Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness - Toastmaster Speech # 10

Some people think the world is becoming LESS friendly. Is this true? Some people think that there is no sense of community. Do you know your neighbors? Random Acts of kindness. We have all heard of this. We have watched the movie Pay It Forward. Statistics show that people are actually becoming friendlier. They are helping friends and strangers alike. They are just doing it differently than they did years ago.

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that 64 million people volunteered in 2011. That was more than a million more than in 2010.

• Women volunteer at a higher rate than men in all age groups, educational levels and all other demographic differences.

Kindness is contagious according to a study done at the University of California. But we don’t need a study to know this. We have all seen the effects of a kind act on another person. We have felt the kindness of others. We have all felt the rippling effects of kindness.

Plato wrote and inspiring thought about kindness. I feel its depth is timeless:

“Because you reap what you sow. If you are sowing kindness, you will reap kindness. Give love, love will return to you. Share joy and joy will abound in your life”

As I mentioned in a previous speech I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday in a very special, memorable way. I decided to complete 40 random acts of kindness for my 40th birthday. Then I decided to take it a little bit further and challenge my friends and family to do 1 random act in my honor. This was life changing for me. I achieved my goal of 40 random acts and I counted 32 random acts by others all for my birthday. A total of 72 random acts were passed on to 72 different people. I can only imagine the ripple effect of that.

My favorite acts that I completed was the coffee gift cards. I stood in line at Cairo’s and knew in my head what I wanted to do. I was nervous. My heart beat fast as I wondered who the recipient would be. As I waited I started hearing the ladies behind me talking. They were upset and complaining about their jobs. Their week was going to be so busy. Their boss was not very understanding of their workload. I kept quiet and just listened secretively. As I reached Bruce’s counter he gave me my usual cup for my usual coffee. I bought it and also bought 2 $5 gift cards. As I was shaking and nervous, I turned around and told the 2 ladies that I bought them each a gift card. I explained it was my birthday and that I was doing random acts. They were ecstatic. Their moods immediately shifted and they became friendly, happy, motivated and excited. It was thrilling!

Albert Schweitzer stated: “Do something wonderful, people may imitate it”.

I mentioned how I was nervous. There were several acts that I completed that made me nervous. It made me reflect upon our society and what has become of it. WHY was I NERVOUS to do something nice? Have we stepped so far outside ourselves that it is no longer acceptable to be kind?

When I drafted my birthday email requesting help in completing these random acts I sent it to everyone. I worried that I would make people uncomfortable or look like I had an ulterior motive. I received an email from my program manager. Uh oh. His random act made me smile. He completed his random act within 2 hours of receiving my email. He woke up that morning with a full agenda as he and his family were to prepare to leave for vacation. Having all coffee drinkers in the house he went to make a pot to get the family moving. He opened the fridge and to his despair… NO CREAM!!! He got himself dressed, left the house quietly and ran to McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. He got everyone’s favorite sandwich and then a box of Joe with creamers and sugar. When he got home, he was greeted with cheers and happiness. He told them all that it was to celebrate Ann Marie’s birthday. Not knowing WHO Ann Marie was… they all looked at him funny. So he told them my wish. They all volunteered to participate and that added 3 more random acts to my list!

The stories were so infections. The people that participated were surprising. My far away friends Kathy Rehorst and Cheryl Sexton did a kind act to others. My wish reached other sides of the country! My son did 1 kind act a day for 1 whole week – by his own choice. My co-worker Carol performed a kind act without even knowing it. She gave me one of my most cherished compliments ever.

Random Acts are free! You don’t need to spend money to make someone happy. Hold the door. Smile. Offer a chair. After my little project was done, I was standing in line at the pharmacy at Giant Eagle. I had a million thoughts running through my mind. A sweet, gentle, old man came up to me. He put his hand on my arm and said “Don’t forget to smile, this life is better than any alternative” and he walked away. I NEEDED that on that day! If we only took that 1 moment. That 1 second to make someone else’s life an ounce better imagine how rich our life would be?

Most of us that work here have the privilege of living in a small town. Some are smaller than others…but regardless, our communities in Western PA are intimate. Small towns have a way of breeding hospitality and character. We can take our small town charm and infest it into the culture of bigger communities and cities. This time of year, you see football rivalry. Let’s keep the competitive spirit…but engage in kindness as well. Our community is hosting a Fight/Cheer for the cure. 2 rivaling schools are coming together at their next football matchup to raise money for breast cancer research. The 2 teams are working together to advertise and campaign for something greater than themselves. The competition will happen on the field…but the compassion and teamwork will happen off it.

I vow to make my life richer by helping others. I want to inspire you to do the same. I teach my children that making someone else happy is a key to making yourself happy. True random acts are genuine, sincere, thoughtful and considerate. They are acts we do without seeking anything in return. Enhance your senses and you will see far more positive things happening around you. If all of us just did 1 random act a week. Think of others first. The result would be astounding. I challenge you to do what I did. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, or milestones with a Random Act of Kindness project. It is a way to pass on your blessings to others. Not everyone is a fortunate as we are. I do complain, I do get frustrated, but I choose to emphasize the good in the world. I challenge you to do the same. We can all make a difference 1 act at a time. I will leave you with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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