kindness activist

kindness activist

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!!

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