I tried twice today to do a random act of kindness for someone and both times I was shut down. I was doing my laundry and decided to stop by the convenience store across the street for a snickers bar. I saw the laundromat attendant behind me in line and I offered to buy his coffee. We’ve talked many times before so it wasn’t as if he’s a total stranger, just mostly a stranger. He turned me down even after I explained that it was a random act of kindness and for him to not worry about it. On the walk back to the laundromat I started talking about this blog I had heard about (mine) where this guy (me) was doing a random act of kindness every day for a month. He agreed that it sounded interesting and that it was a good idea but he said, “Well, he probably didn’t live in the city did he?” I laughed and said, umm I think he lives in Boston.
This was kind of an interesting experience because this guy immediately went on the defensive when I tried to do something nice for him. It was very much like, ‘I don’t need your help/money’ or ‘what do you want from me by doing this’. He also immediately assumed that the blog I was talking about was someone who didn’t live in the city. What kind of city-slicker would go around just being nice to people?!?! They must have an ulterior motive. We ended the conversation with me saying that I hadn’t read the whole blog yet (b/c it’s not written yet) and him responding, “Yeah well let me know how it turns out for him.” He’s actually a really nice guy with a positive attitude, but he definitely wasn’t interested in my random act of kindness. Maybe I’ll try again next time I’m at the laundromat.
My next attempt was to try and pay for someone who was washing their clothes ($2.75 in quarters). Out of everyone in the laundromat there were three girls and two guys. I decided not to approach the girls because that’s probably a little creepy, “Hey can I pay for your laundry?” Yikes. And out of the two guys, one had his headphones on and the other one looked drunk and not quite homeless but close. So I went for the drunk one. I noticed he had his quarters stacked up in a pill bottle, so perhaps he’s also a drug addict. None the less I offered to pay for his washer, figuring that of all the people in this laundromat, he’d probably be stoked to get a free load of laundry done. Turned down again, although more politely than the first time. It was definitely clear that this guy was inebriated so I’m sure he was probably not too interested to be talking to people at the moment.
Laundry Kindness Fail.
A bit discouraged I went home and started surfing the internet for lack of anything better to do. It was late and I had no idea what I would do for my random act of kindness (sounds like a recurring pattern so far). Then I came across the idea of Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter is an online, crowd-sourced fundraising website for creative projects. You simply put your project on Kickstarter with a fundraising goal, and anyone from anywhere in the world can donate money electronically to your project. If the project doesn’t reach its fundraising goal by the end of the specified time period, then none of the donors get charged i.e. all or nothing funding. This way donors aren’t giving money to projects that will fail due to lack of funding. It’s a great medium where if great ideas are communicated well then money can be easily raised from a large, diverse group of people from all over the world.
While surfing the site on my computer I decided that my random act of kindness for the day would be to donate to someone’s project on Kickstarter. I did some scanning for a cool project and came across dozens of awesome ideas from concept albums to art-mobiles traveling the country to super cool inventions (high tech and low tech)… and the list goes on. I happened to find four projects related to random acts of kindness.
A screenshot of the kickstarter website.
The one I eventually donated a few $$ to was called The Kindness Project. The project was started by a girl named Brooke Welty, who coincidentally is from Maine (me too) and who wants to travel the country to record people’s stories on random acts of kindness. The goal is to put these stories on her website and on CD so that others can be inspired to do simple, everyday random acts of kindness. She already has a collection of stories on her website www.thekindproject.org and she’s looking for cash to finish her project, namely transportation costs, food, lodging, new recording equipment, and better audio software. I felt that this was not only a great project but it also tied in very closely with my life experiment for this month (also she’s from Maine so she must be awesome). I’ve listened to a bunch of the stories on her website and it’s incredible how simple, yet powerful, random acts of kindness really are.
A screenshot of The Kindness Project.
When you donate to any Kickstarter campaign, you generally get some type of gift in return depending on how much you donate. In Brooke’s example, $1-10 = get put on her “thank you ” section of her website, $10-25 = all of the above plus a handwritten thank you post-card from her trip, $25-50 = all of the above plus the complete CD of the kindness stories, $50-100 = all of the above plus a kindness project t-shirt (designed by her good friend artist), $100-750 = all of the above plus a second CD to share with a friend, $750-1000 = all of the above plus a second T-shirt to share and a scrap book of photos and transcribed stories from my trip, and $1000+ = all of the above plus she’ll come visit and record your very own story of kindness.
The funding structure for most Kickstarter campaigns look something like this. As a donor you get different gifts, increasing in coolness with increasing donation levels.
As much as I want Brooke to come hang out in Boston and record various stories, I really can’t afford to give her project $1000+. However I did donate a little bit of money because I feel like it’s a great project. However, if she doesn’t reach her fundraising goal by the 31st of January then none of her funders get debited and she does not get her project funded (she’s currently 28% of the way to $4,000).
Check our her project on Kickstarter.com and send her a few bucks as your own random act of kindness for the day. If you don’t want to send her some $$, at least “Like” it, share it, and talk about it on Facebook and Twitter because the more social media presence she can gain, the more likely it is that her project will get funded.