Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 50

Today is my last day for this year's project.

Today is about words. Words can be used almost like magic. They can be very powerful. Think about it: These little lines and curves and dots, combined in just the right way, have the ability to make us laugh, or cry, to make their heart beat faster, to make our minds open up to an idea we never had before, or to transport us to a world we've never seen (and may not even exist!)

Words can make people's lives better or worse. They can start wars or end them. They can elicit love or hate. Words can take an experience or a memory and make it a little more tangible. We can revisit old ideas or share new ones. I can take something from my mind and transfer it to yours, without either of us being in the same room, or even on the same continent. In fact, we can even take in ideas and stories from someone who has been dead for thousands of years and incorporate them into our own lives today.

How is that not magic?

So today I'm going for a tiny bit of magic. I've gone to More Love Letters and picked out a handful of strangers to write to. It's taking me just five or ten minutes each to write notes of support and encouragement for these people. Once I'm done with these, I'm going to move on to Operation Gratitude, and then Smiles for Siblings and Love for the Elderly. I might even do some more tomorrow. I'm not sure how many I'll do, and I'm not sure how many will make a difference, but seriously, who doesn't love getting a letter?

I've posted a couple stories from people who were inspired to do things based on my words here, and I know a number of other people who have done little things that they haven't shared in such a public way. Let me know if you've been influenced by this project, and what you've done. Remember, I said at the beginning that my inspiration to keep doing this came from your words. So if you'd like to inspire me, let me know what you've been up to. And if you want to inspire more than just me, post a comment, or drop me a line and let me know I can share it here.

NOTE: In a fun coincidence, as I was typing this, I got an note from my friend Helen from college, who has been following along and said:

Thank you for your 44 good days. I helped an older man near "my corner of the world" (I'm a crossing guard for the littles) shovel snow. He's not as steady on his feet as he was 8 years ago. It certainly brightened my day and his wife's day as well. It feels good to give, I've forgotten that.

Thanks Helen!

In any case, thank you thank you thank you all for following along and keeping me going. Even if you've never commented or contacted me, I can tell from the visitor stats that you're out there. That means a lot.

People have told me how great it is that I'm doing this. But wouldn't it be great if there were nothing remarkable about this? What kind of place would the world be if this was all considered normal human behavior?

I say let's all try to head in that direction. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 49

Today turned out to be one of the most satisfying of all my days doing this project.

I did several things, all revolving around food security and feeding those in need in my local community.

First, I donated a bunch of canned goods to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, via a food drive by my son's Cub Scout Pack. That was going to be my thing for the day.

But I saw an opportunity to help sort and weigh the food items everyone brought, so I jumped at it. (The den that brings the most donations by weight gets to hit our Cubmaster in the face with pies, so naturally, weighing everything was critical.) In total, our Pack raised over 200 lbs of food in one night. And we've got four more chances to bring food. At this rate we may hit half a ton. That would be fantastic.

There's a bit more to the story though. There was another man who was helping with organizing and packing up all the donated food. I didn't recognize him, but he was helping out so I wasn't going to argue. After everything was taken care of and all the food was loaded into the coordinator's car, I asked this man if he had a son or a grandson in the Pack. (He was an older man.) He said no, he just came in to get warm.

It turned out he was homeless. So while everyone was occupied with the Scout meeting, I snuck out and helped him across the street (he had a bit of a limp due to some foot surgery) to get him some food, drink, and a little cash. He thanked me, and then admitted he hadn't eaten anything in two days.

It must have been so hard for him to see all that food, and even help with organizing it and everything, and just pack it up to go into somebody's car. I'm sure if we'd realized we could have given him some of it. But he didn't say a word. He just helped like it was no big deal.

I hope he finds a warm place to stay tonight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 48

Today I granted a simple wish for a child in foster care, via One Simple Wish.

An Olaf Pillow Pet for Megan who loves to sing the soundtrack to Frozen and is very artistic!

Wish Details:
Megan doodles Olaf all the time. She watches the video over and over again. Whenever she is in a bad mood, she says hugging an Olaf would bring a smile to her face. Megan loves stuffed animals and sleeps with a bunch of them even though she is a "tween".

