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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good Deed Challenge

About a month ago, I decided to be a part of a 28 Day Good Deed Challenge. The idea was that everyday, I would do one random act of kindness for another person. The recipient could be known to me or a complete stranger and the act could be as simple as holding a door open for someone. Each participant in the challenge was expected to enter their daily deeds into a communal Google Docs spreadsheet. We were encourages by the project organizer, DJ Waldow, to review each others acts of kindess for inspiration and feedback-comments were encouraged. Participants were spread throughout North America and we had every demographic covered from students to parents to Dilberts like myself.

It was tougher than it sounds. In some ways it was tougher than the whole kidney donation-that was very much planned and not so random. Hear me out on this...

A challenge like this doesn't really allow for those "keep to yourself, head down-bad days". You have to have your eyes, ears and heart open to not just spot the opportunities for random acts of kindness, but to actually get them done. A lot of the time this can involve taking the high road and putting someone else before you-even someone you don't really like. Now, I like to think of myself as a good person and I do like to try to help other people when I can. But what I realized in doing this challenge is that I am not as prepared to walk the talk as I thought I'd be EVERY SINGLE DAY.

There were days when I was so busy I didn't know which way was up and I would realize by dinner time that I hadn't done a single thing that would qualify as a good deed. Crap. Those days usually meant my family would be on the receiving end of the act of kindness sometime after my arrival home which didn't seem as random as it should/could have been.

I'm also a fan of being original so I wanted to try to come up with something new everyday rather than repeat a previous good deed or borrow a good deed idea from another participant. This also added to the challenge because some days we don't have a creative bone in our bodies. I'd find myself frantically looking around my home, workplace or environment searching for something I could do that was "good enough". I felt more than a little crazed at times (in a good way of course...).

Another challenge I was presented with a few times in the last 28 days occured when the good deed opportunity was as clear as day-it might as well have had a neon sign flashing and pointing over top of it...but the potential recipient was in my bad books for whatever reason. My friend Joe used to tell me that the high road might be a bit bumpier but it always has the better view. That's view doesn't necessarily make it easy to choose being the bigger person. I am proud that in each of the opportunities presented I did take the high road to help those people out-even if they weren't my favourite people at that moment in time. Even if it hurt a little.

I think that is the lesson in this social experiment. Everyday we all are presented with opportunities to help other people in many different ways. Some are so small they might seem insignificant  at first glance (telling someone they look nice or holding a door for them). Others are bigger, more obvious  (like a kidney donation or the more common/less crazy option of a charitable donation). I don't think the act itself is the hard part...it's making ourselves do it that is the challenge. It is almost always easier to be lazy, to rationalize that we are too busy, too tired, too old, too young-that there are other priorities. Most of the time whatever the good deed is in reality takes less time to do that it does to think about doing it and wrestle that inner you that is trying to reason why not to do it. Some of us are better than others at doing the right thing but it does take effort to be that way, and more importantly to do it everyday.

Even though yes, I am a kidney donor and yes, I do regular volunteer work and I try to be good to people as a rule, I learned that I have a lot of room to grow in terms of consistency and frequency of my good deeds. Practice makes perfect I guess.

That best portion of a good man's life; His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. ~William Wordsworth

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