kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Blue Kindness

This is a story of BLUE KINDNESS. 

Today was “National Hamburger Day”.  Of course it is a made-up holiday, but when you think about, what holiday isn’t??  My partner David got a very clever message from Smashburger (an awesome burger joint) that heralded the new holiday, and offered a buy one/get one free burger offer.  That was all the nudge we needed to head out for lunch.

We went to Smashburger in Alexandria, Virginia.  On our walk in, an older man stopped us and asked if we could spare any money for the homeless, and when I said, “No, sorry” he said, “I haven’t eaten in 4 days”.

And on we walked.

Of course, as we looked over the burger menu, my heart was heavy with guilt.  How could we eat TWO burgers when that man had NONE??  Sure, we didn’t know if he was being completely honest with us, but what does it matter really?  If a person is hard up enough to ask strangers for money or food I am of the opinion that if you can help them, you should. 

So, we ordered our two burgers, then added a third for the stranger outside.  Yeah, that sort of defeated the whole purpose of going out to get a free burger, but hey…

We went outside to sit at a table and wait for our order, and the man walked over to us as if he were going to ask for money again (perhaps he forgot he had already hit us up and we didn’t give).  Before he could talk, I said, “A burger is coming out for you soon”.  That seemed to make him happy, and he backed away a bit.  A guy gave him a buck, and he popped into the Starbucks next door.

Then a police car pulled up.  I figured they were just coming for coffee.  The homeless man came outside as the cops were ready to walk into Starbucks, and they said hi to him.  He immediately became defensive, to which the officer said, “Hey, it’s ok, I just said HELLO”…  That calmed him down, but it soon became clear that the cops were there on business, and the homeless man was the business.  They explained that Starbucks had called to report him and they were here to check up on the situation.

Alexandria Police vehicle (courtesy of the Alexandria PD Facebook page)
They started asking him a lot of questions, and from his response to them it seemed clear that he had gone through this type of thing before.  He didn’t argue with them and answered everything they asked.  He did get defensive at times, and the cops would gently calm him back down. 

So here’s the thing:  police officers often get a bad rap these days.  And yes, some of the things you hear and see on the news that happen between cops and citizens are horrible.  But seeing these two Alexandria, Virginia officers interact with this homeless man was such a good reminder of how helpful, respectful, and KIND police officers can be. 

The officers were just so genuine, so caring with him.  When he didn’t have an ID, they got his information verbally.  When he seemed offended that they would run his info to see if he had any warrants, they smiled and said they were just doing their job, and though they believed him, they needed to check.   When it started to rain, they walked him over to stand under an awning to keep dry.  One officer was inside talking to Starbucks employees while the other stood with the man, and he had calmed down so much and got so comfortable that I even heard him ask, “So, who do you think will win the NBA championship???”. 

It took a while to process everything, but every time during the interaction when he got agitated, they reminded him that they were not arresting him, that he wasn’t in trouble, but that Starbucks had called him in and they needed to check out the situation.

In the end, he got barred from Starbucks.  It looked like he had been barred from other places and he knew the drill.  He was ticked at the store, said they were lying about him.  And the officers were so sweet about it.  They didn’t side with the store, they just explained honestly that hey man, even if they are lying, it is their private business and they don’t want you in there, so don’t go in. 

The officers left, the burgers came, we gave him his, and off he went.  Not sure if we will ever see him again.  But I wish we could see those police officers again to thank them for doing their job with sincere respect and kindness.  They treated that man like an equal, and it was very impressive. 

Good on ya, Alexandria PD.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Belief In Kindness RESTORED

Here is a strange thing about kindness: sometimes the most UNKIND action can, in the end, lead to a KIND ACTION.  This happened to me a couple of months ago.

We live on a super busy street corner right outside Washington DC.  I sometimes have posters and signs up on our fence for passersby to see.  But twice, signs were stolen from our property.  Twice!  The first time I was mad, but the second time I was so angry!!  I mean, these signs were not offensive, they were not blocking anyone’s view, and they were MINE, and people STOLE THEM.  Some people tried to say they might have “blown away” (no), that someone might have “liked them so they took them to put up at their own house” (ummm, negative…) or that the county might have “taken them down” (NO).  When the second sign was stolen the jerks* who took it threw the metal sign holder down a few feet away on our sidewalk and left it there!  That is not something the county would do, or someone “borrowing” the sign to use in their own yard (and, by the way, who would do that??).)  No, this was clearly vandalism, and the fact that someone could be so callous as to rip-off signs about kindness honestly made me doubt my belief in kindness as a philosophy.

First this sign was stolen.  It was made by my brother-in-law shortly after
the election when we had a sign painting/dinner party.

