"An act of generosity can be a spontaneous outpouring due the heart being touched or the desire to support that which we are aligned to."
This past Saturday's Random Act of Kindness in New York was one such experiment in generosity, working through comfort zones, inside a commitment to make a difference.
Spontaneous is definitely the word for it. Astha planted the seed on Tuesday about wanting to organize a service event on the Labor Day weekend. Raj and I fed the fire by inviting people to engage in their personal experiments of generosity by handing out goodies, snacks, cookies, random act of kindness suggestions, hugs, and even bangra lessons in Strawberry fields past the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park.
Serendipitously there were 7 folks for (for most, it was their first time) who accepted the invitation and forces were consolidated by 12:30PM on Saturday. The next three hours were pure magic, kindness was truly contagious!
With a table full of Kit-Kats, Snickers, M&Ms, granola bars, and other goodies -- the majority of which was gifted by people who couldn't physically be there. Even a co-worker who wasn't able to attend, gifted a massive bag of candy. LOL. Poster board was donated for the use of making a kindness board, inspirational quote board, and a community art board -- and the event was on!
While everyone organically switched between various spots, I will never forget the following image. You walk through and you're first greeted by Diti and Astha's infectious energy as they ask, "Do you want a free hug?!" and if you were with someone, Diti would holla: "How about YOU hug each other?" while holding a hug tally board! LOL. And people DID! They slowed their walk and with open arms either hugged the crew or their partners! Next, some with puzzled looks came to me and would ask, "What are you selling? What's the catch?"
It is New York City, after all, haha!
"The catch is to engage in your own experiment of generosity! Pick something from the table, give a kiss to a friend - a Hershey's kiss - and pick a Random Act of Kindness you can try on in your own life," I'd say as I directed them a few feet away.
With Payal's gentle and welcoming smile, she held up the Kindness Board and it was just natural for people to pick out something that resonated with them. If they had trouble, Samir would encourage them to, "Just close your eyes and let your intuition pick the one for you!" as he held up the "SMILES" sign and the Smile Tally sign. In the background, Raj taught a crowd -- at one point 6 people -- Bhangra Dancing 101 sharing the joy of letting loose and being fluid in one's body. Balay, balay!
Nearly halfway through the afternoon, there was a guy selling water in a cooler who passed by. We flagged him down, hooked up him with what he needed for some water, and told him to gift bottles as people walked by. Touched, Narisco, ended up staying with us throughout the next two hours. He spoke a little english, and Diti spoke a little Spanish - during our post-event circle of sharing, she translated for us as he shared about different events he participated in through his church but was so moved that friends would get together and spend an afternoon doing something like this spontaneously.
One passerby was so touched by the experiment that he told us about his brother who was going to propose to his long time girlfriend in an open area 30 feet away. He handed us a bouquet of flowers, told us to spread them amongst us, and after Deanna said "yes" he would give us the signal to run up and say "Congratulations Deanna!" with flowers in hand! Getting to be part of a wedding proposal - a rare treat indeed! Sagar, our resident photographer, caught that moment and many other moments as crowds would gather around the Kindness Board and Inspirational Quote board.
There were some endearing moments as well. Glenn, a musician shared with me that that day was the 5th Anniversary of his mother's passing and how perfect it was for him to walk past the John Lennon Memorial and meet us doing what we were doing. I asked him one thing he was grateful to his mother for.
"Having the freedom to artistically express myself. That's my legacy to her," he said. I took his hand to the Community Art Board, and with marker in hand told him to contribute to it. A little choked up, he wrote "Love and be Loved" with that being the title of his next album.
While numbers aren't important, they reflect a depth and scope of everyone's personal journey. During the 3 hours we were there, there were 153 hugs given, 216 smiles created, nearly 300 random act of kindness post-it notes taken, nearly 70 inspirational quote post-it notes taken, countless sweets and granola bars handed out and seeds planted.
From celebratory moments to quiet endearing ones to strangers who connected and became friends and those with us in spirit - generosity, connection, and community arose spontaneously ... thanks to all those who chose to take on their own personal experiments.
Big hugs to everyone who made it possible! (Stay tuned for the next "Thanks for Giving" event in NYC in November)