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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 18

Today I took my kids to the movies. This may not seem like much if you don't know me or my family. But when you've got a kid with special needs, even things most people don't think twice about are difficult, if not impossible. Add in two brothers, and any outing becomes a challenge, especially as the lone adult. I wouldn't normally have attempted this, but kindness comes in many forms this month, and so I decided to "man up" and make it happen.

My daughter's autism means she has a very hard time sitting still and being quiet. The fact that she's non-verbal means it's hard to persuade her, reason with her, or cajole, bribe, or otherwise explain things to her. So movie theaters have always been a challenge. In fact, until yesterday, I'm pretty certain she had never been to a movie theater in her life. She loves movies, but they've always been at home, on a small screen.

So I was very excited to finally make it to Northgate Stadium 10 movie theater for one of their "sensory friendly" movies. Once a month, at 10am on a Saturday, they offer one showing of a recent kid's movie. They offer tickets for $4, and they'll throw in a small popcorn and a small drink for an extra buck. That's pretty hard to beat. Then they turn the volume down and the house lights up, and they don't bother about noisy or restless guests. They go out of their way to be helpful.

All in all, it was a great experience. My daughter enjoyed the movie. She sat through most of it. She ate her popcorn and drank her drink. Other kids were vocalizing or chattering from time to time, but nobody minded. The only adjustments I might need to make for next time are strategies to keep her from eating popcorn off the floor or stealing other people's drinks.

But if we get a chance, we'll definitely try to do this again.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 17

Today I bought lunch for one of our daugher's care providers. I had something else in mind for today, but I'll save it for another day. Sometimes when an opportunity presents itself, I just have to take it. There are still plenty more days to fill.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 16

My first attempt today was a total failure. I had to run an errand, and while I was out, I thought I'd deliver a small care package to one of the homeless men who are always around a particular intersection. For whatever reason, today there was nobody there. I'd like to think all of those men got the help they needed.

But as luck would have it, there was a man at a completely different corner. Of course the one time in my life I wanted a red light, it was green, and there were cars behind me. But I figured, no problem, I'll go around the block. Then I figured while I'm at it, I'll grab the poor guy a sandwich.

The only problem? Not ten minutes later, he was gone.

So at that point, I had to scrap the plan. And eat a sandwich.

After that, I had an unexpectedly crazy afternoon. And then found myself stuck at home with some very cranky kids. I wasn't sure what to do.

I needed inspiration. 

To the box!

Look, what I found, you cranky children!


It even made them slightly less cranky for a while. I'll call that a win.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 15

Today's post is going to be on the short side. This is one of those things that I probably wouldn't have done if not for this project and this blog. Today I donated some vacation time to a co-worker. I don't know her, and I don't know why she needs it, and even if I did I might not be able to share for privacy reasons. But I figure if the organization deemed her eligible for leave transfer, I'm sure it's for good reason. And since we just got some extra time in lieu of a decent raise, and since I've got a fair number of comp time hours built up anyway, so even though I've been at this job less than a year, I can still spare some time. And I'm glad that I'm able.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 14

Scary Simulated Baldness
(Just in time for Halloween)
So the Triangle Autism 5k is behind me. Thank you so much to all who donated. The total for the Triangle Autism 5k was reportedly over $330,000, with donations still rolling in!

For me though, the LUNGe Forward 5k is still to come. And that means there is still time to make me bald!

Remember, if donations to my page exceed $500, I will shave my head. (And possibly be mistaken for an escaped convict. I'm open to tattoo suggestions...) Double that, and I'll shave the facial hair off too.

[NOTE TO SELF: What was I thinking??]

But here I am asking you to donate, when this is supposed to be about the good thing *I* did today. And actually it's not really fair for me to ask people to give me money just for walking (or running) if I'm not willing to do the same for somebody else.

So today I donated to a friend of a friend's walk, benefiting the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro. If you feel like spreading the love too, you can help them out here.

