserts and gallons of ice tea, as people were now filtering in and the dining area began to buzz. The main dish would be ready soon and we would have an opportunity to deliver the meals. Looking around the room and still waiting for the food trays to be filled, I became inspired with an idea to brighten up the room. Local florists had donated hundreds of carnations to our 24-hour mission and we still had dozens of them in the truck. This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to create smiles between my kindness crew and the women and children now sitting at the tables. It was absolute magic. With each carnation offered, eyes sparkled with excitement and gratitude. I joyfully bounced from table to table receiving everything from soft grins to laughter to an occasional big hug…to even tears.
After giving out most of my carnations, I began making my way to the back of the room, where I noticed a woman sitting alone and appearing quite worn down. But unlike many of the other people there, she continued making direct eye contact with me until we were finally face to face. Smiling, I extended my hand and offered her one of my remaining white carnations. She instantly looked confused and overwhelmed by my gesture. Slowly opening her hand, she accepted the flower, bowing her head as tears now began to well up in her eyes. Hoping that she was okay (or that I had not upset her), I quietly asked if she was all right. Seeming somewhat embarrassed, she lifted her head and stared up at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. She said, “This is just so nice…and…I haven’t received a flower from anyone in over ten years.” A large lump was now forming in my throat as the moisture settling into my own eyes quickly impaired my vision. I knew I was about to lose it any moment and there was only one thing left to do. Dropping the remaining flowers from my hand, I bent down, wrapped my arms around her and hugged her as tightly as I could.
Shortly after dinner, my kindness crew and I quietly shuffled out the back door to prepare for our night in the city. The next fourteen hours would be filled with everything from feeding homeless people to delivering free coffee and bagels to police stations, mopping floors at a food pantry and even bringing peace to an angry crowd of last-minute taxpayers attempting to get their envelopes into the mailbox before midnight. It was an absolutely crazy day. And although both my body and my mind were completely shot by the time our 24th hour rolled around, I can honestly say that my spirit was ready to do it all over again. Next to my wedding day and the birth of my son, it was without a doubt the greatest day of my life.
It has been over a year now since the first “24 hours of kindness” event (we recently completed another) and I still don’t think I have fully come down from the high. But after performing hundreds of kind acts, giving multiple interviews to the media and sharing this experience with thousands of people around the country, each time I think about it, my heart always goes back to the grace of a sweet little lady holding a single white carnation. What a wonderful reminder that it truly is the simple things in life that mean the most to us.
Today's Tip: Go to the dollar store and pick up something funny and pass it along to a friend or someone who definitely needs a lift in their day!