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Debbie Tenzer Headshot

Good-Bye, Cruel World!
Hello, 'Do One Nice Thing'

Posted: Updated:

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Despite everything going on in the world now, you can make it better. Yes, you can. And you don't have to spend a lot of money or time to do it. How do I know? I'm a kindness detective, and this is my story.

During lunch one day in 2005, my friends and I bemoaned the huge problems facing us -- the wars, crime, poverty, climate change, and more. We felt pounded every time we turned on the news. Suddenly I couldn't take it anymore; I was fed up with feeling helpless. I thought, "I can't solve the big problems, but I know I can do something." And then it hit me:

  • I can't end hunger, but I can donate cans to a food bank.
  • I can't fix needy schools, but I can give them my kids' old school books.
  • I can't end the war, but I can send a phone card so a soldier can be comforted by calling home.

What else could I do? A lot, as I was about to find out. I committed to doing a nice thing once a week. Not every day because, frankly, I'm not that nice. But once a week was a promise I could keep.

I chose Monday, my crankiest day. I thought if I could make Mondays better, maybe the rest of the week would go more smoothly. I started a website, DoOneNiceThing.com, and researched and posted a new idea each week. Then I sent an email to sixty friends. Word spread by word of mouth and word of mouse. Now the website attracts millions of people in ninety countries. I call our members "Nice-o-holics" because when they start doing nice things, they get hooked.

So I hunted for nice things to do, and Nice-o-holics sent their ideas to me too. Working together we have:

  • Mailed more than seventy tons of school supplies to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who give them to local children so they can study
  • Sent countless books to schools, libraries, and hospitals
  • Contributed thousands of gifts for foster children, whose birthdays are often forgotten
  • Donated tens of thousands of packages of pasta, cans of food, and other food items to food banks, and much more.

People asked me to write a book. Parents and teachers, among others, wanted it to teach the children in their lives how to make the world better. And now, my book, Do One Nice Thing:Little Things You Can Do to Make the World a Lot Nicer, has just been published. It offers more than 100 easy ways to help children, friends, soldiers, animals, the planet -- in town and around the globe. I also included a chapter called "Just Click" -- umpteen ways to help even if you only have a minute.

The book also contains a journal to record your weekly nice things. I find that when I'm having an "off" day, I feel better when I remember the nice things I've done. That's fifty-two good deeds a year! Helping every week is strength training for the soul. With all the bad news in the world, it's easy to become numb. But when you make kindness a regular habit, you keep your compassion muscles strong.

With so many people out of work or on tight budgets, is it unrealistic to expect people to help each other now? Just the opposite. In today's world of bad news and pink slips, helping gives us the emotional lift we crave now. And there are endless ways to help that don't cost a dime. In fact, unemployed people are turning up in astonishing numbers to volunteer at nonprofit organizations of every kind.

The truth is you don't need a lot of money to help someone. All you need is a kind heart. Maybe we can't solve the big problems -- yet. But by working together we can solve a lot of smaller ones. When you help someone, you give them hope. And the more hope you give, the more hopeful you feel.

Join us. Help us make the world better on Mondays - or on any day that ends in "y." Sign up on DoOneNiceThing.com for ideas and stories, and to connect with other nice people. We'll send you our e-newsletter twice a month. That's good news in your inbox, free.

What's Your Nice Thing?

Suggest a project idea for Do One Nice Thing. If your idea is chosen, it will become our project of the week featured on DoOneNiceThing.com and in our e-newsletter to all the Nice-o-holics.

A project must:

1. Be inexpensive
2. Be easy to do
3. Not ask us to donate money

This is an opportunity to help a cause you embrace. Thousands of people could participate in your project. I'd like to hear from you. Please post a comment here or send me an email: dtenzer@DoOneNiceThing.com.

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