Notes from the Front

The "front" of my little happiness war, I mean.

In case you haven't read the post yet, I'm responding to the increasing violence and hatred in the world by waging my own little war of kindness.  I'm not delusional (much.) I know that I'm not saving the world by buying someone a cup of tea --but I can't just sit around watching the haters continue to spread intolerance and vitriol without doing anything.  Something has to happen to start tipping the scale back on the side of good. (I said it better the first time.  Go read the post --we'll wait for you.)

Anyway, I decided to become a Love Ninja.

It is, possibly, the most fun thing I've ever done.

Mostly, my little seeds of kindness have taken the form of warm liquid. (I don't know what that says about me.)  I've been buying the next person behind me a hot tea in the tea shop, or coffee at the local food market or I've even bought the next person behind me some soup at the local bakery a few times. (I try to go local because even if the clerk forgets, I'm putting a little money into the small business owner's pocket, so it's still a win.  It's hard to be a small business owner today.)

So far, my favorite encounters are the ones where I get to see what happens when the person gets a little happiness delivered to them free-of-charge.  It doesn't happen that often because usually, I just pay and go--I'm consciously trying to not make these gifts about ME, but rather about the recipient.  So far, my all-time favorite was when I was still standing at the counter in the tea store when the clerk informed the young woman (not much older than my older daughter) that her tea had been paid for by someone else.  She looked up in utter disbelief.  "Oh, yeah, RIGHT," she said.  And then she was so happy when it turned out to be true!  Made my day.

Another really fun aspect of all of this is that I get the people behind the counter involved in what I'm doing.  And the looks on their faces...!  I think, you know, that most people in the service/retail industries have just come through the most hectic and worst time of the whole year.  On one day when I was paying forward a little happiness in the tea store, the owner told me that her day had started off with a customer screaming at her and storming out after he broke some merchandise and refused to pay for it.  This time of year doesn't always bring out the best in people. Although I'm not giving the clerks gifts, the way they react to getting to be the bearer of good news is really heart-warming.

The other thing I've learned is that I'm really handicapped in the Good Samaritan business because I'm so shy.  One day, I bought these little ten-cup packages of tea and I was going to take them to a crew working on the electric lines on a street near our house.  I drove past them twice, but just couldn't bring myself to stop and get out of the car.  (I left the little tea sampler bags on the cars parked in the front of the yoga studio, instead.) When I have to explain what I want to do to the clerks behind the counter, I break out in a sweat.  It's so totally worth it, but it takes reaching out of my comfort zone.

Not everything I do has money associated with it.  I find that the impulse to give people stuff is matched by the impulse to just...well, GIVE in general.  So I rush to hold the door open for people or I let people out in traffic.  I helped a woman carry her packages to her car. I'm digging into my yarn stash to make some hats.  I just...I just want to indulge in some mindful kindness.

Once the kids are back in school, I'm hoping to venture a little farther afoot--maybe helping at a soup kitchen, maybe taking sandwiches to the day laborers. I feel certain the opportunities will present themselves if I'm looking.

It's not too late if you want to join me. The New Year is approaching and, as Sri Dharma Mittra says, "How you start something is of great significance."  How should we start 2013? I say we do it with kindness and love.

(And also?  Yoga.  Lots of yoga. More about that in my next post.)


hokgardner said…
My son's teacher's e-mail signature line says something along the line of "Practice kindness whenever possible. You never know what battle someone is facing." I've taken her advice.
Barb Matijevich said…
I love that. Honestly, it takes so little effort and it is so rewarding. I just want to do more now!
Ei said…
Love you Barb. I've been working on kindness for some time now, and it is good to hear ideas. I have been making time just to check in on people, which has an amazing much people feel like they matter when you say, "I just called because I was thinking of you."

I did a decoration drive for a person from my church who lost all of her holiday decorations in a garage fire earlier this month. That was fun because I got to organize other people in giving which, you know, brings out amazing things. And I've really been practicing kindness to the people who live in my house, me particularly, which makes kindness to others both easier and more satisfying.

I need to do more with people I don't know, but I'm shy too, Barb.
Anonymous said…
I was wondering how this actually works, since the cost of the order of someone behind you varies. Do you just give the clerk $5 and tell them to use it until it is gone?
Barb Matijevich said…
What I do is say, "I'd like the buy split pea soup for the next person who orders it." or "I'd like to buy a large coffee for the next person who orders one." If I go through a drive-through, I can pay for the entire order of the person behind me, but otherwise, I just have to assume that someone else will be ordering what I just ordered and pay for that.
Shaatzie said…
I just spent some time with some friends of yours, namely Joan and Bernie, Allison and Matt, and two intensely brilliant little people. Joan
introduced me to your blog some time ago, and you've been getting responses from me.

I wrote about my trip to Austin and my impression of the city and she wanted me to share it with you, but I don't have a real, real blog (I'm a shy person, too) so I can share on an email if you like.

Loving you as Ninja.
patricia said…
First I was going to do 26 acts of kindness, you know, one act for each victim. Then I realized there were 2 more victims, Adam and his Mom. So I would do 28 acts of kindness. Then I figured, what the hell, I'll do 31 days of kindness in January, in honor of all victims of mental illness and violence.
Ann in NJ said…
Just heard a story this morning about a drive-thru in the Midwest that has a reputation for paying for the person behind you. They recently had a chain where 200+ people paid for the car behind them. Apparently the workers and mangers were keeping count and screaming and yelling as the number got higher and higher. They didn't get any money but it made them feel good too.
tanita✿davis said…
WORD, patricia.
I think I can do that, too.

Thank you, Barb, for the idea.
If "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" then I think you are on the right track. It's the way places like Union Gospel Mission and the Salvation Army work: help to feed and clothe someone first, and the spirit and soul will be touched as well.
Giving is such a wonderful feeling. When I arrived in my new country, 10 years ago, no furniture, friends or family, the woman across the street arranged a collection from all the neighbours and they furnished my house until I could do it myself, offered me friendship and let me know how things worked in this new country. I was overwhelmed and gratefull. This year, I did the same for a refugee Family from Burma.I cannot tell you how happy it has made me to help others, just as I was helped. Paying it forward and being a card carrying Love Ninja is the way to go. I love what you are doing...please continue but perhaps try find something that engages your time and skills too...the rewards are more lasting than the fleeting gratification of a small gesture. We change the world this way.
Barb Matijevich said…

I would so love to read what you wrote about Austin. And I'm so glad to know who to thank for your faithful readership!!

This year will be better. I feel it.