digital kindness

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Aristotle says that information goes viral if it simultaneously evokes ethos (ethics), pathos (logic), and logos (emotion).  Stories of kindness definitely fit that bill, and that’s why we’ve all heard about the diner who left a $1,000 tip, the homeless man that returned a diamond ring, and the enormous support San Francisco gave Batboy.

There are all sorts of platforms and suggestions promoting various ways of committing a ‘real world’ act of kindness, but how do we commit an online act of kindness?  As our real life and online worlds slowly intersect and collide, it’s important that we’re able to fill our online communities with the same kindness that we fill our daily lives with.  But how do we get started?

We have some shining examples: Michelle Sollicito started the Facebook group “SnowedOutAtlanta” to help more than 55,000 people track the safety of their loves ones; The anonymous woman who bought pizza for a hungry family on Reddit; Ann Curry created #26Acts to unite people performing random acts of kindness as a tribute to the Sandy Hook victims.  Individuals aren’t the people committing acts of kindness online: ToysForTots allows people to make online requests for toy for disadvantaged children, and KIVA provides microloans to people around the world with money raised through online networks.
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Below are some more suggestions for bringing kindness online:

-Be a connector, if you know of something that will help someone else, send an email and let them know about it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting a Facebook connection with a LinkedIn connection or sharing information from an online article with someone interested in the topic.

-Promote a cause with your networks.  Passionate about urban revival or education?  Take a stand and use your social networks to promote people working to make a positive.

-Send fan mail.  If you’re consistently impressed by someone’s work digital portfolio or online writing, go ahead and let them know.  So often we think of people behind the screen as distant or foreign, but they’re really just ordinary people working hard to produce a good product.

-Donate online.  This one is so easy that it might seem like a copout, but if you’re pressed for time and carrying extra cash, why not support a cause? There are all sorts of nonprofits, both local and international, that accept online donations and would be grateful for your support.

-Share your skills and expertise with the online community.  Is there something you’re particularly knowledgeable about that might help someone else?  I can’t tell you how valuable I found online tutorials and DIY blogs and How-To articles.  Maybe not your typical ‘act of kindness,’ but saves me from buying books and calling experts and wondering how in the world I accomplish this that and the other.

-Volunteer online.  If you can’t find a volunteer position that matches your talents and interests in you community, there are lots of ways to get involved online.  The University of Nevada, for instance, has an online volunteer forum that connects individuals with volunteer organizations all over the world.

-Offer free stuff on Craigslist.  Have a microwave you no longer need?  What about a really good book that’s just sitting on your shelf?  Post useful things you no longer need on the ‘free’ section of Craigslist to help people searching for exactly what you’re no longer using.

-Review on Yelp and TripAdivsor and other crowd-source review sites.  Again, perhaps not a traditional act of kindness, but if you’ve received great service – tell other people about it.  On the other hand, if something could be improved, let others know so that they can be prepared.

-Every day kindness.  This almost goes without saying, but when we’re interacting in online communities we would be well served to remember that we aren’t interacting with screens, but with the people behind them.  Be polite and honest and friendly to the icons and usernames you encounter.

On a related note, next week is Interactional Random Acts of Kindness week.
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Need inspiration? Check out these places:

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smile on a stick

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Candy apple on a stick makes my tummy go 2-4-6.  I spent loads of playground time singing the candy apple song with my elementary school crew, but I hadn’t thought about the hand-clapping anthem for nearly 15 years when it popped into my head today.  What was the occasion?  A rah rah rah experiment aptly titled ‘smile on a stick.’

I just might have discovered the fastest way to make a stranger smile:
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All my smiles came from spending a gorgeous day in St. Paul with Lyda Ham.  She’s a talented Twin Cities photographer with lots of heart and just as many laughs.  Oh, and good news — Lyda writes a lovely blog of her own, and you can read all about her adventures here
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stop drop kaboom

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It was the best of times and it was the, no wait, full stop.  It was simply the best of times.  I wish I could report on an uber-exciting weekend, but, alas, I spent all of Friday & Saturday helping Jon recover from the flu.  Instead of donning a costume or visiting friends, I made chicken noodle and caught up on Shark Tank with my favorite man.  Side note: does anyone else love that show?

