About five years ago, I went through a tough personal time. My priorities were not aligned, I wasn't sure of where I was headed and what I stood for. More than anything, I felt sadness, some sense of not being who I hoped I'd be, and just a general depression about how average I felt towards the things that were happening for me.
I knew I needed to reach down into my soul and do some real work. I needed to figure out how to find happiness, to have true joy, and to live a genuinely positive life. I guess you can say a light bulb moment happened and in an instant something just clicked.
I suddenly realized that I need to start giving joy away to others. I became increasingly aware that I had to find a way to share joy, and to help others experience it. I considered that maybe through that process I would understand how to have my own genuine happiness. I never expected how much one simple thought could transform a life.
It was nearing the holidays, and I was--as so many others do--lamenting about who I had to buy for and what it was going to cost. I realized, it's such a tough time for so many people, those who feel they don't have enough to give, those who have suffered loss, and those who don't know how to find joy in the season that seemed to be built upon it. An idea came to me. I decided I would practice one act of kindness every day from Thanksgiving until Christmas that year, and I would attempt to generate the joy and elation, that I myself had been feeling deprived of.
I didn't have much money at the time, but I started doing research online from the various places that provide ideas, some specifically on Random Acts of Kindness and found some thrifty ideas--like donating magazines to assisted living facilities--and I was on my way.
My first day was Thanksgiving, I found an organization in my area that was delivering free meals to distressed families in the area. I signed up to be a driver and spend Thanksgiving morning bringing full holiday meals to people in my city who had signed up for assistance.
I drove to a housing community in a tougher part of town and I ran into several kids who were playing in the courtyard across from the apartments I was delivering to. I was able to give them a giant sheet cake, that was left over from a cancelled delivery, to share with their friends and family. The excitement and beaming pride in their faces brought me to tears and I realized that I had begun to find the joy that I had been missing. That was just my first day.
The days that followed became more and more exciting. Soon I couldn't wait to do my act of the day. Little things, like buying flowers for the woman who rang the bell for the Salvation Army, or sending diapers to a family in need, and even handing out lotto tickets to total strangers. The joy was everywhere, in their faces, their disbelief, and in my heart that was so full with happiness from spreading that joy to others. Happiness had always seemed so hard to come by, life always seemed a bit tough and then suddenly joy became so plentiful once I began to give it away!
That holiday season was the beginning of something much bigger for me. The years have worn on and my acts have grown in their frequency and in their reach. My favorite day was one where I went to a local nursing home and asked them if I could visit with a patient that had no visitors. They brought me back to meet Jodi. Her face was beaming like sunshine when I walked through the room with a bouquet of flowers in hand. I held her hand as she told me stories of her husband who she had lost years ago, and told me how much she had wished she could've been a mother. She said our time together was the nicest she could remember in a while, I thought the exact same thing. This picture means everything to me. This is the joy that's available for free...it's love for other people.
The Random Acts of Kindness continue to grow and propel me to wonderful moments and experiences with people that I may have never otherwise known. Aside from a busy career, I've even been able to launch an art company called Kindleigh to help me pay for the acts of kindness, and I've also had several companies donate to the cause. The support and involvement from others has been overwhelmingly lovely. There really are good people in this world and I truly believe we meet them as we become them. As Oprah said: "Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher." It's important to be the one who is doing the lifting of others whenever we can.
I will to continue to share the stories of the Random Acts of Kindness that I am privileged to be part of and the experiences that come with them. In this lifetime, I spent a long time looking for joy. It's different journey for everyone, and I found that for me, choosing a good attitude and trying to affect positivity for those that I'm able to interact with is where I have joy. I hope we can all find more of it together.