About Wish Recipient:
FemaleMegan, Child 6-12, Charlotte, NC
Megan has been in and out of foster care since she was 4 years old. She is struggling a bit to find her way in middle school but is making all A's and B's. She loves Olaf the most from all the characters in Frozen. She loves to sing the soundtrack to the pets in her foster home and has true artisitc ability. She is resilient and bouncy, a joy to be around.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 47

Today I put some quarters in and around gumball machines. This was the last one from the "inspiration box" and I wanted to make sure I used them all before the end of this project. It was actually harder than I expected to find gumball machines around here, but mission accomplished. And one more public "thank you" to the person who sent it. A thousand coolness points to you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 46

Today I bought ice cream for the next person who comes up to this machine:
(Sorry, the lighting wasn't great...)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 45

Today we move into Bonus Days. I'll be continuing to Day 50 based on your donations.

Speaking of donations, today I sent some money to Peacehaven Community Farm. Peacehaven is meant to allow adults with special needs to live and work in a meaningful way.

From their web site:

Peacehaven Community Farm is a sustainable farm located on 89 beautiful acres of organic gardens, rolling pastures, and lush woodlands that connects people with special needs to their community…

Dedicated to establishing an affordable housing community that provides a permanent home for adults with special needs in a supportive and family-like environment

Committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability on our working, community supported farm

Embraced by the support of a diverse and dedicated community engaged in growing both vegetables and relationships

Blessed by people who choose to live in community with people with special needs where the values of service, sharing, and the recognition of every individual’s gifts and contributions offer a model of renewal for our world

Celebrated by all who experience the peace and wonder of the land and the farm’s community

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 44

Today is World Kindness Day. So it's a great day to do something extra nice for somebody. And if you want to share what you did and inspire others to do the same, let me know and I'll highlight it here.

Today is also my 44th day of this project. It's been a great 44 days, but I'm going to keep going as promised, because of donations by a number of you. Thank you again.

And speaking of thank you's, today I'm sending out a handful of Thank You notes to people who have made a big difference in my life in one way or another. Because who doesn't love a handwritten thank you, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

44 Good Days, Special Edition #2

My friend Casey is a lead teacher at the Montessori Academy of Chapel Hill and was inspired to start a "31 Days of Kindness" project in her classroom. She says this picture is from Day 2 and the board already has quite a bit on it. Thanks Casey!

Day 43

Today I dipped into the box again to use this:
(click to enlarge)

There were actually two of these included in the box, so I figured it would be a fun social experiment to post one on the bulletin board at the local farmer's market, where all of the idealistic tree huggers are hanging out, and another at my office, where lots of cynical state IT employees hang out. (I happen to fit both of those descriptions at times.) I'm hoping to check back and see which one gets more takers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 42

As today is Veteran's Day, I'm donating to the Honor Flight Network.

From their web site:

Mission Statement: Transport America's veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.
Goal: Helping every single veteran in America, willing and able of getting on a plane or a bus, visit THEIR memorial.
Priority: Top priority is given to America's most senior heroes — survivors of World War II and any veteran with a terminal illness who wishes to visit THEIR memorial. The program will naturally transition to Korean War, Vietnam War and all other veterans who served, on a chronological basis.
ELIGIBILITY: All men and women serving stateside or overseas.
Philosophy: Since America felt it was important to build a memorial to the service and the ultimate sacrifice of her veterans, the Honor Flight Network believes it's equally important that they actually get to visit and experience THEIR memorial.
Motto: “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.” -  Will Rogers

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day 41

It's usually around this point in the project that I start running out of ideas. But this year I am actually running out of days. I have a long list of unused ideas, and I've got some specific ones I still want to make sure I fit in. It's a good problem to have. I guess that planning ahead thing worked out pretty well, along with the help and suggestions from a number of you reading this now. (You know who you are! Thank you!)

So now's the time I need to make sure I get to all the ones I really don't want to miss.

Today I made a small donation to Duke Children's Hospital.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 40

Today I used to lend money to a man named Osman in Sierra Leone. Osman is seeking a microloan to purchase mattresses and mats for sale. You don't get a ton of information about these Kiva borrowers, but I picked Sierra Leone because I know they've been ravaged by the Ebola virus, and it does seem like new mats and mattresses are something that could be needed in such an area. The fun thing about Kiva is that it's a loan, not a donation, so when you get paid back, you can lend out the same money again to someone else. This is my fifth Kiva loan, and so far, all have been paid back in full.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 39

Today my oldest son and I got up early and volunteered to help spread 10 cubic yards of mulch for a Scout service project at a local church. We had a decent crew of boys and adults, and we made quick work of the huge mulch pile. The boys even went above and beyond by sweeping the area and raking out the playground sand.

