kindness activist

kindness activist

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Award Kindness

This is Tonya Jone Miller.  She is a Fringe performer (actor).  And she is a Kindness Activist!

Tonya Jone Miller - a woman filled with talent and KINDNESS!
I have written a few pieces in this blog that refer to Fringe Festivals.  I am not sure the average reader knows what I am talking about when I mention Fringes.  Fringe Festivals are events around the country (and other countries) where multiple independent theatrical pieces are produced in a short period of time.  Without the fringe, many of the shows would have no other avenue to reach a stage and audience: producing yourself is super expensive – you have to have a space, lighting, technician, ticket selling system, etc.  So Fringe Festivals provide an outlet for performances of all types to have a venue.  Many Fringes are “uncurated” - meaning all applications are considered equally and if there are more applications than show slots, shows are drawn in a lottery to get in. 

Many Fringe artists TOUR with their shows.  That means applying to lots of festivals (paying what can be hefty application fees), crossing your fingers and hoping to get in several, then figuring out a plan to transport yourself from city to city doing your piece.  Touring is rewarding for sure, but also exhausting, stressful, can be financially draining, and definitely full of ups and downs.  Touring artists find themselves in a new city every couple of weeks – being housed by new people in each town, hanging up their posters in new storefronts everywhere they go, having a technical rehearsal and showing new in each venue technicians how they want their lights/sound to work, and handing out what ends up to be thousands of postcards advertising their show to potential audience members.  Did I mention how exhausting it all is?? 

Touring Fringe Artist Les Kurkendaal starting off the
2015 Indy Fringe by handing out his flyers to potential audience members
And to top that off, when touring artists show up in each new town, they do not have a “built in audience”.  Shows that are local to the town have guaranteed ticket buyers – their co-workers, aunts, uncles, 3rd grade teachers…  Touring performers often don’t know a single soul in town!  Heck, we have been in lots of cities where we have free tickets to give away and don’t even know anyone to give them to!

But let’s get back to Tonya.  She is based in Portland, Oregon and often spends summers touring the Fringe circuit.  We saw her amazing show, “Threads” and really liked it.  And she is super kind

A promo piece for "Threads" (photo credit Gina Bixby)
I am naming Tonya a Kindness Activist because of something she did back in August 2015.  Many touring performers were finishing up a summer on the road by performing at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival.  The Indy Fringe is a fun one, but it can be tough for out-of-towners to draw audiences.  Often at the end of Festivals there are AWARDS handed out – “Best Solo Show”, “Best Ensemble”, etc.  But when the Indy Fringe was finishing up and Tonya heard that there was only ONE award being given, an award for selling the most tickets, she stepped up!!  As Tonya told me, “It just seemed like there was a void to be filled…  Indy is a lovely festival, but it is smaller.  I really felt like I made some good connections with some of the other touring artists there, and I was a little bit like, ‘I wanna do something to tell my friends how much I liked them!’ ya know??”.

An inspiring part of being in a Fringe is going to see other artist's shows!  Here a
group of performers eagerly awaits a show to start.  :)
As I mentioned earlier, touring can be expensive.  Let’s just say, no one is getting rich on the fringe circuit.  But Tonya waltzed down to a frozen yogurt store and plopped down all the cash she had to buy gift cards as awards!  “I think I had something like, $40, so I got like all the $3 frozen yogurt gift cards I could get!  Each one was only $3…  So basically people could get like, a YOGURT, no toppings…  But I was like, ‘Screw it!’.  I just wanted to do something nice for people.”. 

Prizes in hand, Tonya set up making up some of the most eclectic awards categories I have ever seen.  As she explained, “It wasn’t about, like, ‘You sold the most tickets’ or ‘You were the best actor in the festival’.  It was more like recognizing the wonderful ridiculousness that is a Fringe.”  And THAT is what made Tonya’s awards so damn spectacular!!!!  They celebrated the lunacy that is Fringe.  And Tonya wasn’t about to give her awards out privately – oh no.  If there was an official awards ceremony for the “real” award, Tonya was going to present her awards in a grand fashion, too!  So she asked if she could take the mic to present her awards, too, and the organizers agreed.  “They didn’t have any idea what I was doing!  So I was like, ‘You gave me an inch, I’m going to take a mile!’ and she leaped up on stage to present!! 

