The Dandelion Effect

as the seeds of a dandelion fly when hit by the wind, so too will kindness spread.

The Ninth: Happiness.

There are many quotes devoted to the ill-formed idea of happiness. Many think it’s something that shows up like a package on the doorstep one day with a neatly tied bow, and once it arrives, it can never be taken. Others think happiness requires perfect conditions. Or worse, that it comes in a material form. It rides up in the fastest car to pick up the smartest, cutest kids from school and parks itself in the giant garage of the nicest house your amazing job could buy.

No.

The hard truth is that happiness is a choice. It’s looking at negative things in a positive light. It’s being grateful. It’s letting little things roll off your shoulders, and it’s accepting that everyone, everyone, has flaws. The unhappiest people I know are those who either cannot or will not realize these things and let go.

The fact of the matter is, no one knows what they’re doing. We spend all of our time comparing our behind-the-scenes rehearsals to everyone else’s opening night, but here’s the basic truth: we are all liars. We fake confidence, pride, strength, courage. Life is hard because we make it hard for other people.

Taking from Gandhi’s famous words “be the change you wish to see in the world,” I ask as your final challenge to look at yourself and ask yourself the age-old question: are you happy? At your very core, can you honestly say that if everything you own was taken, would you be satisfied with the people in your life, with the memories you carry around with you? When you allow yourself to realize the things above, you step back and allow yourself to stop fighting against the obstacles you yourself put into place. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do it exactly as everyone else is. Life is as hard for ourselves and for others as we make it to be. Below are two links I read as often as I need to about positive change for a better life. If you are happy, truly happy, the feeling can more easily be spread to others around you.

http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/11/30-things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself/
http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/18/30-things-to-start-doing-for-yourself/

                                                  
                                                 
(photo provided by Pinterest)

The Eighth: Make the Day of Another.

 In the words of Wikipedia, a flashmob is defined as a group of people who converge on a spot with little forewarning, perform some action (usually a protest or a dance), who then disperse quickly. Personally, I’ve always wanted to be a part of one. My first time seeing anything like it was a video of Grand Central Station in New York when at 12:18, some one hundred people stopped what they were doing and froze. Their bodies locked like stone statues for two minutes or more, barely moving with their breath as passerbys peered into their faces and asked each other what in the world was happening. Then suddenly, one hundred frozen forms began to move and carried on as if nothing had happened. I watched the video again and again and thought I need that.

The video above prompts the exact same response from me, but better. It was a flashmob of good intentions. 9-year-old Caine of East L.A. is so head over heels about arcades that he built his own out of boxes from his father’s used auto parts store. Unfortunately, as many children find with lemonade stands or cookies for sale, there isn’t a great demand for homemade goodies.

But when word got out about Caine’s Arcade, it spread through the media like fire. A Facebook message prompting people to gather at Caine’s on a slow Sunday afternoon caused a little boy’s dream to come true. These people gave selflessly of what they had the most of- time. Where two hours could have been spent browsing Pinterest or clicking through Facebook to check on acquaintances they don’t even care about, these strangers instead gave Caine a memory. That afternoon may even have caused him to view the world with more kindness than he would have had the arcade stood empty and dark.

Your challenge now, should you choose to undertake it as the schedule has sadly gone off-course, is to either start or participate in something that you were reminded of while reading this. Caine’s Arcade is a beautiful rarity, but when the opportunity arises, take it. There will never be a time when you regret making someone else’s day.

The inspiration of the Eighth.

The Seventh: Ease the Mind of a Stranger.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/12/christmas_spirit_abounds_stran.html

 The story above took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan last Christmas. An anonymous woman entered a K-Mart quietly, walked up to the layaway counter, and paid off the accounts of three strangers in the amount of $500. Her selfless actions sparked a flurry of publicity. The next day, a man from a charity stopped by and paid off 14 accounts totaling about $2,000. In the weeks after, many people came in and dissolved the worries of strangers, specifically those whose accounts held necessities like children’s clothing.

 
Whether it was the Christmas spirit or a genuine act of goodwill towards the world, I admire the woman who started it all. When I read the article back in December, I wondered about her specifically- what she was thinking about when she made her decision, if she told anyone about it later. I wondered what must have gone through the minds of the three people she so greatly affected over the holidays, and if they too passed on the kindness in any way.

Too often, I’m forced to hoard my own money. As a college student, I often live paycheck to paycheck and end up eating more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I would prefer. But even at that, I try to remember to be grateful. I’ve never gone hungry.  I’ve never been without electricity or even a phone because I couldn’t pay the bill. We forget sometimes that what seems to us to be unforgiving circumstances could look like the lap of luxury to another.
 
Your challenge this week is not the typical “buy the coffee of the guy behind you in the drive-thru.” Chances are, they don’t need the money. My challenge to you is be it K-Mart or Goodwill, or any other low-cost store, give a little of what you’ve got. I don’t ask that you starve yourself so you can donate half your income. Generosity isn’t measured in how much you give, but where you give it. Make an impact. Make it count.  

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

One of Destiny’s photos from the sixth challenge.

The Sixth: Just Because.

The first time I passed out the flowers, I was petrified. It seemed so silly even then that I feared passing on a simple kindness, since all I had to do was walk up to a stranger and ask, “Would you like a flower?” Social anxiety or otherwise, I forced myself to move forward.  After all, I reasoned with myself, what else are you going to do with two dozen tulips?  

The boy who walked with me the first time was well-intentioned too. We talked as I patrolled the campus, scoping out the exact sort of face that needed a brightened day. Siting my target, I approached a girl alone on a bench and presented her with a tulip. She looked at me, looked at my friend, and shook her head politely. The same rejection struck me five times before I finally realized the problem. My friend’s shirt- have you hugged a Presbyterian today?- was creating the impression that I was with a church. Thankfully he was not offended when I asked him to go away. After that, girls took my flowers gladly, and I walked home with a light in my heart. 

 On a beautiful afternoon last week, I bought two dozen daisies. Destiny (of http://creativitydoesntgrowontrees.tumblr.com/) tagged along with her camera and together we trekked across campus, searching again for faces that needed the delight we had to offer. Destiny proved to be better at it than I was.

In handing out free flowers, people have several reactions.

Overall, they’re happy about it. I imagine they’ll tell their friends about the girls who gave them flowers and the next morning toss the daisy into the bathroom trash. Others are freaking pumped. One girl riding a longboard gave us the most enthusiastic response I’ve ever seen and seemed genuinely thrilled at the surprise. When I picture her, I see her wearing that flower behind her ear until it withers away to dust.

And still others are hesitant. It’s as if they wonder what’s attached to the flower, what unseen contracts they will have signed by taking the gift from my hand. In fact, every time that I offer, I make sure to always say the same: “Would you like a flower? Just because?” As they thought I was with the church before, now people think I’m with an organization, that I expect something from them.

I want to let them know that not everything comes with a price.

Your challenge this week is to give something out to strangers. I would suggest not doing food, because even with the extreme amount of faith I have in human kindness, I also watch the news.

Also, I’m sorry that the challenges have been slacking. I’ll be catching up soon.