Day 16 – Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies at Work

Last night for some reason I was jonesing for some kind of baked good (urban dictionary definition of “jonesing“): cake, banana bread, cookies, fudge, it didn’t matter.  After looking around the internet with Sarah we found a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We then decided to add a twist and include  a few bananas into the recipe.  Generally if I have a banana that goes bad (mushy and brown) I’ll store it in the freezer to use later for banana bread, or in tonight’s case apparently, oatmeal banana chocolate chip cookies. I decided that my random act of kindness for the next day would be to bring the cookies into work and leave them at the front desk for people to grab on their way by.

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Me putting some muscle into the cookie-making effort.

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Chocolate chip cookies are healthy for you if you include oatmeal and bananas right? Maybe not if you eat half the bowl before you even bake the cookies, oh well.

So after eating a majority of the dough with Sarah and my roommates, I brought well over a dozen of the cookies into work.  I thought they came out pretty well.  You could barely tell that banana was in there but it was just enough to give them a banana-ish flavor without being overwhelming.  At the end of the day they were all gone so I guess that they were a success.  My boss’ boss is actually an amazing cook and so every once in a while he will bring in a baked good and leave it out for people to snag as they walk by.  It’s definitely a small gesture but it goes a long way.  Who doesn’t like to have a cookie randomly appear as they sign in for work in the morning or go into the front office to scan some documents? It was a win all the way around; not only did I get to eat the batter and taste-test the goods but I got to see the excitement of my coworkers as they scarfed down my random act of kindness. It’s hard to lose with free baked goods.

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Day 15 – A Nice Note to Our Champion Waiter

After getting back from NH I was really interested in three things: eating an entire large pizza, drinking a few beers, and warming up.  So Sarah and I went to this place called Picco in the South End that does pizza, beer, and wine.  (Fun fact, picco in Italian means peak or pinnacle, but in Hawaii a similar word “pico” means bellybutton, I thought it was funny, maybe you had to be there).  We had never been to Picco before but I’ve walked by it a thousand times thinking, “Man that place looks awesome, pizza and beer, what could be better?”

Our waiter turned out to be incredible, in fact, he was probably the best waiter I’ve ever had.  We were being indecisive about drinks due their small but fantastic selection of beers so he asked us what we liked and then gave us some time to decide.  He then immediately came back with two samples based of what we told him we liked.  This happened three times right in a row with different samples, probably having the equivalent of a full beer a piece before we even ordered our meal.

Then we ordered a pizza based of his suggestion which was delicious (and veggie).  Following this we got a couple of desert-type beers because we were too full to eat dessert (Imperial Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn, Mmmmm).  We then realized that we were his last table.  However, he was still chatting, cracking jokes, and bringing us beer samples.  We hustled up a bit so he could finish his shift.  We left him a pretty decent tip but decided to go a little further and write him a note about how awesome of a waiter we thought he was.  If I could have afforded to give him a humongous-big tip then I would have, but I thought the note would be a good act of kindness.  We left it on top of the cash to make sure that he would see it after we left.  I wonder what his reaction was.  

Hopefully he appreciated the extra thought, I just didn’t think that a larger tip would have gotten our point across.  Anyone can give a large tip but what does that really mean (aside from the obvious benefit of more cash)?  I’ve had a lot of perfectly acceptable waiters/waitresses in Boston but this guy was truly a champion.

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Day 14 – High Fives While Hiking

I had spent the week trying to figure out how I was going to perform a random act of kindness while hiking in the middle of the woods on a Saturday in January.  We hiked a 4,000 footer in NH planning to camp out near the summit, but the weather reports called for -50-60F+ wind-chill overnight so we decided to opt out of camping on the summit in favor of camping out back near civilization at the Tufts Loj after our hike (only -5F wind-chill at the Loj).  Either way we were excited about the hike but how was I going to be randomly kind today when we might not even see anyone all day long?

As we started the hike we ran into a group of three middle-aged guys who were also hiking up to the summit.  I thought that was awesome so I high fived them all after we were done chatting.  “That’s it!” I thought.  I would high five everyone I saw throughout the day because if you’re out hiking in sub-zero temperatures then you’re probably an awesome person who would appreciate a high five.  So I spent the entire day high-fiving people as my random act of kindness.  My favorite was a group of three older ladies we met at one of the AMC cabins located partway through the hike.  We stopped by the cabin to eat some lunch and refill our water.  The cabin wasn’t heated but it was indeed protected from the elements so it was marginally warmer than being outside.  I talked with them for a few minutes thinking, “Man, these ladies are badass.”  They’re well over twice my age and they’re out here hiking in subzero temperatures when all the weather reports said, “Warning! 5 minutes to frostbite on exposed skin, don’t go outside if you can help it.”  So I high fived them all and told them how awesome I thought they were which made them crack up laughing.  I hope I’m that tough when I’m pushing retirement.