This THIS sign was stolen.  It only hung a few days before someone was apparently so "offended"
by it that they ripped it down (link at bottom of post to order your own sign!)
To try and sort through my own feelings, and to loudly proclaim to the haters that they had not “won” this battle of the signs, I got the paint out and made a new sign:

My "kindness fighter", David, by the newest sign.  
Yes, in this one I announced to all passersby that vandals had taken my sign, but that I still believe in kindness.

It made me feel better to hang the new sign, and I wondered if the thieves would see it and rip it off, too.  It has been hanging for over a month now and has not been vandalized or stolen (yet). 

Making and displaying the new sign made me feel a little less violated.  And then something downright amazing happened that wholly restored my believe in the kindness of strangers.  I found THIS NOTE on my porch:

And with the note, was THIS SIGN!!

No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor
(link at the bottom of the post if you want to order a sign like this one!)
A complete stranger had seen my sign, stopped, and given me a brand new sign to hang!!!  ISN’T THAT SO KIND???

I called Jessica (she had put her phone number on the note) and we talked.  What a sweetheart!!!!  I asked if I could write about her kindness here, and she agreed.  Here is what she told me:

She had bought not one but TEN signs from a man who wants to cover the city in welcoming signs. She said, “I figured I'd buy extras and give them to friends. The divisiveness in the media and during the election (and after) was really getting to me because I could only imagine how it was making some of my neighbors and friends feel. I wanted to do whatever I could to reinforce that wasn't how I felt.”  What an awesome idea – buying signs for friends to share the kindness!!  I love it!!

This is Jessica- a kind, kind person!
Jessica told me that she had overestimated how many signs she needed to give to her friends, so she had an extra one sitting in her car.  I asked how I happened to be lucky enough to receive one of the signs, and I love how she explained what happened, “I was sitting in traffic southbound on your road, and the words EQUALITY and KINDNESS caught my eye. When I read the sign, I thought how shitty it was for someone to steal a sign, so I made a quick u turn and dropped off the sign. It felt like the right thing to do, and I figured the sign wasn't helping anything sitting in my car : ) .”  I was the only stranger she graced with a sign!  And let me tell you, I was most certainly a happy recipient!   

I asked her how it felt to leave the sign on my porch.  I mean, she didn’t know me, and I didn’t know her, and here she was writing me a note and giving me a gift.  She said, “I was a little nervous. That probably sounds silly, but with the current political climate, you never really know. I figured I was doing a good thing and the worst thing that would probably happen is someone would yell at me so I decided to go for it. I was a little sad when I drove back by and didn't see the sign up and hadn't heard, but knew what I had done was coming from the right place, so I had almost forgotten about it when you called me; it was a very nice surprise.”

(What she didn’t know about me is that I am very slow to get things done…  I am sorry I made you sad by not hanging the sign right away, Jessica!  Actually, I have been nervous to hang signs, afraid they would get stolen.  But I figured out a new system to hang them more securely now so they are harder to get off the fence.  😊.)

OK, one more twist to the story.  It turns out that a couple of weeks earlier I had actually PURCHASED the exact same sign that Jessica gave me.  I bought one when the local Unitarian Universalist Church (in Arlington, VA) sent a message out offering to place a bulk order if anyone wanted to purchase one.  So, I HAD ONE, but had been too scare to hang it lest it get stolen.  I explained that to Jessica on the phone and asked if she would rather I give the sign she gifted me back to her so that she could re-gift it, or if I should pass the kindness on to someone else.  She said I should give the sign away, and yesterday the perfect opportunity to do that presented itself!!!

I was out watering plants on the front porch when a very sweet young lady on a bike stopped in front of our house.  She introduced herself as Emma and told me that she bikes by our house often and loves our garden and our signs.  We talked a while and I could tell she was a very kind woman, a neighbor who I had never had the pleasure of meeting.  Since she liked our signs, I asked if she had one of the “welcome neighbor” signs in her own yard.  When she said she did not, I asked if she would like one, and her eyes lit up.  I gave her the extra sign that Jessica had given me, and off she biked toward home to put it in her yard.  And thus, the message of kindness and acceptance spread a few blocks further in this world.

The sign found a perfect home!
I.  Love.  Kindness. 

The whole premise of this project, Kindness Activist, is that hearing about/seeing/reading about kindness inspires others to be kind.  I truly believe that.  So, go out and spread some kindness today, won’t you.  And tell me about your kindness, so I can share you story!  Send me a message on Facebook (Kindness Activist) or shoot me an email at .  I would love to hear more stories of kindness and pass them on in the world.


Bonus photo!  We swung by my new friend Emma's house and she ALREADY HUNG THE SIGN!
P.S.- If you would like to order a "In This House We Believe" sign like the one that was nicked from our fence, you can find them here:  Cafe Press sign link

P.P.S. - If you would like to order a "No matter where you are from" neighbor sign, you can find them at this link:  We're Glad That You're Our Neighbor signs