P.S. - Thanks to everyone who has been following along. We've already exceeded the number of page views from last year's project, and we're only two weeks in! Hopefully this means more people are being inspired to be nice to each other out there.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 13

Today I donated a bunch of larger sized pull-ups to the Diaper Bank of North Carolina. I checked with them beforehand to make sure they could use them, and they said absolutely -- they serve families with special needs too. Perfect... because let me tell you, we've been there. The bigger the kid gets, the more expensive the diapers get. And the fewer of them come in a pack!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 12

Today I made a donation to Genesis Home in Durham, NC. Genesis Home "works to end homelessness for families with children by providing housing and supportive services to foster independence."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 11

Today was the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism. This year I joined up with a team - the Autism Society of North Carolina Orange & Chatham County Chapter. It was really great to spend some time chatting with other parents who face some of the same challenges we do -- though as is always the case with autism, every situation is a little different.

It's always great to see this massive crowd of people, all coming together for the same reason. As a whole we raised almost $300,000 for ASNC.

(If you'd like to donate, you still can, at least through the end of the month. And remember that for every donation, I add another day to the end of this project.)

I opted to walk with the majority of the team rather than run by myself. In this case I wanted to interact with these people more than I wanted to prove anything to myself.Just to make sure I was fully complying with my mandate to do something good every day, I carpooled over with some of the team, and I picked up empty water cups along the route and disposed of them.

One 5k down, one to go. Next time, I'll run. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 10

If you've been following along, you probably know that our daughter has severe autism and severe intellectual disability. When people hear autism, they think Raymond Babbit in Rain Man, or Max Braverman in Parenthood. But autism is a very broad spectrum. Our daughter is different from what most people think of, to the point where we don't always even use the term autism to describe her. She's eleven, and she doesn't talk or have any language skills. She can't dress herself or bathe herself. She's not toilet trained. She's also not completely helpless -- in fact sometimes she's a little to capable, letting herself out the front door and into the neighbor's house, or emptying all of the oversized containers in the spice cabinet to fill the sandbox.

In any case, after a long battle with the bureaucracies of Federal, state and county government agencies, as well as multiple private companies contracted by those governments, we achieved a victory. As of last fall, we're finally able to receive help in caring for our daughter.

One of the things we now receive is a certain number of hours of in-home care. This means that we have people coming into our house and out into the community with us on a daily basis. It's an adjustment to let strangers into your home every day. They see you at your best, at your worst, and everywhere in between. And not every person is a perfect fit for every family.

However, we are now blessed with a couple of truly awesome care providers. In this world, nothing lasts forever, but I hope we can hang onto them for as long as possible.

Today I wrote a note of praise and thanks to their supervisor. I think they know how much we appreciate them because we have plenty of chances to mention it, but I want to make sure it's recognized by their employer as well. We're so thankful for them, and it's made such a difference in our lives.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Day 9

Today I chipped in some money toward the Orange County NC Spay/Neuter Fund to combat pet overpopulation.

People like to bring unwanted animals out into the country and let them go, thinking they can just fend for themselves. What they're really doing though is just making the problem somebody else's, and as someone who lives in the "Drop Zone" (and someone who's mom did animal rescue for many, many years) this is kind of a big deal. And not just for the people affected. Domesticated animals are generally not well equipped for living in the wild. I think we can do a little better for them too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 8

Sometimes one of the hardest things about this project is the slightly awkward interactions that come up. People aren't sure how to react when someone does something nice -- especially when it's a stranger. People are sometimes confused, like where's the catch?

Some people are naturally smooth and comfortable in social interactions, and I used to think it was something you either had or you didn't... and I didn't. When I saw someone who had that social fluency, who could talk to anyone about anything in any situation, it was like a magic trick. I didn't get how it worked.

But at some point I figured out that it was a skill, like any other, and it could be learned, so I set about trying to get better at it. This has been especially helpful in job interviews and speaking in front of groups -- two things I don't do very often, but that really come in handy from time to time.

Unfortunately, those really good interpersonal skills are not hard-wired into my brain. I've come a long way from my awkward youth, but I can't remember names to save my life, and sometimes unexpected interactions throw me off.