Coming down off the summit. Imagine this guy giving you a high five and that's what the other hikers experienced.

Other people I high fived included the AMC hut caretaker, a group of boyscouts/girlscouts from Cambridge, MA, and an older guy who was actually camping out where we had intended to camp.  When we asked him wtf he was thinking he responded, “Well, I’ll be in the trees well below the summit so it will probably only be like -30F with the windchill included.”  Yikes dude, I hope we don’t hear about your frozen body being recovered tomorrow in the newspaper.  I also high fived a group of my friends who had started out a few hours before us and were already on their way down from the summit as we were hiking up.

Every person I high fived had a smile on their face.  We were all out there sharing similar experiences and I think the high fives helped to solidify that fact.  I wasn’t left hanging even once, everyone seemed really receptive and appreciative, especially on the tougher sections of trail where despite the subzero temperatures you were still heating up due to the fact you’re hauling a backpack up a mountain.  Typically on the trail when you pass someone you’ll say hello and maybe chat for a few minutes if you’re both taking a break, but I’m not sure I’ve ever high fived anyone.  I know I’d be pretty stoked if someone randomly high fived me on the trail, or anywhere else for that matter.  I hope that this small act of kindness helped to improve their days, even if only for a few minutes.

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Day 13 – A Mountain of Dishes

This past weekend I went on a winter camping trip in NH with two of my buddies from the NYC area.  It was epically cold but I think that we had enough warm gear to outfit a small village of Sherpas, so we held out just fine.  Friday night we had made it to the Basecamp/Tufts Loj around 11:30pm and still hadn’t performed my random act for the day.  I had been keeping my eyes peeled for opportunities but I’m either failing to recognize them or they just haven’t been happening, I’m sure it’s the former.

After claiming my bed, organizing my gear, and saying hello to friends, I decided to attack the large mound of dishes in the Loj kitchen.  The general rule of thumb at the Loj is that you should wash all the dishes that you use.  If everyone did this then there would never be any dishes to wash at all, a great concept in theory but it doesn’t always happen in practice.  Typically the caretaker for that weekend gets stuck doing a monster-load of dishes because other people just tossed their grimy, used dishes in the sink without cleaning up.

I didn’t have any dishes to clean of my own because we had already eaten dinner before arriving, but I thought that I’d do the caretaker (or whoever else) a favor by cleaning them all.  I’m not sure anyone really saw me doing dishes, nor do I think that anyone noticed that the dirty dishes magically disappeared, but the point remains that the dishes got done without anyone making a big fuss about it.  On a typical occasion I would have just washed my own dish and left the pile for someone else to take care of, very much a “not my problem” kind of attitude which is one that I don’t like admitting to but it’s true none the less.

As in this case, sometimes random acts of kindness go unnoticed.  As much as I have liked seeing the happiness on people’s faces after my random acts, I still felt good (maybe even better) about stepping it up at the Loj even though no one noticed.  I just knew in my head that the act, even though minimal, still helped someone out. I can see how doing the dishes randomly every so often (especially when they’re not yours) could be a good habit to carry forward when this month is done.

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Day 12 – Recycled Newspapers Left on the T

On my way back from work today I noticed that there were more newspapers scattered throughout the train car than usual.  I know it can be easy to forget things on the train (cell phone, wallet, backpack, newspaper, I’ve done them all at one time or another) but for some reason, without fail, the commuter rail is always littered with the Metro or the Boston Globe newspapers.  I remember one time in particular I was boarding the train and a guy behind me actually took his newspaper and purposefully threw it on the ground and got on the train.  I was pretty shocked at the overt lack of concern this guy had.  Not only is littering illegal, it also makes the city you live in look like crap.  Would it have really been that hard to hang onto the newspaper and dispose of it in a trash can (or recycling bin) so that someone didn’t have to clean up after you?

So on my way off the train I grabbed a few stray newspapers and recycled them in the train station.  It didn’t take any extra time out of my day to do this and it was pretty simple.  It’d be amazing how much nicer the trains would look if everyone took care of their trash and recycled their newspapers.

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This is what the newspaper recycling bins look like. It'd be great if the people who take the commuter rail would use them more often.

Most of the stops near the city have recycling bins for the newspapers (courtesy of the Metro).  This is great and I’m glad the city of Boston is making efforts to recycle paper, especially on public transit which I’m sure is where a lot of people read the news.  I just wish that people took more responsibility for the trash they’re leaving on the floor.