I tend to forget how satisfying it is to do this kind of work: To see clear, tangible results of your efforts, to feel like you accomplished something, to work as a team, and just to be outside on a brisk fall morning.

Plus, sometimes if you get up early enough, and your timing is just right (like ours was today) you get a glimpse of something truly beautiful, and you have to stop and take a picture, even if it makes you a few minutes late...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day 38

The building where I work is fairly high security. The security guards are actual gun-toting law enforcement professionals. You can't even get in the parking lot without a badge, and I have to use my badge a couple more times after that just to get to my desk.

But the thing is the security folks are always so cheerful and friendly, even when I've forgotten my badge for the hundredth time. There's one woman in particular who says hi to you in a way that makes you feel like you've been friends for years, even if you've never met her before.

So today I dropped off a dozen donuts -- for them, and for whoever else comes through the front door.

I know... cops, donuts... a bit of a cliche. But you should have seen the size of the smile I got when I dropped them off...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 37

One thing I've noticed is that sometimes people are suspicious of kindness. They think it's a trick, or that the person being kind must have some ulterior motive. To be honest, there is a bit of motive behind it: It makes the giver happy. Hopefully it makes the recipient happy too, and it pretty much always does I think, but you have to get past the suspicion sometimes.

One of the ideas provided to me in the "Inspiration Box" was to leave free popcorn at a Redbox video rental kiosk. But I was thinking, popcorn with no note would be kind of mysterious. Popcorn with a note in my handwriting might look a tiny bit sketchy, but it'd probably be fine. But free popcorn with a note in a kid's handwriting would probably be irresistible. And the point is for somebody to take up this offer, right? So I had my boys write some notes for me.

 ... then I distributed them to a few local Redboxes around town.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 36

Today was a pretty basic one. I gave some money to a homeless woman. Her sign said, "I just need a little help."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day 35

More armchair kindness today, and sticking with the theme of donating to organizations who have helped us, I sent money to The Arc of the Triangle. They help out and provide services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 34

I pushed myself harder than I thought with my run over the weekend, because let me tell you, my legs are killing me. Going up, or especially down, stairs makes me grimace and groan. So for the next couple days I think I'm going to be practicing some armchair kindness...

Today I donated to Disability Rights NC. They have helped us in the past, and they do fabulous work for those with disabilities (and their families). It's a shame we need them, but sometimes society needs just a little push.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day 33

Today I volunteered to represent my son's Cub Scout Pack and do a paper airplane workshop the Big Fall Play Day at a local elementary school. Of course I didn't realize we'd be doing this outside, on a cold, windy day, in the shade.... But it was actually a ton of fun. I must have made a couple dozen paper airplanes of all different designs, from simple darts to complex origami-like planes that required tearing parts of the paper off, to unusual stunt designs that didn't look like they should even fly.

We had a lot of kids stop by the table, and I'd always fold one of my own along with them, so that a) I could help if they got lost, and b) provide backup if things went horribly wrong. And that left me with a pile of spare planes for those who couldn't (or didn't want to) fold their own, but still wanted to decorate and/or throw paper airplanes.

Some great volunteers from the YMCA were on hand to help out, and to run adjacent tables and return errant planes to their owners.

And after my run yesterday, I was glad for a chance to do something that involved sitting... even if the metal folding chair was on the cold side.

One nice bonus was that with extra volunteers on hand, my boys could take advantage of the all-access wristbands we got for volunteering. So they got to run the full gamut of balloon animals, face painting, bouncy castles and other festive activities.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day 32

Today I ran in the LUNGe Forward 5k, a fundraiser for the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina. My mom's battling lung cancer for the second time right now, and I can tell you it's no picnic. (And if you feel like helping someone with lung cancer who could really use some help, consider this.)

Along with all the other runners and walkers, we collected almost $130,000 in donations for this event.

For my last 5k, I walked as part of a team. Today I ran. I wanted to really push myself. 

The only problem? I got there late and missed the start. I'm almost positive the materials for the race originally had said it was in Cary, but that was out-of-date because I discovered this morning that it was in the North Hills area, which is an extra 20 minutes away. So by the time I got there, the race was already underway. I was seven minutes behind before I even started. Not that I was running for time, but I didn't want to be dead last.

Plus, it was about 42ºF and raining when I left the house. It did stop raining for the race, but the air was still chilly and the road was wet. But too bad, it was time to play catch up. 