Come Sunday morning, however, I was up and at um’ for some rah rah rah action.  My game plan? Bring sweet treats and thank you notes to the local firemen at Station 8.
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I expected to ring the bell, drop the treats and be on my way.  A quick and easy gift to make the men smile, and then poof bam be gone.  The firemen were so grateful for the chocolates, however, that they invited me inside to the see the engine.  I got a little excited about that, and, before you know it, I was stomping around in a fire suit learning the tricks of the trade (hot tip: always leave a little skin exposed when entering a fire so that you are cognizant of the rising temperate – if your skin starts to burn, get out.)
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I got a tour of the kitchen, and I was impressed with the spread of pancakes, bacon, eggs, donuts, and sausage on the table.  The firemen explained that they always did a big Sunday brunch together, and that they all take turns cooking.  Kind of like a family, right?
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The tour ended at the firehouse dorms where 21 men sleep in shifts.   A fireman made a joke about the exposed pillows, and then his station mate explained that they are always short on pillowcases.   So, can you guess what I’m doing? Organizing a pillowcase-drive with my apartment building.  A very near random act of happiness will involve returning to this fire station with loads of linens.

Kaitlyn and Sarah spread some joy to public officers with their own rah rah rah project in Milwaukee.  Head over to their blog, TheDuck&TheOwl, to read about how they spread happiness throughout their corner of the Midwest.

urban happiness

What role does geography play in our happiness?  Can we increase our happiness by changing our zip code?  The journalist Charles Montgomery studies how urban design affects human happiness, and he believes that we can manufacture joy through the urban landscape.   Specifically, he believes that we can “redesign our cities, our minds, and our own behaviors”…  “to build a city that is more convivial, more fair, more fun, and more happy.”

Montgomery offers a number of ways to make the city more fun, and my favorite suggestion is starting conversations in elevators.   He recognizes our inclination for personal space,  but he believes that the benefits of a good conversation outweigh the potential awkwardness : “Even a casual conversation with strangers has the potential to flood your system with feel-good hormones. Go ahead. Talk about the weather.”

I decided to encourage chatter by hanging conversation starters in elevators.  I’m not sure that anyone will answer the questions, per se, but perhaps they will chat about why someone hung silly paper all over the place.  Either way, mission accomplished. ImageImageImageImageImageImageSpeaking of urban happiness, I’m planning another rah rah rah project with my friends Kaitlyn and Sarah (TheDuck&TheOwl), and we want you to join us.  Are you up for it?

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The plan is to spread happiness to the public heroes that make our lives better every single day.  Grateful for the librarians that keep the bookshelves stocked?  Thankful for the firemen that continuously defend the city?  Let’s show our appreciation by giving them goodie bags filled with sweet treats and thank you notes.

I plan to spread happiness in Minneapolis, and Kaitlyn and Sarah will bring smiles to Milwaukee.   We’re both planning to blog about the project on Monday, and we’d love to read about how other bloggers got involved.  If you choose to participate, send us a link (in the comment section of the post) so that everyone can read about your random act of happiness.  Ready, set, RAH!

adore-a-ball

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Practicing gratitude is a win-win situation for happiness.  A grateful person recognizes the importance of the people in their lives, and a recognized person (the person receiving the thanks) feels connected to their social network.

Gratitude is on my mind with Thanksgiving just around the bend, and so today’s rah rah rah project involved leaving little “I am thankful….” notes around 50th&France in Edina.  Hopefully, the recipients paused to reflect on their blessings, and, with any luck, felt a bit of happiness when they reflected on what they’re thankful for.
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How would you fill out the card?

instant tradition

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The best part about being an adult is making your childhood dreams come true on a grand scale.  I’ve been hula-hooping since I could walk (truth: I started ballet when I was 3.. and.. well.. it’s kind of the same thing, right? I mean, balance and movement and what not. Nevermind, just go with it), and I always wished.wished.wished I could hula hoop somewhere besides my garage.  I mean, who likes huling around all the junk that didn’t fit in the house? Not me.  I shook it left and right and promised myself I would hula in coola places when I was older.

Since I figure that most people have dreams just like mine, I decided to host a hula hoop competition on the streets of Minneapolis.  The pictures tell the story:

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adults only

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You know that feeling when everything suddenly comes together?  The moment I’m talking about proceeds weeks and possibly months or years of endless worrying.  The type of worrying that springs up while you’re running on the treadmill, writing a term paper, or trying to boil water, and all of a sudden, you can’t stop wondering: Am I doing the right thing?  What if this is a disastrous idea?  Then you silence your mind because you have chosen instead of logic, you will follow your intuition.  Yes, always intuition.  If you haven’t figured me out yet, that’s the way I work – I follow the signs, I go where they lead.  No pros and cons chart for this girl.