Actually while I was writing this post (on the train on the way to work on another day), the guy across the isle from me got up to get off the train and put his newspaper on the seat and left without it.  I mean, maybe he thought he was leaving it there so the next person who got on could read it.  However, I’m not sure that leaving your newspaper on the seat is a reasonable form of altruism. I picked up his paper too, ugh.

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Day 11 – Pep Talk to a Coworker

Today’s random act of kindness happened without me even realizing it until after the fact. It was the end of the work-day and I was talking to my coworker about her training regimen for her first ever half-ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13 mile run, EPIC).  The training is pretty intense, doing two-a-days more often than not with some combination of biking, running, or swimming.  Basically you have to focus on nothing but eating, sleeping, working, and training, there’s not much room for anything else.

Having just started her training, my coworker was nervous about finding the time to workout, work, and have fun, especially since she’s now leading a rather large project at work which will demand long days during the most intense parts of her training.  So we spent five or so minutes talking about how and why I thought doing the half-ironman was totally worth it.  I said how she’ll probably be tired every day, sore every day, and and maybe even a bit stressed out, BUT if it were easy then anyone would do it.  There’s a reason that a lot of people don’t just go out and do half-ironman races; because it’s hard and it takes a tremendous amount of focus, energy, and time.  It’s much easier to sit at home and talk about doing awesome stuff than it is to actually get out there and do it.  At the end of it (and for the rest of her life) she’ll be able to say she’s done a half-ironman, immediately putting here in a different category as compared to many other people.  “You’ve done a half-ironman? Holy sh!t, you’re crazy.”  To me, spending 6 months of “missing out” on late nights of partying with friends or weekend trips to various destinations is totally worth it if it’s in exchange for chasing the biggest physical accomplishment of your life to date.

At the end of my spiel, she said, “Thanks for the pep-talk, looks like you just did your random act of kindness for the day.  You didn’t need to do that but I really appreciated it.”  So I decided that this was indeed fitting toward my month-long life experiment. Over the course of my various trainings I’ve had a lot of support from friends, family, coaches, and even random people I’ve met in passing, so I’m glad that she found my comments helpful.  I’m sure she’ll crush the half-ironman despite the fact it’ll mostly take over her life (in a good way) for the next three months.  Again, totally worth it.

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Day 10 – Cliff Bar for a Homeless Man

I spent my entire day today at an offsite conference for work.  It was a pretty standard affair with coffee, snacks, a decent lunch, and a lot of presentations.  No complaints though because the food was decent and I was well caffeinated, also it was actually a productive and engaging day.  As a short side-note, I managed to get a ride back into Boston with a coworker who is taking a course in conversational Mandarin at a school downtown.  Very convenient for me, very cool for my coworker.

On my way back to my apartment I stopped by a CVS to grab a coke for a caffeine buzz to hopefully stay awake past 7pm (super tired for some reason, maybe it’s those 5 hour nights of sleep?  nah).   Without fail, this particular CVS always has a homeless person begging for change outside the door and it’s typically a different person every time.  So I decided ahead of time that when they asked for money I would offer to buy them something to eat instead.  As I walked in, I was asked for spare change by a homeless man who was shaking his tin can at me.  I told him that I didn’t have any cash on hand but I asked if he was hungry.  He replied, “Sure, I’ll take a coke”.  My immediate internal reaction was, “Coke isn’t food dude”. My second internal reaction was that he was probably going to mix it with alcohol, cough syrup, mouthwash or trade it for drugs.  So I decided to also get him a Cliff Bar so that if all else failed, at least he would have something to eat (or trade for smokes, drugs, or alcohol, but hopefully he’ll just eat it and be happy that a total stranger hooked him up with free grub).  Maybe I’m a little judgmental thinking that he would immediately trade the new goods for bad stuff, but it did seem pretty clear that he was high or drunk when I spoke to him on the way in.

As I headed out of the store I handed him the bottle of coke and the Cliff Bar and spent a few minutes talking to him.  He said he’s been homeless for many years and grew up in Dorchester.  He thought about moving south to escape the winter but he just couldn’t give up Boston.  I told him to make sure that he perform a random act of kindness for somebody as soon as he could.  He told me not to worry because that’s how the homeless society works in Boston.  People are always doing favors for each other, otherwise they wouldn’t make it, so they make a point to look after each other.

En route to my apartment I spent some time thinking about my day versus his day.  I remember bitching this morning about bad the coffee was at the hotel/conference center; rich white-guy problems for sure when you think about it.  At least I don’t have to wonder where my next meal will come from or how I’m going to stay warm in the middle of a Boston winter (despite how unseasonably warm it’s been there’s no doubt that it still sucks).  Chatting with this homeless guy definitely helped put my life back into perspective and helped me to appreciate (and not take for granted) being a yuppie in Boston.

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