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All I want for my birthday is...

Have you ever had a bad day turn around because of incredibly small, yet memorable, act of kindness? Maybe a stranger smiled at you in the grocery line, or opened a door for you, or let you go first after a stop sign. Or perhaps you heard from an old friend, calling you just because. A hug, a genuine question about your day, or simply the gift of listening -- all of these acts have power.

Rabbi Hillel* famously said,
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?"
There's so much that can be read into a quote like that, but let me offer this interpretation through the lens of kindness. Performing kindness (e.g. self-care) for yourself is a genuine form of kindness for the world. And likewise, acting in kindness for others is also a boon to one's own soul.

In that spirit, I offer this request. All I want for my birthday (Oct 23) this year is to put a dose of kindness into the world. And I need your help. If we each do something small - or big - we can support each other to spread even more kindness.

There are loads of ideas here if you are looking for inspiration:

And for anyone who is called to do something on a more monetary basis, here are a few options I offer to you:
1. You can give directly to people living in poverty, here:
2. You can look at charities recommended by this independent charity rating site, here:
3. You can give to your charity of choice - or the guy / gal who you pass by every day on the street.

In my own humanness, I sometimes forget how much this matters. Slowing down. Listening. Being there for other people. That's why I founded this blog, so we can share resources and inspire each other. Please comment - anonymously, of course, if you wish - to this post with your own acts of kindness.

Sending everyone a virtual hug!

* I found this quote while reading Martin Buber's "I and Thou," a book I highly recommend.


EMP said…
I said hi to every construction worker who I saw on my run this morning. Lot of smiles!
Anonymous said…
While out walking my dog, I saw an elderly lady going through a garbage can to find bottles and cans. I had two dollars in my pocket, so I offered them to her.
Anonymous said…
I often travel with prepackaged snacks and water bottles in my car. If I pulled up to a street light and there is someone standing on the corner I give them all my food. My kids really like it when I do this and it makes them feel good to know they helped feed someone for the day. It also promotes discussions on how we might help more.

Once I went to pick up pizza and I passed a homeless person sitting off by a building. I felt like I had so much (literally like an XXL pizza) so I turned my car around, got out of my car, and offered a slice of pizza to the person. He gladly accepted :)

Happy Birthday Em! May your year be filled with so much kindness. xoxo
Anonymous said…
I often leave behind things like my hat, notebook, sweater, etc when I am in public. I love it when people catch my attention to let me know I've left something behind as I am walking away. I am thankful for their attentiveness and care.
Sara Rezvi said…
Bought a former student a ti-83 graphing calculator and sent it to her (noticed that she'd been increasingly anxiously posting on facebook asking anyone if she could borrow one). Happy Bday Emily <3

also, keep food, money, tampons, maxi pads in my car (drive around for work all day). I hand these items out at any Chicago intersection where there are homeless folx asking for help.

Renita said…
In 2014 I flew into DC for a conference, got into a yellow cab, and headed to my hotel. After a few minutes of small talk, I asked my 50-something cab driver where he was originally from. He said "Mexico." This confused me a bit, because his name was clearly listed as Mohammed on his cabbie license. I said, "Really? How interesting. I don't hear a Mexican Spanish accent, and your name is Mohammed. If you don't mind my asking, how does all that work?"

He paused and smiled broadly for a minute and said, "You are the first person that questioned my response. Most Americans in my cab accept it and go back to what they were doing, usually in silence. I will tell you the truth if you really want to hear it."

After a few more minutes he got around to saying: "The truth is I am originally from Afghanistan. I served as an interpreter for your American army for many years. This country has in turn provided me with a home and a secure future for the rest of my life based on my service. I was on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan for many years. We saw many people die. It was very dangerous. My American Army brothers treated me like the most valuable possession they had, and in some ways, I was. They threw their own bodies on top of me when we faced bombs or gunfire, as they were ordered to do. They risked their lives for me everyday, as I did for them. They were my brothers." He began to cry. "I'm sorry..." he said. "I still have problems from that time... have you heard of PTSD? Well, I have that. Anyway... your country is the greatest country in the world. You kept your promise to me and now my family is safe. We have everything. Everything! May God bless this beautiful country."

There was little I could do but listen. It was all that I could offer him. When we got out of the cab, we hugged each other. He still had tears on his face. "My sister. My sister. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you. This ride is free. Go in peace." I tried to refuse but he insisted. I was almost too choked up to speak. In fact, I am tearing up as I am writing this post even now, four years later. We looked at each other one last time and waved goodbye. I smiled through my tears and mouthed "thank you" one more time. I pushed my sunglasses onto my face so that no one would see my wet eyes as I entered the lobby of the busy, shiny, hotel. As Mohammed pulled away from the curb, and I rolled my suitcase through the automatic glass doors, my head spinning and my heart bursting from what I had just experienced.

Mohammed and I gave each other incredibly small acts of kindness, but it was one of the most moving twenty minutes of my life. I hope this story inspires others to ask and listen to a brother or a sister today or any day. This is the stuff of life, these are exchanges we need to learn, to grow, to heal.

Sending tremendous and heartfelt gratitude to all those who serve others in a way I likely never will, and the price they pay for their service. -Ren
Camille said…
I'm tearing up just reading these comments. Doesn't surprise me at all that you have so many friends who are as kind and thoughtful as you are, my dear! Happy birthday!!!!!! xoxox
seldnplan said…
Not my own, but this guy should be much better known:

He worked on the farms of interned Japanese to keep them viable for them when they returned.

Anonymous said…
I let a student get one last shot of pursuing a major in the subject of his choosing. I also donated to wikipedia ;)
Megan said…
Love the post and reading all these comments, Em! What a good reminder to be open to people and not be in such a rush all the time.
Asha sridhar said…
A young Nepali is working in my house part-time,helping me with my house old work. I gave her a new Palazzo to her.Today morning,she arrived at my place wearing the Palazzo.I could see the gleam in her eyes and was happy.
Anonymous said…
I am praying 🙏 for the families of the migrant caravan
coming frim Central America.
And for a peaceful solution for this situation🙏
Thank you for reminding us of giving something
JC said…
I am loving the reminders to spread joy (and ideas). Setting an intention now for a more kindness-filled week.
EMP said…
So many wonderful examples, guys! Sending love and positive energy to all.

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