Performer name badge
I was so proud of my sweetheart David for winning an award that night!  He walked away with the 
I Can’t &*%#$ Do That Award” for the super physical work in his show.  Other categories included the “Death is Hysterical Award” (we think the winners of that one were Kurt Fitzpatrick and Xan Scott, who had a good show but a super hard festival because their venue was way off the beaten track).  As Tonya said, “It is not always about sold out shows and great reviews.  Sometimes it’s just about trudging through and doing your job as a performer.  Nobody wants a bad festival, no one wants to lose money.  But at the same time, if you are open, then every festival can be a learning experience.”  Another category was “The Future of Indy Theatre is in Good Hands Award” which Tonya bestowed on a group of teenage Indy girls. 

Kurt and Xan - proud recipients of an award from Tonya!
“Really, the reason I did it was about putting SMILES on people’s faces.“

It worked, Tonya.  Your impromptu frozen yogurt awards ceremony was over a year ago and thinking about it STILL puts a smile on my face.  Thanks for all you do to encourage other artists along the tour, and for the KINDNESS you put out into the world.

For more information on Tonya’s show “Threads” check out this link:  Threads
David getting into that INDY SPIRIT.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

10,000 Hits of KINDNESS!!!

A milestone was achieved this evening - this blog reached 10,000 hits!!!!

10,000 hits celebration time
 And yes, that is something to celebrate!  I am HAPPY that it has had that many views.  And yet...  I am also a little bit saddened by it.  Part of me says, "Only 10,000 hits.  Sigh."  I know that this feeling comes from the fact that my other blog, my silly little project where I review products from Trader Joe's (Trader Joe's 365), has SO MANY more views (over 225,000 - but yes, it is one year older than this blog).  I can't help but compare the two.  I mean, folks, that blog reviews stuff from a grocery store...  It is not exactly life changing.  Sure, it is fun to read about Trader Joe's, but (in my mind) it is not nearly as important as reading about KINDNESS.

I truly believe that if more people read about kindness, they would be more likely to ACT KIND.  To spread kindness in their communities.  Not only that - when you read about kindness, it is somehow on your radar as you go about your day and you are more "OPEN" to it, alert to it, seeking it out!

So yes - I am happy that this blog may have inspired 10,000 eyeballs (well, I guess that is actually around 20,000 eyeballs since the vast majority of readers probably have 2 of them).  But I wish it could do MORE.  I wish more people saw it, read it, were inspired by it.

THANK YOU for reading it.  If it inspires you, please share it!  Tell your friends - be they Facebook friends, Twitter pals, or even real life in the flesh human being friends!  You can "follow" the blog by email (there is an area on the right-hand side to do that if you like).  You can "like" Kindness Activist on Facebook (I make "kind photos" like the ones in this entry and put them on that FB page).  And/or you can follow @KindActivist on Twitter.  And you can bookmark the blog if you like:

But whatever you do - BE KIND.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wallet Kindness

This story is a good one, because we can all relate to it.  It is about losing something IMPORTANT. We have all done that, no??  (My most recent example is leaving my entire purse in the bleachers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, and not noticing I was missing it until we walked waaaay down a BIG hill.  Lucky for me I was with 2 knights in shining armor, Jordan and Zach, who literally RAN up the hill and retrieved my purse (which was perfectly intact!).  Like I said, we can all relate to LOSING SOMETHING IMPORTANT.  But isn’t it simply lovely when that loss turns into something positive?

That’s what happened to my nephew’s wife Lyndsey.  The other day she posted this on Facebook:

"There are good people in the world. Today I lost my wallet at Village Pointe mall. A good person
found my it. She opened it only to find my name.  She looked me up on Facebook and
messaged me to let me know she had found it. She even offered to bring it to me when I
called her! Instead we met in a grocery store parking lot. I am so grateful for good people

Well I don’t know about you, but when I read something like that my first thought is:  THAT WALLET RETURNING WOMAN MUST BE OFFICIALLY NAMED A KINDNESS ACTIVIST!!!  So I set about getting both women’s sides of what happened with the CASE OF THE LOST WALLET.

Nate, Lyndsey, and Ryker
Lyndsey is mom to son Ryker, who just turned 1.  Ever since Ryker was born, she has used his diaper bag to hold her wallet instead of a purse.  They were shopping the other day and the little dude was fussing and ready to leave Old Navy.  Lyndsey set her wallet on top of the visor part of his stroller, put Ryker in his car seat, and folded up the stroller without thinking that her wallet (and sunglasses) were perched on top of the visor!  The wallet and glasses fell off and landed in the parking lot, and off Lyndsey and Ryker drove…

It wasn’t until after naptime and a trip to the grocery store that she noticed she didn’t have her wallet…  Nothing like needing to pay for groceries and frantically hunting for a wallet that is non-existent, eh?  She rushed out to her car to hunt for it, but of course it wasn’t there.