So my first goal was to catch the pack. I found them after about 5 minutes, trailed by a police car. Thankfully there were a lot of walkers, so they weren't too hard to catch. Once I caught the tail end of the pack, I decided I wanted to pass as many people as possible. I'm not in good enough shape to run the whole way, especially on some long inclines, but I ran until I couldn't and then walked until I could run again.

Then I decided my next goal was to not let anyone pass me. I wanted to keep moving up. But as the route wore on, the combination of jogging and brisk walking was starting to take its toll, and ambitious people started passing me. I did get passed by a handful of people. The guy with the stroller passing me was a blow. But then I remembered that anyone who passed me had to be someone I had already passed first. So, like, it cancels out, right?

I continued to alternate between walking and running, but the stretches of running were getting shorter and the walking was getting longer. But if a volunteer along the route said any words of encouragement, I decided I had to start running again, at least for a little while.

At last I got to the home stretch. And about 200 yards from the end of the route, you turn a corner, and there's the finish line right out in front of you. I decided to do an all out sprint to the end. I mean, I figured there were people on this 5k who didn't even have two full lungs, people who had been to hell and back just to be alive at all. I could run 200 yards.

I did it. I almost threw up at the end, but I did it.

And somewhere right after I started sprinting, the free t-shirt I had gotten for participating in the race fell out of my pocket. I was completely oblivious. And after nearly collapsing at the finish line and spending a good 10 minutes trying to get up and walk again, I wandered in the general direction of my car. And I heard somebody say, "There he is!" and I looked around me to see who she was talking about. She was talking to me -- she had my t-shirt that I had dropped.

Sometimes people are awesome. The t-shirt isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'm really glad I got it back. And if anybody needs me, I'll be right her. For a while...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 31

Today I took some kids Trick-or-Treating. A couple of my friends are out of the country, but their daughters are not traveling with them. So I made sure Halloween was covered and that their grandparents could stay back and hand out candy, rather than trying to trek through the neighborhood of oversized lots and widely spaced houses. Fun was had by all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 30

Today I made a contribution to America's VetDogs Veteran K-9 Corps, which is a not-for-profit organization "that serves the needs of veterans with disabilities from all eras who have honorably served our country. VetDogs provide guide dogs for veterans who are blind; service dogs for those with other physical disabilities; physical and occupational therapy dogs to work with amputees in military and VA hospitals; and combat stress control dogs to be deployed in theater."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 29

Today I donated a wrecked laptop to the Kramden Institute.

What they're doing is pretty amazing. They take old computers and laptops and repair, rebuild, or refurbish them, and then they give them away to economically disadvantaged students. They even provide ongoing tech support and repair services for the recipients.

Not only that, they bring in volunteers (12 years old and up) and teach them the various stages of support and repair, from how to install an operating system, to how to replace a hard drive, to how to disassemble and recycle old parts. They've given away something like 3800 computers so far this year, and over 18,000 since they began.

I'm kind of wishing my oldest son was a year older than he is...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

44 Good Days, Special Edition #1

This from my old boss and dog hiking coordinator, Matt:
Well Edson, you have inspired me. Inspired me to get off my butt and do something I've been meaning to for months but never got around to it.

My wife and I have been looking around for a place where we could donate shoes. Like many Americans, we buy more than we need and have many that just aren't being used. In an effort to de-clutter the house, we decided to get rid of a bunch. This was last spring. I found a place ( where you can ship them and they take care of the rest. You just have to buy the shipping label, find a suitable box, pack them up and get them to a post office. Seems like a lot of work! Which is where I hit "pause" on that activity and never returned.

Until the other day. I finally got my act together and packed up a 16"x16"x16" box of shoes. The shipping was only $25 (not too bad I guess) and I think these are going to a good cause. Besides, as a rather tall person myself, I have large feet. There have to be people around the world with size 14 needs, and I bet those shoes are sparse in the donation bins. I included about 6 pairs in that box which will hopefully bring some relief somewhere.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the inspiration. I've been following your blog for the past 27+ days and figured if you could do something good each of those days in a row, then there's no reason for me not to follow through with a plan forged last spring. Muchas gracias, my friend.

Thanks Matt. That's awesome. If anybody else wants to share similar stories, let me know!

