Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Act of Kindness

"Goodness in other people and what they contribute inspire me. I love it when someone is gifted and shares it in some way so that it has a trickle-down effect." ~ Renee Zellweger

I was going to write this blog about dreams ... the ways in which they can be used as tools to help in our waking moments. But something else is pulling at my attention right now, so, dreams will have to wait until next time.

As I'd mentioned awhile back in my pretty raw stream of conscious writing about covering the Chardon High School shooting in Portrait of a 21st Century Journalist ... I've since been writing ensuing stories. One of my most recent had to do with a crew from Virginia Tech coming to Chardon to roll out their Actively Caring 4 People program ( You can read more about it in that link, but part of this program includes these green rubber bracelets, much like we've seen for other causes, i.e. cancer. The idea behind it being, if you see a complete stranger perform a random act of kindness or you see they could use a caring gesture, you pass the bracelet on. Then, they are to do the same.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, 40,000 bracelets were distributed as part of this program and to date, they have traveled all over the world.

It's a simple concept, but complex when you really think about it in terms of yourself and your every day actions. I mean, how often do you do something nice for a stranger, let alone random gestures of kindness to those you love on a daily basis? And why is it so hard for us to walk up to complete strangers who are clearly in distress and ask how we can help? Or maybe something as simple as complimenting something about someone you don't know ... or holding a door for them. I'm not saying there aren't people out there who do this all the time, but if you really think about it in terms of frequency, at least in my experience, it's not very common these days.

The idea behind this program is to get people to empower themselves every day by even just these small gestures to show others they are cared for and matter. Seems kind of simple ... maybe even preachy, but it really hit me. The main guy leading the Virginia Tech movement was a pretty profound speaker, so I'm sure that was part of it, too. But he gave me one of those bracelets. And up until today, I hadn't found the right moment, experience or person to give it to.

I'd been grasping onto this bracelet like it was gold. Yet, it was a simple, green, rubber bracelet. But in my mind, it was going to mean something more. And whoever I gave it to, I had a feeling it was going to be a stranger. Throughout the last two and a half weeks, I'd had moments where I thought someone may deserve it, but something always held me back inside.

I was sitting in Panera today having an iced coffee while doing some editing when two men sat down in a booth diagonally from me. I made brief eye contact with the one man, but his eyes looked fiercely unsettled, so I quickly looked back at my screen. Moments later, I heard him start to tell the other man (who I assume was a good friend) about how his kidney failure has progressed, how he'd seen "another physician" today and the diagnosis wasn't much better, about how the dialysis and medication he's on affects everything, his sleep, his daily routines, the finances, about how rough his day was and how he was losing faith ... he was crying.

I tried hard to mind my own business, but I couldn't bring myself to ignore it. Suddenly, I looked down at my right wrist, at my bracelet ... and it hit. He was getting this bracelet. There was nothing more to it. I knew it in that moment. But I was terrified. I may be a journalist, but it's never been easy for me to approach strangers. It's one thing to do it when I know it's my job. It's another when I'm compelled to initiate a conversation with someone I don't know for a reason that could come out sounding a bit crazy.

Yet, I couldn't ignore it. My heart began to race, my social anxiety began to fester, but I stood up, walked over and said, "Excuse me. There's this bracelet program I'm a part of. And it's about passing a bracelet on if you see someone do a random act of kindness or if you think they just need a gesture of caring. I think you could use one ... so I'm giving mine to you."

I handed it to him and he looked taken aback, as did his friend. He said "Thank you ... I had a really rough day today."

I said, "You're welcome. Now, all you have to do is pass it on to someone who does something nice for you or someone else."

He immediately put the bracelet on, thanked me again, as did his friend, and I walked out ... my hands slightly trembling and heart pounding. Something so seemingly easy, yet it was so scary for some reason. Yet afterward, I felt elated ... and a warmth swarmed my insides in a way I haven't felt in some time.

It was then, I truly felt the power behind a simple, kind gesture. And that's when I really "got it," really got the message behind this movement.

I hope everyone who reads this tries it tomorrow.  You don't need a bracelet to make someone smile.

Sure, this man may have thought I was crazy ... but something inside me tells me he's going to remember that moment for days, weeks, months and maybe years to come.

And maybe ... just maybe, I gave him a little bit of faith back.



  1. I love this! It has inspired me :-) thank you for such a wonderful idea. Maybe you can start a sweeping change? It can happen ya know.

    1. Thanks! And I'm glad it did. And yes, maybe I can start a sweeping change ... anything is possible for dreamers :-)