Lyndsey told me, “I knew it was gone, I panicked and frantically searched through my car, the diaper bag... I even decided to leave my groceries at the store after I told them I would be right back!  I drove back to the shopping mall while calling stores I had been to, to see if anyone had turned it in. No luck.  Then I drove back to the apartment and rummaged through all the rooms with no luck.”

The mysterious missing wallet...
We have ALL had this experience, right??  Just last night I hunted EVERYWHERE for a missing coupon.  I know it is in the house somewhere, but I can’t find it!!  Grrrr…

When Lyndsey was leaving home, she noticed that someone she didn’t know had sent her a Facebook message.   She had seen it pop in earlier but was driving so ignored it (and then forgot about it).  She cancelled some of her credit cards, then remembered - THE FACEBOOK MESSAGE

She opened it and it turns out it was, as she put it, “The most beautiful message I have read!”

Tiffany, a very kind woman, had tried to locate the owner of the wallet immediately after finding it. It turns out that Tiffany was driving around waiting for her aunt and uncle to come out of a store. She parked, waited, then drove around a bit. When she saw the wallet, she said, "I had a gut feeling to grab it, but for a split second I thought not to... Because what would happen if someone thought I stole it?".

Tiffany, the WALLET FINDER!!!
Lucky for Lyndsey, Tiffany went with her gut and picked it up. She peeked inside ONLY at the license to learn the owner's name so she could try and find her on Facebook. And find her she did!
I asked Tiffany WHY she decided to return the wallet. I mean, some people would have just left it lying there. Others would have dropped if off in a nearby store and let the clerks worry about it. And still others would have kept it! But Tiffany went to the trouble of tracking down the owner. Why?? "I returned it because that is what I would hope someone would do for me," she said. "I have an amazing family and friends that have shown me so much kindness and love, especially when I lost my husband last year. So I try and pay it forward."
Well Tiffany, you paid it forward indeed.  When Lyndsey got in touch and you found out that she was a long drive away you even offered to DELIVER the wallet to her!  That, my dear, is above and beyond the call of Kindness Activist duty!!!  :)

Lyndsey's HERO Tiffany
The two women met up in a grocery store parking lot and Lyndsey almost started crying when she got her sunglasses and wallet back.  She told Tiffany that she was “Her hero” and thanked her for her kindness with a Starbuck’s giftcard. 
This story shows so many things:  Tiffany didn’t know that the lost wallet was important not just because of the credit cards and money inside, but because the wallet itself was a treasured gift from Lyndsey’s husband.  And Lyndsey had no way of knowing that Tiffany, her hero, had herself had a really tough time with her husband’s recent passing.  I am guessing that Tiffany was happy to be in the role of GIVER of kindness in this instance after being a RECIPIENT of so much kindness and support over the past year.
Tiffany summed it up best by saying: “If we had more kind people, this world would be a better place.  I think people forget to be kind and treat people the way they want to be treated!”.
Oh, and Lyndsey has treated herself to what she calls a new "wallet holder" (aka purse) in celebration of her returned wallet (and of learning an important lesson about being careful where you put your wallet!).

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kate's Kindness

I try not to “judge” kindness.  By that, I mean I try not to put it into categories; like, I try to look at kindness as simply KINDNESS and not mentally make one kind act “better than” or “above” another.  But try as I might, I still find myself stratifying kindness.  Take for example, returning another person’s shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot.  YES, that is a kind act, but is it equal to giving $50 to a street performer?  Or how about this one:  holding the door open for someone is kind indeed, but is it AS KIND as giving a stranded stranger a 50 mile ride to where they need to go??

I guess even though I try hard not to think one kindness is “better than” another, in the back of my mind I have little rubrics that I unconsciously categorize kind acts into:
  • ·         Simple kindness
  • ·         Kindness
  • ·         Kick ass kindness
  • ·         Woah, truly huge and inspirational kindness
(I actually probably have even more unconscious rubrics than that – do you??)

Anyway, the kind of kindness I am writing about today is definitely of the highest level.  I am calling it “Woah truly huge and inspirational kindness” – maybe you would call it “Why can’t I be that kind” kindness or something like that.  Even before I tell you about it, let me remind you that you CAN be as kind as the person you are about to read about!  Let’s let her INSPIRE us all to be as kind!!

Meet Kate.