It’s tricky to determine all the things that could go right about a project, and so I usually just go straight ahead with any experiment that crosses my mind.  This method has produced my best and my worst ideas.  A classic example of how our greatest strength can be also be our greatest weakness, right?1-IMG_9558
Today, everything with my experiment went totally wrong and made me wish I had a boss that vetoed all my bad ideas.  The flipside is that being left to my own devices usually makes for a pretty good story.  1-IMG_9560
The oddball quirky story for today is that I had a not-so-brilliant-but-well-intentioned idea to make an ‘adults-only’ play zone at the park.  I wasn’t intending to play in it or anything, but I thought the concept was pretty important, and might encourage people to be a little silly.

Anyway, I roped off an area between some trees with streamers, and then I blew up tons and tons of balloons to fill up the play zone.  Bad idea, right?  I guess I don’t have any experience with balloons, but it simply didn’t occur to me that they would blow like wild and be all over the streets within 2 minutes.

Oops!  Drivers started honking and I was chasing down the balloons and I definitely made more people angry than happy.1-IMG_9569
My little brother called in the middle of the mayhem, and I explained the situation.  He calmly told me that I should just fill the balloons with candy and hang them around for people that might need cheering.

Anyway, I went home and did exactly as my little brother instructed:

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turnip the beet

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Weird is wonderful and the silliest people are my favorite.  That’s the mentality that makes a fanny-pack-attack a typical Sunday night adventure.

I told Lauren that fanny packs were making a comeback, and rather than question my line of reasoning, she simply replied that fanny packs could hold large quantities of chalk.  Smart girl, right?

Lauren skipped the fashion debate and suggested a sidewalk art project.  A couple texts later we decided that I would sew two fanny packs, fill them with chalk, and meet her outside our apartment at 7pm.   By nightfall, we had covered the sidewalks outside our building with a dozen happy messages. Rah rah rah, y’all. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage1-IMG_93191-IMG_93241-IMG_9327

positive change

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They say time changes things, but that’s not true – it’s people that make the changes.   Change happens one person at a time, step by step and choice by choice.  External change is inevitable, and even if we don’t make a conscious effort to change, we still change irregardless in relation to our evolving environment.

My random act of happiness today was focused on change, and, more exactly, positive change.  Change is inevitable, but my hope is that people intervene in their own lives to make positive change not only possible, but probable.

I made smiley faces with a .75” diameter, printed them on sticker paper, and then attached them to the back of pennies.  With a pile of ‘positive change’ in my hands, I went about the business of leaving happy pennies around the neighborhood.  ImageImageImageImageImageImage1-IMG_88941-IMG_88771-IMG_88831-IMG_8860
Personal change starts with yourself, and you alone are responsible for the things that happen to you.   If you don’t like where you are, consider changing directions.  Forging a new path might be difficult, but it’s ultimately much easier than remaining in an undesirable situation.
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If you want to make your own positive change, you can print out template here:positivechange

happy ding dong ditch

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I’m good at getting into trouble.  To be honest, I even kind of like it — there is just something so irresistibly fun about all that risky behavior.  In elementary school I planned secret get togethers in the bathroom during class (everyone meet at the bathroom at 10am — don’t be late), by middle school I was sneaking out to toilet paper houses with my best friends (we only decorated our friends’ houses – it was an act of love), and in high school I was regularly tubing down the flumes on a friday night.  Oops.

My risky behavior went a little rah rah rah tonight with a happy ding dong ditch adventure.  The mission was simple: place a mason jar filled with flowers on a doorstep, ring the bell, and run.  Repeat 5 times.
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I called my friends and told them I had a surprised planned for the evening.  No questions asked, they showed up at 8pm ready for anything.  They are much too lovely to cause any trouble on their own:789
Zi Lin was the first brave soul to sneak up the steps and leave a flower jar.  Chrissy, Lauren and I planned to watch from behind the bushes, but we got nervous and ran away fast.  We felt like pros by the second-go-round, however, and we remained composed when we got caught on the third ding dong ditch.  “Hey! What are the flowers about?” a youngish-man yelled from his recently invaded doorstep.  We stopped, spun around, and told him it was a happy ding dong ditch.  He smiled and thanked us for the flowers.  We walked away wishing we had started up a conversation and gotten his number (not for me, of course, but for my 3 cute&single friends).
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