I had my family over last night to celebrate Mother’s Day and my Father’s 64th birthday (yes, Dad, I’m outing your “maturity”). We had a great night, Seth (my youngest brother), his wife and their two daughters came by, so the kids were able to destroy the basement, run outside (thank God for spring like weather) and the adults had the interesting experience of sitting still and conversing without having to chase, yell, scream or herd our children, so overall it was a good night.
As the discussions progressed my brother asked me whatever happened to the “foundation” I was planning to start a few years ago. At one point in 2009 I started to make a push for other people to generate one random act of kindness daily and my exercise led me to a number of groups/websites where acts of kindness was the focal point, so I backed off a bit and slowly let the daily efforts of doing random, kind things slip. The concept of being kind isn’t a new one, but seeing that I have been consistently able to witness reactions on the faces of homeless people who I might hand a $10 dollar bill to or the look on the face of the cashier at a Dairy Queen when I ask him or her what the cost of the order is for the family behind us in the drive through (because I’m going to pay for their ice cream) or the smile when you hold a door for someone, those are priceless looks.
My idea to create a foundation spun from a year of doing daily acts of kindness and I considered starting a non-profit group that would travel to schools (with a large board game I was planning to build) and show K-5th graders the effects of kind behavior. The board was going to be a 10’x10’ roll up mat that had a maze printed on it (similar to the game, Life) and the pieces of the board would be the children in the class. As two students played the game, their class mates would gather around the board (in two teams; each supporting a member on the board) and the surrounding team members would take turns rolling an oversized fuzzy die, so the kid standing on the board would know how many spots to progress through the maze. Each spot they landed on would have a “social situation” that forced the discussion around how to be kind. As an example, one spot might read; “Sally just moved into your school and isn’t sitting next to anyone at lunch”, what could you do that would be considered kind? My team would help facilitate (with the teacher) some solutions that would foster kindness and then we would talk through how this makes everyone feel and the positive ripple effect that could be created with their new student.
I have three children, so I understand that most kids are honest and inherently kind and if they are not, I believe they can be shown, supported and taught how much more powerful it is to be kind. In reality, it’s the “growing up” piece and social pressures that they’ll face in the years to come that will turn them inward, drive them to want to “fit in” and pull them away from their true self. So, if we make it “cool” to talk about these behaviors then as they get older, they’ll have the memory of these games and continue to think about ways to be kind as they grow and mature. It’s a stretch, but what the hell, right?
Back to the question my brother asked me. What ever happened to that idea? The answer; nothing! Life tends to get in the way, doesn’t it? My game was going to be a way to introduce kindness to the youngest demographic I could think would comprehend it and then I would work to build an exercise to work with high schools in a different, more “motivational speaking” way and then my final phase of this non-profit would be the book that shows adults the damage that can occur when your relationships, financial health, spiritual health, and professional life are fueled by the inauthentic behaviors of being rude, greedy, selfish, scared, etc.
What would give me the credibility to do that, well, I’ve lived it. I was pulled away from gentle compassion in order to “fit in” to “not rock the boat” to “spend” so people think your successful and I’m almost out of that insanity and I would like to prevent young people from going that route and those a bit older to learn that there are ways to break the cycles that might be hurting them. Once I have finalized the last of my commitments to getting more balanced, maybe it will be time to invest some money in a concept that I let fall to the side.
As cheesy as it might sound; how much easier would this world be to navigate through if we focused efforts on educating a generation of people who believed it was OK to be kind, not weak to be kind and we taught them how to treat others the same way? We could teach them to cherish learning and teach them to create, innovate and think in ways that might not get used today. Wouldn’t these efforts help us to become a more innovative society, a more collaborative one and wouldn’t the impact touch the people who are slated to run this country in 20 or 30 years, making them do so in a way that fosters a very positive energy, in personal and business life?
Seth- thanks for your question. Nothing much has happened with that foundation, but you have sparked some thought around why it hasn’t and I can tell you that I’ll be back to doing my 1 random act of kindness per day (starting today) and looking for ways to make an impact, when I can.