Kate - trust me, she is going to inspire you.
I don’t think I have ever met Kate Meehan in person.  She is my partner David’s Facebook friend, and I remember back before I had my own FB account I would sit with him and scroll thru his news feed and Kate mesmerized me.  She seemed so exotic!  So “with it”.  So smart and talented!!

And now that I am her Facebook friend, too, and now that I followed a journey she went on, I can add another trait to Kate:  she is also VERY KIND.

Here’s the story:

Kate started her own tradition a few years ago of getting ready for her annual birthday by doing ONE KIND ACT for every year she has been on the planet.  Well, this year she was turning 36, so she teed up 36 kind acts to perform!  I asked her exactly WHAT it is that she is doing:

“For the last couple of years, I’ve been celebrating my birthday by engaging in an act of kindness, forgiveness or gratitude for every year I’ve been on the planet. I’ve had the great fortune of having years that, even when kind of lousy, offered me some kind of new learning or fortitude for which I’m grateful. Engaging in some intentional activity really forces you to think about how you interact with your community, and look for things that need improving. By adding a new act every year, you’re forced to rethink what your community needs, and how things have changed over the past year. Doing so many in a short(ish) amount of time trains you to watch people more closely, and look for ways to offer yourself to people in need. “

Well HELLO INSPIRATION!!!!  One kind act for every year you are on the planet, all squished into the days or weeks before your birthday!!???!  What a perfect way to celebrate life, celebrate humanity, and spread kindness!  Of course, “How in the world did you come up with the amazing plan?” was one of the first questions on my mind, and her answer (partly that she was INSPIRED by seeing other acts of kindness in her life) didn’t surprise me; “A few years ago, it occurred to me that, as an adult, I don’t engage in as much service as I did as a child. My father was very active in the Catholic church, organizing Christmas Parties for kids with a parent in jail, where Santa would come and deliver them a present from their incarcerated parent, or raising money for adults with developmental disorders. I’m not formally affiliated with any church, but I was missing that investment in my community and wanted to both model and involve my children in generosity. It was important to me that they see all of it – the acts themselves and any “aftermath,” and the process of really looking at my environment and figuring out how I can share my resources to make things a little better than how I found them.”

Take note adults – your children (and the children of others around you) are watching.  They are learning from YOUR actions.  What Kate took in as a child, watching her father spread love and kindness, sunk in and she is emulating it as an adult.  I have no doubt that her kids will have the same kind souls when they grow up.

In working on this Kindness Activist project, I have examined how doing acts of kindness make the GIVER feel, and in situations where I have access to talk to the RECEIVER, how they feel as well.  Here is Kate’s insightful response to how doing the kind acts make her feel, “In the moment of doing them, I often feel a little bit sad. I try to make each act be specific for someone in my mind in a certain circumstance. I’ve been leaving pep talk notes on public bathroom mirrors – not for the people having a great day, but for the folks who really need it. Today I left change at the vending machines at the local emergency room – because those waits are horrible, and sometimes that walk to the vending machine for a Snickers bar can be a real lifesaver, you know? These are such small things to do in a big, messy world, and I try to take the time to think about the moments I’m working to improve. It’s after, when I gather them all up, that I feel fantastic. Most people listen to the news and feel helpless, but I have something I can measure that makes me feel like I’ve done something to bring a little more order to the world.”
Positive note on a public bathroom mirror

Change left for emergency room waiters - perfect for a snack
I would love to see the person who walked up to that hospital vending machine and found the money already there, wouldn’t you?  Just to witness the little smile on their face – that in the midst of whatever horrible medical situation they were in, one tiny thing went amazingly good for them.  And Kate brought SO MANY of those little smiles to peoples’ faces!!  She was kind to so many people in her community – people she had never met and probably will never meet!  She doesn’t stick around to see the results of her kindness, she just DOES AMAZING THINGS (one of my very favorites was pre-loading money into kid’s treat and toy vending machines!) and then WALKS AWAY – leaving the kindness for the next passerby to find and delight in.  She told me, “I hope it makes them (the receivers) feel a little less alone, and know that the world can sometimes surprise you with its gentleness.
Here you go, lucky kids!!!  Kate has you covered!
Kate – you are a true inspiration.  You inspire me to be more kind – to go out into the world and randomly shower people with KINDNESS!  And you make the world a much better place.  Kate encourages us to TRY HER METHOD – “Try it!  I find I usually discover some little thing that’s easy to do all year. I’ve kept a pad of sticky notes and a Sharpie in my purse, and I’ve found it’s easy to leave little sticky notes of encouragement around.”  Wouldn’t you LOVE finding one of Kate’s notes on a dressing room mirror somewhere?  Something like, “Hey – YOU ARE FABULOUS” or “Love Yourself Today, You Are Worthy”…. 
A collage of KIND ACTIONS by Kate
Here is a list of the things Kate did this year for her birthday kindness extravaganza.  I highlighted the ones that were particularly awesome in my opinion :).  You can use these for inspiration – then GO OUT AND CELEBRATE YOUR OWN KINDNESSES!

