A few weeks ago I wrote a post about service. I challenged myself to perform 81 acts of service, nine acts each day, for a nine-day period.
I deliberately chose the number nine because in numerology it represents completeness, wholeness. And I am a big believer in that what serves one serves the whole. I come from the belief that we are all intrinsically connected and that by serving one, we serve ourselves and we serve all.
But back to my experiment. For nine days I went about my normal routine looking for small ways to be of service to others. I wasn’t looking for glitzy ways of serving that didn’t look or feel authentic for the sake of posting something sexy or exciting. I just wanted to serve.
The first few days seemed pretty normal. I did things I always do…I let someone cut in front of me during rush hour traffic, even though I was running late for work. I complimented a woman I didn’t know well on the color she was wearing; and I offered a supportive ear to a frazzled coworker who needed to unload frustrations.
Regular stuff. Kinda boring to tell you the truth. So I decided to try a little harder to make a difference. When I went out to dinner I tipped a waitress 25% instead of 20%. I picked up the tab for another friend.
I actually kept a journal and listed the acts of service. (Yes, I felt silly doing it, but I wanted to make sure I was following through on my assignment and being accountable.) Each day I would go through my list. I was usually struck by how ordinary my acts of kindness were.
Was I making a difference, I wondered?
So I continued to track my progress. One day my list of kindnesses looked like this:
- Wrote a blog to promote a friend’s new book;
- Folded my sweetheart’s clothes (something I really don’t like to do);
- Made a donation to the local Food Bank;
- Checked on a frail woman in the grocery store to see if she needed help;
- Tweeted supportive comments on Twitter and shared numerous posts;
- Called a friend who is struggling with illness;
- Flushed toilets in a movie theatre that needed flushing (Don’t even ask.);
- Let a boy cut in front of me in the popcorn line at the movie; and,
- Volunteered to come in and support coworkers on a weekend project.
Like I said, nothing earth shattering. Just ordinary acts of kindness or service that I wouldn’t think twice about in a day, except for the fact that I was writing them down for this blog.
And this is when I noted the obvious. I realized that it is the ordinary moments that define us. It’s the supportive words, the loving touch, the kind acts –no matter how small or seeming inconsequential–directed toward friends or strangers, that we toss into the wind and forget, that ultimately boomerang back to us.
They boomerang back to us in the form of grace. They return to us like magical beans that have sprouted into kind words, a compliment, or a supportive hand, at exactly the time we need them most.
They boomerang back to us in the form of a more civilized, loving society. As I said, what is in the one, is in the all.
So, back to my experiment. On the ninth day, my acts of service or kindness were pretty typical of the previous days. I let someone cut in front of me in traffic again; I complimented a friend; and I sent a note to my bosses to highlight the stellar work of a coworker.
But on this last day, I decided to do one thing out of the ordinary I wouldn’t typically do. I took four sticky notes and wrote a different message on each one of them: You Are Fabulous. You Are Wonderful. You Are Beautiful. You Are Loved.
And I anonymously posted these notes on the larger mirror in the washroom–one over each of the four basins–where they would be clearly seen by anyone washing their hands. A little later a coworker came by my cubicle with a smile as big as Texas across her face. She told me she had just run into someone who was laughing as she walked out of the restroom. The woman was talking about the inspirational notes she had just seen posted on the bathroom mirror. She described the notes I had left on the mirror to my friend and said, “I decided to go with the ‘You are fabulous’ message for today.
A little later I walked in the restroom and the notes were gone. I’d like to think someone who needed them plucked them off the mirror and pocketed them for themselves for a dose of inspiration. More than likely someone from the janitorial staff cleared them.
If so, I hope as they removed the sticky notes from the mirror, they were reminded of how fabulous, beautiful, wonderful and loved they are. And I hope the message sticks. And that it boomerangs back to us all in mysterious and magical ways, and when we most need to hear it.
Do you have some ordinary acts of kindness you’ve performed lately that you’d like to share?