All this is a very long intro to a very small random act of kindness. The building I work with used to have a small cafeteria, but due to budget cuts, it was reduced to a snack bar with hot dogs, candy bars, cans of ravioli and a microwave... which was further reduced recently to nothing but a bank of vending machines.

Today I pre-loaded some vending machines with money for the next person. And of course I had to snap a picture for the old blog here... only to discover someone standing behind me, wondering what the heck I was doing... Aren't you going to get a drink? But I have my own money... Why are you doing this?  Are you sure you don't want your drink?

I was trying to keep it from turning into a long explanation, but he wasn't quite getting it. But we worked it out. I'm sure from his perspective it was not as uncomfortable as it was from my side -- Despite the blog, in real life I prefer anonymity when doing these things. But once he got what I was trying to do, he smiled and told me it was pretty cool. I think he got his drink and left money in the machine for the next person. So, I'll call that a win.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Day 7

You know, this project isn't really about giving money. It's about doing nice things for people. I realize that my first week has involved a lot of donations, and I promise you I'll be getting out and doing stuff more as this project goes on, if for no other reason than my bank account has limits.

But today, this is about a donation. This is definitely about money. This is a good example of why I do this project every year. And today I'm going to ask you for a favor: Please read this all the way through. If you can spare anything, please chip in. If you can't, please consider sharing the link.  

This is a chance for you to do a random act of kindness with a real, immediate and direct impact.

This is not some faceless cause or bureaucratic charity. This is about the sister of a friend of mine -- a real person. This is about a mother of four who is the fight of her life against lung cancer. My family knows firsthand how hard that battle can be, so this is very close to my heart.

Patti Coyne has four children: a 2-year-old baby girl, a daughter in 10th grade, a new college freshman (the first in her immediate family to attend college), and a 19-year-old marine son about to deploy in December.

In August, Patti was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which if you know anything about cancer, is not good news. The cancer has now spread to her liver. According to her sister:
She is a teacher assistant with no insurance and no income; she has been told by doctors she cannot work because germs at school are deadly to her while on chemo. She is in a desperate financial situation just to pay rent and buy food. So many wonderful people have reached out to our family asking what they can do to help. After thinking about that carefully, one thing we thought of that would help her tremendously would be a fund to cover her rent and food expenses during her treatment. Many of my amazing neighbors have already joined together and paid her October rent, which was an overwhelming relief to her. We cannot express the depths of our gratitude. If anyone else wishes to make a contribution to help Patti and her children, you can do it here.
Anything you contribute will go directly to helping this family. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 6

Today I made a donation to Médecins Sans Frontières (a.k.a. Doctors Without Borders). I have so much respect for what these people do. And that was even before the big Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And now here these people are, voluntarily on the front lines of that epidemic. If anybody deserves a little cash thrown their way, it's these folks.

UPDATE: As of 14 October 2014, nine people from Doctors Without Borders have died from Ebola. Seven more have been infected. That is a lot for one non-profit organization to bear.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 5

As I've mentioned, this year I tried to plan ahead on this project. But as it turns out, I've been using the word "plan" rather loosely. When planning for today, I did not take into account the fact that a lot of things are just not open on Sundays. So much for planning.

On Day 4, I went to 24 hour improv comedy marathon to support the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Since those 24 hours of comedy are actually in a  row, I went to bed last night in my nice warm bed with nice soft pillows, and these guys kept performing. When I woke up, they were still performing. So when realized early on that my plan for the day was foiled by poor planning, I uh... improvised. (See what I did there? Like with the improv... and you know, kind of like a callback or... because... let's just move on.)

I love the smell of comedy in the morning
I dropped into DSI to see how the performers were doing. Despite having an audience comprised mostly of employees and other performers, the same core group was still on stage and still going strong.

Every year during this project I always hit this point where I start to feel self-conscious about telling the world about the things I'm doing -- it feels a little too much like I'm blowing my own horn. But the fact is if I didn't feel accountable to this blog, and to those of you reading it, I wouldn't be out there looking for ideas. And even if I did, I might not follow through on them. Y'all keep me honest.

