Am I being kind? Can that one simple question really change the world? According to Michael Chase, and according to sponsors, planning committee members and participants the first annual Kindness Weekend in the Mount Washington Valley of NH, it most certainly can!
The weekend kicked off with an evening lecture by Michael Chase, also known as The Kindness Guy. Michael is the founder of The Kindness Center and author of the book Am I Being Kind? He told his story; from an abusive childhood to high school bully to an encounter with a turtle in the middle of the road that literally changed his life and set him on the course of Kindness.
Michael shared that when an act of kindness is done, the doer experiences an increased serotonin level in the brain. Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical. The result is the feeling of happiness. He then explained that the receiver also experiences a rise in serotonin levels and also feels good. The best part is that even an observer of an act of kindness experiences a rise in serotonin as well. So one simple act of kindness… shared, received and witnessed… is really a win, win, win.
After a standing ovation and lots of hugs, the Kindness Event Coordinator, Michael Kline invited the crowd to come back to the park for coffee and dessert and to experience the candlelight labyrinth to enhance the Kindness experience. Some people socialized over an amazing spread of sweets, while others headed outside to walk the labyrinth and release past hurts and resentments and move toward forgiveness; or simply to walk in gratitude along the candlelit path toward center. This was truly an awesome experience to have and as well as to witness.
At 8am the next morning, the Random Acts of Kindness event kicked off with a Smiley Face parade as over 400 balloons and a whole bunch of human smiles made their way down Main Street to the Kindness Tent in the village park.
Kids, teens, adults, coworkers, families, community leaders and Valley visitors gathered before the Wall of Kindness, selected their activities, picked up their kindness supplies that had been donated by Valley businesses and went on their way to do Random Acts of Kindness.
As the hours ticked by the energy under the Kindness Tent rose to a level that was palpable. People returned to the tent to share their stories of giving out cups of coffee, smiley face balloons, free hugs, seeds to plant and a host of other gestures of kindness. And then, as if addicted to the serotonin, they made another visit to the Wall of Kindness, charted their next course and headed out once again.
A group of teens I work with closely with shared the story of the Free Hug station they had set up on the corner of Main Street. The donned their iHug buttons and held up their signs and offered free hugs to passersby. They met with some resistance at first. They reported back that only about one-third of the people they met accepted their free hug offer. One person even yelled at them, “Why the hell would I want a free hug?” But they persisted. About 2 hours into the morning, three girls came back to the tent to tell me the following story.
They were walking down the street holding up their signs, Mikayla leading the way. From about fifty feet away, a woman saw the sign and headed toward her with outstretched arms. Mikayla put her arms out as they walked toward each other and met in a huge hug. The woman held on tight and Mikayla could feel her crying. When they pulled away the woman shared that seeing that sign was not at all what she expected on Main Street that day…but it was exactly what she needed. The day before she had lost her best friend to a terminal illness and she was feeling quite alone. She thanked the girls for their Free Hug brigade and then all four of them embraced in a group hug. Serotonin levels flying high and four lives touched forever.
Needless to say, as their energy rose, the free hug campaign got stronger. Their success rates rose and they became more confident that hugs could really make a difference to strangers. They focused their Kindness Campaign to not just strangers on the street. They targeted the “bank ladies” and a whole host of people who serve them during their day to day lives. They delivered hugs and smiles and thank you for all you do’s to the banks, retail clerks, wait staff, and service workers all along Main Street. Then they got in their cars and headed to the Mall to deliver kindness.
As for me, I staffed the tent… and there I got to affirm that Michael was right about “observer serotonin”. As each team came back and shared their stories, my energy rose. And from where I stood, as teams headed out, I watched as they came across their first kindness victim.
My heart swelled as I watched a six-foot teenager get down on his knees to tie a balloon on the wrist of a smiling 4 year old. I watched him stand up and hand Mom a flower and then reach into his pocket for a bone for their dog.
Kindness all around!
Lives were touched… some forever. Stories were exchanged at the afternoon Kindness Rally. Tears flowed among lots of smiles and hugs. And kindness lives on in the Valley!
At the end of the day one of the kids told me she didn’t want it to end. She told me that she didn’t want to go back to her “unkind” home. She told me she wanted to quit her job, buy a Kindness Van and be a Michael Chase groupie. In my adult voice, I suggested what my life coach had recently suggested to me when I wanted to make a major change in my life; I suggested she wait a week to let things sink in before making any major life decisions. But really, secretly, the kid in me wanted to join her!
She agreed to wait and then suggested we go for ice cream to keep the serotonin flowing for just a little bit longer… which of course we did!
By Trisha Jacobson
Article Source: ezinearticles.com