If you don’t remember hearing about it, that was by design.
I usually don’t celebrate my birthday publicly and find the occasion, in general, to be more of a depressing than celebratory affair.
But this year I decided to try something different and honor my 42nd birthday by doing 42 acts of random kindness.
There is nothing particularly special about the choice of year. (Other than the fact that 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything,” and I forgot to do this project last year when I turned 41.)
Best. Birthday. Ever.
I guess the reason why I’ve never been a fan of birthdays is, for me, merely existing doesn’t seem much worth celebrating. But what I DO with that existence is.
And the 42 acts were a reminder of the power of doing. (Plus, it was a ton of fun.)
I was a little unclear going in if I should do acts to help 42 people, or 42 acts that helped more than 42 people. (In the end, I decided it didn’t really matter either way and that I over think things way too much.)
So I just did the following…
- Sent handwritten cards to eight people. (In spite of my rep as a digital girl, I love paper — thick and fancy, sequined and decorated, inked and stickered — you name it.)
- Wrote LinkedIn recommendations for two people in my network. (Not just one-click endorsements mind you, but old school recommendations.)
- Bought a hot breakfast for a homeless person.
- Hid quarters at the local playground near the sand digger stations and at the bottom of slides.
- Left a thank you note and gift card for our mail carrier. (Her note back to me is to the right.)
- Gave a $25 tip to our waitress at dinner at a local sports bar.
- Bought and hand-delivered coffee and donuts for the people who work at my dry cleaners.
- Purchased the chocolates of the woman standing behind me in line at Fannie May. (I bought a truffle for myself too….Oh, who am I kidding? I bought six truffles for myself.)
- Sent a letter to the supervisors of the woman who ran my child’s afterschool program in kindergarten through first grade, telling them she had done an exceptional job and deserves a raise.
- Bought gift cards at Target and handed them to the woman behind me in line (who had a full cart and many kids in tow) and two other people in the store.
- Bought and hand-delivered coffee and donuts for the people who work at my local hair salon where I get my hair cut.
- Sent flowers to one of my doctors who had really gone out of his way to help me.
- Left two Yelp reviews for small businesses of which I am a frequent patron.
- Provided advice for two people who posted messages to the spinal fusions support page I manage on Facebook.
- Bought two gift cards at Noodles & Company and handed them to the next two people in line. (The second man seemed very uncomfortable with the gift and refused to use the card to purchase his lunch, even after the cashier clarified that indeed I had loaded the card with money. I felt a little sad for that guy.)
- Purchased and e-delivered a book to a friend in my Goodreads community who had the book on his “to read” list.
- Sent an iTunes gift card to a friend I’ve not seen a long time.
- Left three notes for strangers along the path on my morning walk that said such things as “You are something special” and “Enjoy your day. You deserve it!”
- Gave away a children’s work table and set of chairs.
- Bought coffee for the next six people in the drive through line at Caribou Coffee. It took much discussion to get the guy behind the counter to understand what I wanted to do. (He kept handing the gift card back to me.) I finally said, “No…Like you take this card and go buy coffee for other customers….like any customers…like any customers IN THE UNIVERSE.”)
- Taped bags of quarters to various vending machines, washers and dryers at the local laundromat.
- Bought three dozen bouquets of daisies and handed them out to the children at my daughter’s fashion design summer camp and Minneapolis Kids summer day care program. You would be surprised how magical a single flower bud on a stem can be for a little kid.
I share these 42 acts with you not to ask for your applause, (or your belated birthday wishes) but because it was a blog post I read back in 2010 that inspired me to do this project in the first place.
Perhaps by reading my post, you might be inspired to try something similar on your birthday (or any day.)
These random act of kindness were a great reminder to me that yes, it’s important to celebrate the “doing” in our existence, but the acts we “do” don’t have to be huge.
Any small gift to a friend, family member or stranger can make a very big impact — even if it’s just a smile and a kind word.
And that is something worth celebrating.