A few months ago, I stumbled upon what I thought was a pretty sweet story. A man in New Jersey announced that he was going to do 50 good deeds to celebrate turning 50. And he was off to a great start; at his birthday bash he raised thousands of dollars for a soup kitchen. Some local media got wind of his plans, and ran articles about it.
When it comes to good deeds I, of course, have a particular affinity for the number 50. I asked the guy, by e-mail, whether he’d be willing to talk about his experience for this blog. No response. I sent another note. Still nothing.
Now either the fellow didn’t get my messages, or he’s too shy to talk – not all that likely, since he invited no fewer than 200 people to his party. Not to mention his particular profession demands a certain amount of social savvy.
Third possibility: His plans didn’t go as expected. It happens. There was another time when I came across the web page of a woman so inspired by one of my articles that she herself intended to do daily good deeds, blogging all about it. The blog was updated regularly for a couple of weeks… and then went totally off the grid.
One thing I hear a lot from people is: “I plan to start doing a kindness a day,” or: “I am trying to give more.” Their words are bursting with good intentions. All the power to them if they pull it off, but it doesn’t always happen. After all, most New Year’s resolutions are broken by March. So why should a pledge to do more good be any different? But the difference, I think, between promising to be kinder and vowing to shed twenty pounds is that you probably feel guiltier about dropping the ball on the kindnesses.
Time for true confessions: When I first had the idea to do a good deed a day, I thought I’d do it for an entire year. Then I thought I could stick it out for a few months. Finally I settled on 50 days. Why? A good deed every day seemed like quite a commitment, and I wanted to be sure I could follow through. Couldn’t face the guilt of failing. The irony, of course, is that 50 days changed my habits for the long term. By now, I’ve probably been doing a good deed most days for close to 1800 days. I never expected to be at this point. It shows that even a relatively short-term commitment to kindness can be life-changing.
Coming back to the 50-year-old do-gooder in New Jersey, I don’t want to leave the impression that he definitely bailed out on his 50 acts of kindness. It could simply be that with all this guy’s fundraising, flower planting and food drives… he’s just too stinking busy to talk.