Today marks the completion of 6 months of 30-Day Life Experiments, the halfway point to a year-long adventure of learning, growing, and challenging the young and urban lifestyle that I’m living. In August I did a month of Living Without the Landfill, in September I did a month of having One Conversation per Day on Public Transit, in October I did a Randomized Photoblog of my Non-Work Life, in November I did the 100 Item Challenge, in December I Became a Vegetarian (now a reformed carnivore), and in January I did One Random Act of Kindness Each Day.
As with each of the months, I “ended” January’s experiment by looking at my first post of the month to see if I had changed at all or learned anything new about myself. I started the Random Acts of Kindness Experiment with a skeptical attitude, wondering how doing this challenge would benefit anyone (both myself and those around me). I was concerned that my small-town roots had been replaced by city-life; a life marked by an avoidance of others and a focus on myself. I made the argument that if I went around helping everyone then I would never get anywhere or get anything done.
I’ve since decided that my excuses were total garbage. They were something I made up to make myself feel good. It’s totally unrealistic to think that someone would just go around helping everyone all the time. So me using that as an excuse was an argument that lacked logic. What was logical about this month was that I started to regain a perception of my surroundings and realized that I didn’t actually have to go too far out of my way to do random acts of kindness. This showed me how many easy and helpful things I’ve avoided over the past few years because “if I helped everyone, then I would never get anywhere or get anything done…” Generally the acts themselves took 10-15 seconds, some were even faster and I hardly broke my stride. My longest act was pumping gas for my buddy so he didn’t have to stand outside in the winter. In that case, we weren’t going anywhere anyway so it didn’t matter how long it took me to do the act, the timing was the same either way.
I started to recognize the little things that I encountered on a daily basis: hats on the ground, people who were lost, and the perceptions of total strangers. Friends of mine would run up to me (or Facebook message me) to tell me about random acts of kindness they saw or did themselves: pushing a stranger’s car out of a snow bank, randomly paying for someone’s T-fare, or leaving a dollar behind for someone’s toll. If this month taught me anything it was that avoidance of others is no way to live your life. Paying attention to the little things does indeed matter and in reality, it takes very little time, effort, or money to be kind to others. Only 8/31 acts of kindness involved me spending money, even then, it was a pretty marginal sum that I’d have no problem spending at the bar on a weekend. It has indeed been a fulfilling challenge and without a doubt my behaviors have changed for the better.
Here’s a list of the random acts of kindness I did over the past month:
- Day 1 – A Hand-Written Thank You Note
- Day 2 – Lost Tourists
- Day 3 – Brownies at Broomball
- Day 4 – Laughter on the Bus
- Day 5 – Donated to a Kickstarter.com Campaign for Kindness
- Day 6 – A Rose for my Girlfriend
- Day 7 – Kindness at the Drive-Thru
- Day 8 – Grocery Shopping for my Roommates
- Day 9 – Kindness with a Charlie Card
- Day 10 – Cliff Bar for a Homeless Man
- Day 11 – Pep Talk to a Coworker
- Day 12 – Recycled Newspapers Left on the T
- Day 13 – A Mountain of Dishes
- Day 14 – High Fives While Hiking
- Day 15 – A Nice Note to Our Champion Waiter
- Day 16 – Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies at Work
- Day 17 – Picking up Trash in the T-Station
- Day 18 – Public Transit Directions to a Group of Drunk Celtics Fans
- Day 19 – Paid for a Traveller’s T-Fare
- Day 20 – Bottle of Wine: Random Act or Peace Offering?
- Day 21 – Paid Someone’s Highway Toll
- Day 22 – RelayRides for Groceries
- Day 23 – Blind Navigation on the MBTA
- Day 24 – A Candy Cane for the Homeless
- Day 25 – Paid T-Fare & Conversation Fail
- Day 26 – Direction for a “Tourist”
- Day 27 – Paid for Someone’s Coffee at Dunkin Donuts
- Day 28 – Picked up Someone’s Hat
- Day 29 – Pumped Gas for my Ride
- Day 30 – $1 for Patriotic T-Performer
- Day 31 – Edited my Roommate’s Resume
My next month’s life experiment will involve me taking control over my sleep schedule. I’ll be sleeping a mandatory 8 hours per night as well as blogging about my dreams and other sleep/dream related topics. I dream pretty much every night so that will be the fun part, the hard part will be to slow down my life to get a full night of sleep. I’m excited to be well rested for a month and I wonder what I’ll learn about myself. I’m also nervous to blog about what wacky (and maybe self-incriminating) dreams I might have along the way.