Day 28

Today I donated blood. Not much to tell on this one. The vampires got me. The first time I donated blood I was light-headed for most of the day. This time it seems to have perked me up quite a bit instead. I don't know what that means if anything. Maybe the blood loss is getting to me after all...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 27

Today I made a small donation to Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels. Their mission statement says:

“We nourish the bodies and spirits of the homebound with a balanced meal and the human connection they need to help them live independently.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 26

Today I was on a camping trip with my youngest son's Cub Scout group. We had over 50 people on this trip, and quite a few first-time campers (including parents). So today I volunteered with, well, everything I could.

I volunteered to unload the trailer. I volunteered to set up breakfast. I cracked, scrambled, and cooked about two dozen eggs. I helped coordinate the boys doing dishes afterwards. I helped pack up gear and re-load the trailer. And then rush to get our own stuff packed up so I could follow somebody to the bike outfitter for a beautiful 17-mile bike ride. (All downhill, thankfully.)

All in all, a great trip.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 25

Today I sent a donation to the Eno River Association, a great local conservation / park / summer camp organization.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 24

Today I left coupons scattered through the store. I tried to leave them near whatever they were for.

Commentary will be light for the next couple days as I travel to mysterious lands where the internet does not quite reach.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 23

Today I donated to SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals.

"SECU Family House provides an affordable, safe, nurturing home away from home for seriously ill patients and their family members and caregivers from throughout North Carolina and beyond."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 22

Today I left a bunch of shiny pennies around a fountain in front of a movie theater that's frequented by a lot of kids. (I may or may not have tossed one in myself...)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 21

Today, the tables were turned on me. I was heading into one of those grocery stores where you have to put a quarter in the shopping cart to free it from the rest of the carts, and realized I didn't have a quarter. I went back and rummaged around in my car and couldn't find one. I did have a dollar bill though, so I figured I'd just go in and get change... only standing there inside the door was a woman who had seen me, figured out my dilemma, and stood there waiting the whole time, just to give me a quarter if I still needed one.

So before leaving I went ahead and got change for my dollar and used those four quarters to release four more carts. Plus I left my cart free. So the next five people got free carts.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 20

Today was mostly about helping out friends. These are things I'd probably do with or without this project, but since they all happened on the same day, maybe I can lump them all together and check off Day 20.

So today I:
  • Sent words of support (along with a couple of silly YouTube videos) in an attempt to cheer up a friend who was having a rough couple of days
  • Sent a referral to a former boss, for another friend who would be a great fit for a job opening
  • Attempted to amuse and encourage yet another friend who had a big job interview this morning
  • Donated to a charity I probably wouldn't normally support, because a local restaurant where I was having lunch was doing a fundraiser
  • Stuck in traffic on the way home, I let people into my lane every chance I got (even if they didn't really deserve it).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 19

Today's post comes with a little parental bragging. Now I don't want to take too much credit here, because I think kids are sometimes born with certain inherent talents, and certain inherent challenges, for that matter. I have three VERY different kids, despite parenting skills and techniques that are pretty consistent. Sometimes all you can do is give them choices and opportunities, and hope they make the most of them.

My youngest son is six. He's in first grade. He's an advanced reader. Like, really advanced. Even before starting kindergarten, he was able to read pretty much anything we put in front of him. Now in first grade, it's already hard to find him reading material.

In fact, his first grade teacher has criteria for rating books as "too easy," "too hard," or "just right." One night I decided to try to find a book that met the criteria for "too hard." I kept pulling harder and harder books off our well-stocked bookshelves, until eventually I found something that was "too hard." The only problem? It was the hardest book I could find in the house, a Pulitzer Prize winning tome called Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, that intertwines art, music, mathematics, and philosophy in ways that are sometimes over my head. Here's a video of him reading from it:

So anyway, we've been looking for books to read to him at bedtime that are interesting and challenging enough for him, but that aren't beyond him on an emotional level.

We had a misfire on this front recently. Since he's interested in cats right now, we got a chapter book called The Cats of Roxville Station from the library. It wasn't that the book was too hard. But if you read the Amazon reviews you'll see that it covers some pretty tough subject matter. When several kittens died, our poor little guy was absolutely devastated.

He understood that it wasn't real, but it really affected him. He felt especially bad for those kittens because they'd never get a chance to grow up and live as cats.

After quite a lot of talking and crying and attempts at calming, I asked him if it would make him feel better if he could help some real live kittens. He thought that maybe that would.

It took a little while for us to get around to this, but he didn't let me forget. Today we visited some real live kittens and cats in a local animal shelter. There was lots of petting and lots of purring.

I donated some money while we were there. My little guy brought some of his own money to donate too. He did feel better.