So this morning, as I was watching the performers up there on stage, pushing on through fatigue, not even halfway through their marathon, I started to notice them talking a lot about food. And I thought, "They have got to be hungry." So I stepped out, ran across the street to the Big M, and brought them back a big bag full of breakfast food.

They seemed very appreciative. And somehow, early on a Sunday morning, watching live comedy for an hour or more, I'm pretty sure I still got the better end of the deal.

UPDATE: Here's me on stage, courtesy of DSI's Facebook page.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Day 4

Today I supported the DSI Comedy Theater's 24Live event. They're doing live comedy for 24 straight hours, as a fundraiser for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. We had a great time. I even got "volunteered" to go on stage for an improv scene. I've never done improv before, but I've been a fan for a long time, so it was a lot of fun to get to participate.

Also, I'm giving myself bonus points for getting enough of a laugh that they ended the scene on my line. (To be fair, they totally set me up for the punch line...)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Day 3

I was imagining a run of animal-themed days to start off with, but with a lot of days yet to fill, I have to grab the time-sensitive ones as they come along.

Today I chipped in on a charity walk for Alzheimer's. Three long-time co-workers from a couple jobs ago are participating in the Cincinnati Walk to End Alzheimer's, so if you're feeling generous today, consider giving them a few dollars for a very good cause.

I had a grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's before she passed away. My mom's also done some work with Alzheimer's patients. It's such a tough disease, both for those afflicted, and for their family members. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day 2

Today I made a small donation to paws4ever, a local animal shelter and training facility. We got our dog Warwick from paws4ever. With a trained service dog in the house, plus a cat, and three kids (one with severe autism), we knew we wanted to be careful about adding another dog to the mix. They were very helpful and very accommodating, and after a little while, we found just the right match for our household.

They get to know the personalities and temperaments of their animals before adopting them out, so you know what you're getting. Plus they also offer a lot of training and support for their new dog owners. Thanks paws4ever!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Day 1

So today marks the official start of my now annual tradition -- I'm turning 44 today, so this is Day 1 of my 44 (plus) days of doing randomly kind and charitable things.

This year, I have been planning ahead a lot more than I did last year, and I've got a nice big list of possibilities in front of me. Some have dates attached, others are just to get to when I get a chance or feel inspired. However, for my first day, I hadn't really decided what to do yet.

But late yesterday, inspiration arrived. It became obvious what I should do on my first day. Problem solved. I mean, I couldn't take a chance on the bread getting moldy, right?

Wait, what do you mean "what bread?" ... The bread I got in the mail of course!

You know... the bread... for the ducks!

Okay, okay, I realize you have no idea what I'm talking about, and you may even be assuming I've lost my marbles. Or at least one of them.

But I haven't. So let me back up.

In my first post for this year, I talked a little about being inspired by all the people out there who gave me a steady stream of encouragement, ideas, and motivation. And then something interesting happened.

Yesterday, a package came.

I opened it up to find this:

Hmm... what in the world...?

What could be inside?

Well, duh. It said right on the lid what was inside: inspiration.

Yes, that's right. One of you went above and beyond. Someone, and I won't mention any names -- someone I've never actually even met in person, mind you -- sent me this amazing box full of stuff, for those days when I'm not sure what to do, or when I'm lacking the energy or motivation to come up with something good.

Seriously... how cool is that?

See? I really did get bread in the mail:

And on a wonderfully foggy morning, it seemed like a good time to find some worthy ducks...
These ducks were a little camera shy, but I feel like those are probably the best kind to feed bread to. If they come running up to you they may be a little too used to getting lots of duckie junk food from humans. Once I backed off, they got a little more interested in what I was doing.

So Day 1 is in the books, with an assist from a friend.

And lest you think I'm all about altruism, I have been known to go in for a little self-indulgence from time to time... especially on my birthday. While I was out I got myself a little breakfast from the only five-star gas station lunch counter I know of...
What's more self-indulgent than sharing photos of your food on the internet? And let me tell you, it tasted even better than it looks.

One down, forty-three-plus to go...