36. Help some friends paint their new house
35. Move a friend
34. Help friends move to their new house!
33. Mop firework shrapnel from the neighborhood after 4th of July.
32. Water the veggie garden at the kids' school.
31. Sign up for Charity Miles, so every mile I spend walking the dogs earns a quarter for charity.
30. Donate blood to the Blood and Tissue Center of Austin.
29. Take my kids to the Black Lives Matter open forum. Talk to them about making space and really listening on the drive there and back.
28. Leave a bouquet of flowers on a random car in the grocery store parking lot.
27. Buy coffee for the guy behind me in line at the coffee shop.
26. Drop some lures on the Pokestops at the Dell Children's Hospital.
25. Preload all the treat and toy machines at the grocery store with quarters.
24. Leave a sticky-note love note on the mirror of a public bathroom.
23. Do it again, this time at a coffee shop near campus.
23 (#2, because I'm good at numbering). Bring some secret weapons (gripe water and golden salve) to some brand-new parents, along with a gift card to East Side Pies.
22. Drop off some flowers at the hospital and leave them with the nurses to distribute to folks who have been there a while and aren't getting visitors.
21. Tape a baggie full of change to the vending machines in the Emergency Room, because going to the Emergency Room sucks.
20. Go support a friend's band, even if it's past your bedtime.
19. Take a moment to really forgive someone, even if they could care less.
18. Found out one of my projects a few years ago included material that was offensive to someone. I spent the day learning about perspectives I was unfamiliar with to make sure that didn't happen again.
17. Applied to volunteer with White Noise Roundup. 
16. Proof read the playing cards for 
Morbid Curiosity, developed by the lovely Kimberley Mead.
15. Treated myself to another book on a history topic I can't seem to stop poking at with a stick. (Treat Yo Self!)
14. Bought some books for some friends from their Amazon Wish Lists.
13. Dashed off some letters for Veterans through
12. Sent a letter of support to a Rehab center.
11. Made a bee waterer.
10. Slogged through Austin Temporary Use Permits for use in the Minimum Standard of Care, because Austin actors deserve a safe place to perform.
9. Tended my sick husband, passed on making jokes that were *really good.*
8. Froze a bunch of water bottles to distribute to the folks on the side of the road (I'll continue doing this one)
7. Left a bunch of quarters at a laundromat, in a neighborhood where many residents could use a hand.
6. Another bathroom pep talk.
5. Recorded a couple of chapters for Librivox, who provides audiobooks of classic books free of charge.
4. Supported a GoFundMe for a stranger who is undergoing back surgery.
3. Baked some cookies for the fam, who's tolerated all this (also my ukulele playing) without complaint.
2. Handed out popsicles for the folks playing Pokemon at the park. - “I came up with a great one while I was out playing Pokemon Go with my kids – it’s the middle of summer here in Texas, and terribly hot. All these people are exploring their parks with their families, getting exercise and finding little treasures around their city, but they’re not bringing water! I’m going to stop by the store this week and bring some water and popsicles down to some of the good Pokemon hunting grounds. The activity will serve my community twice – addressing an immediate need for the people there, and also gently reminding these folks that they should be a little more prepared next time they go out. (Plus making new friends and nurturing a sense of community!)
1. Brought some cookies to the folks at the fire department.

Collage number 2 of Kate's Kindness
As you can clearly see from the amount of highlighted ideas above, Kate inspires me to the max.  I can’t wait to pre-load quarters into vending machine and peek at a friend’s Amazon wish list and surprise them with something from it!   My birthday is in 10 months - that is plenty of time for me to plan 51 spectacular kind acts!

Here is one tiny bit more inspiration from Kate (if you can fit any more inspiration in your heart right now!).  Look at the signature line from her email:

     “Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the     
      floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”  
                 - Edward Gorey

Beautiful inside and out.  
Thanks for sharing your story on Facebook Kate, and for letting me share it here.  You are a gem and the world is a better place because you are in it.

Please comment below and let the world know what KINDNESS you plan to do!!