I’ve long believed in the concept of SHARING things that I no longer want/need. You know, what used to be called “hand-me-downs”. Giving your little sister or younger cousin the sweaters that no longer fit – that sort of thing.
But in the last few years, that concept has broadened to beyond outgrown clothes shared within your family to still good but no longer needed items shared in your COMMUNITY. I love it! I often give things away on our sidewalk (we live on a busy intersection). I used to post things often to give away in a group called Freecycle (check it out – there is probably one in your neck of the woods). And this year, I found “Buy Nothing”, a super local group that is organized on Facebook (my branch is “Buy Nothing Columbia Pike”, but perhaps there is a Buy Nothing by you that you can join!).
The idea of Freecycle and Buy Nothing is this: just because you no longer need or want something doesn’t mean you should throw it away. Instead, you should GIVE IT to a neighbor! Did you get an extra set of measuring spoons for your birthday and don’t want two sets? Why, GIVE that old set to a neighbor! Replaced your black purse with a brown one and don’t want to store the old one?? I bet a neighbor could use it! Or, your baby outgrew those adorable Nike tiny tennis shoes??? Some other mother is going to be thrilled to get them! Instead of throwing things away or giving them to a thrift store, you are giving them to someone who lives in your area. It is fabulous! Once someone replies and says they want the item, you tell them your address and agree on how it will be picked up (I normally put things I am giving away on our front porch swing, the takers can show up and get them anytime).
|This fan is being given away today on Buy Nothing|
|These kids shoes are on offer by another neighbor|
|And this toy recently found a new home on Buy Nothing|
Full disclosure here – I have been using the hashtag #TeamPantsuit for months. I am fully with her. :) So when a “secret Facebook group” (which now has millions of amazing members!) came about called Pantsuit Nation, I was thrilled to become a member. And when election day came around, I went through my closet to find the perfect pantsuit to wear to the polls. :)
Only, what I found in my closet that night before the election were several pantsuits that were, ummm, a bit too “snug” for me. I mean, I had size 2 Petite pantsuits and even a 0 Petite!!! Lord knows when I was tiny enough to wear THAT one… So I took those tiny pantsuits, took photos of them, and posted them in my Buy Nothing group. I put funny blurbs to accompany them (I thought they were funny anyway…). Several members “liked” and “loved” the posts, but no one said, “Oh yes, I need a teeny tiny pantsuit!”.
|Size O Petite Purple Pantsuit :)|
No one wanted the purple pantsuit, that is, until Sarah, the newest Kindness Activist. Yes, Sarah commented on the posting that she would love the purple pantsuit, the SIZE 0 PETITE. Seriously, she is a mother of 2 and wears a 0 Petite… But all jealousy aside, I was thrilled someone could use the pantsuit!! So we exchanged pick-up information and I hung the pantsuit (covered with a bag to keep it clean) on our front door for her to pick up the next day.
|This is the pantsuit I ended up wearing on election day. We vote with paper ballots, then scan them. This is me|
right after scanning. Let's just say it was lucky I was smart enough not to wear mascara that day.
Well, for members of Pantsuit Nation (and for a little over half of the country it turns out…), the next day, November 9th, was a depressing and confusing one. Many of us were walking around in a stupor after staying up until all hours of the morning watching the election results roll in. When I left the house for a work assignment that day the pantsuit was still hanging on my front door. But when I came back, the pantsuit had been replaced by this:
|Bright beautiful flowers where the pantsuit had hung|
|And this lovely note|
Sarah left me FLOWERS and a beautiful note. I couldn’t believe it. She is a complete stranger, and she took the time to be so kind. She didn’t need to do that – no “payment” or thank you is expected or required in the “gift economy” systems of Freecycle and Buy Nothing. In fact, no one has ever left me a thank you (that I can remember) in all the times I have given things away.
Needless to say, when I saw the flowers I cried. They were exactly what I needed that afternoon. And I contacted Sarah via email to ask her a few questions for this story. Here is what I learned:
Me: How did you think of delivering flowers to a stranger? What made you do it?
Sarah: “Honestly, I don't know what made me think of this. I just had on my list that I needed to pick up the pant suit -- it was almost surreal for me to see that on my to-do list on Wednesday morning, since, on Tuesday night, when we had arranged for me to take it, I was in such a happy, hopeful place. A mere twelve hours later, it felt like a lifetime ago. I guess I just wanted to reach out and do something to brighten your day, and I had a bouquet of flowers on my table that my husband had brought me when I was sick last week, so I plucked the most brightly colored ones out to counteract the darkness of the day (both literal -- it was so gloomy yesterday -- and figurative). “
Isn’t that perfect??? I love that the flowers originally came from someone who was kind to HER when she needed it, her husband, and she managed to share that kindness with ME. Such a seemingly small gesture, but trust me it meant SO MUCH to me.
|Sarah, who has a heart filled with kindness|
I think people like Sarah who are so kind usually have some inherent reason, something that influenced them. And in Sarah’s case, one of those influences was the shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, where she is originally from. She told me, “I try to be as kind as possible in general, but I feel like the call to kindness is louder and more urgent when the world is hurting. I grew up in Newtown, Connecticut, and I (like so many others) was so devastated by the shooting there in 2012. The town's reaction and unwavering belief that "love wins" was so moving to me, and "love wins" has become something of a mantra for me. (Some days it's easier to believe than others, but I do believe it's true.) In fact, there's a "26 Days of Kindness" campaign that people in my hometown do -- for the 26 days leading up to the anniversary of the shooting, individuals perform random, anonymous acts of kindness, each one in honor of a shooting victim. I did that the first year, and I found it helpful in coping with the tragedy -- though I generally prefer for acts of kindness to be more spontaneous and unstructured, I know a lot of people find comfort in the 26 Days ritual.”
I told Sarah that, as the recipient, the flowers felt to me like a warm hug (on a freezing cold day). She agreed that was an apt description, then added something that I agree with 100% - “I guess (giving the flowers) also felt empowering, like maybe I could do something good for the world in the face of a devastating loss.” That is something I have noticed about kindness: you don’t set out to do a kind act to make YOURSELF feel better, but that is often an unintended consequence. There is a line in a song from the Broadway Show “Avenue Q” that I like, “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself”. It’s true. Acts of kindness help the recipient, but they also do something to boost the spirit of the giver.
Sarah, THANK YOU for your kindness. You lifted my spirits on a day that I need that very much. And, as you said, LOVE WINS.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go pick up some brand new tights that a neighbor is giving away.