Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31: Led A Discussion At A Halfway House

Second chances. If I didn't have a second chance to make a first impression, I wouldn't have the beautiful wife that I have today. Having that second chance changed my life in ways that I could have never imagined. Had I not been afforded that opportunity, who knows where my life would be right now. Sometimes people just need a second chance to be able to find the path they were meant to be on.

For over 50 years, St. Leonard's House of Chicago has been providing residential and support services for previously incarcerated men. St. Leonard's House has given these men the opportunity and means to rehabilitate and change the way they used to live their lives. There are many different reasons why these men ended up at St. Leonard's House, but all of them are working towards the same goals: "to rebuild their lives and reshape their futures." Today's random act of kindness will be to join my friend Alex in leading a discussion with these men that will hopefully help them with their second chance in some way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30: Delivered Blankets and Food to a Church

To say that I have been in awe of the response to this mission would be a tremendous understatement. The outpouring of warmth from people via text, email and posts has been absolutely incredible and I am so thankful for everyone out there. It is very rare that I am left speechless, but the actions of one of our Facebook followers accomplished that feat.

Myrna M's parents came to the United States from Mexico in the late 1940's, knowing no one but looking for a new beginning. During their early years here in the States, they were befriended by a number of caring and generous neighbors who helped them through tough times, most notably during Leonor's (Myrna's mother) pregnancies. Leonor never forgot the generosity of her neighbors, and although she lived modestly, she always gave back to others including sponsoring students at Native American schools, donations to the American Red Cross, time spent at St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and deliveries to church food banks. It was her way of giving back and thanking those who gave freely to her, and she kept up this mission her entire life.

Myrna reached out to me about a week and a half ago via Facebook. She appreciated what I was doing, and as an honor to her late mother, wanted to help spread kindness. Myrna told me that she had a donation that she wanted me to deliver on her behalf for one of my random acts of kindness. I met up with her last Friday so that she could give me her donation. I was absolutely floored by her generosity. She opened her trunk and handed me dozens and dozens of bags of chips, fruit snacks, cookies, granola bars and crackers. On top of that, Myrna had purchased more than 15 heavy duty mylar blankets, used to withstand bitterly cold temperatures, for me to give to the homeless. So on behalf of Myrna, and in honor of her mother, my random act of kindness for today is to deliver these goods to a nearby church that hands out care packages to the area homeless. Myrna, I can't put into words how much I thank you and how extraordinary of a person you are. Thank you so much.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29: Stepped Up For Kids

I live on the 6th floor of my building. I think I have taken the stairs up to my place less than 10 times in the 3 years I have lived here. The only reason for this is sheer laziness. I actually think the highest I have taken any stairs was to the 10th floor. Today, my random act of kindness changed that. I climbed to the 80th floor of one of Chicago's tallest buildings. Along with my friend Brian, I participated in the 12th Annual Aon Step Up For Kids, which benefits the Chicago Children's Memorial Hospital. Brian and I were able to raise nearly $1000 for the hospital and through the fundraising efforts of all of the Steppers, over $500,000 will be donated.

Brian bet his girlfriend that he could finish in less than 30 minutes. I was just hoping that I could do it in under an hour and a half. We started off like gangbusters and reached the 40th floor in just 13 minutes. It seemed like we were a lock to finish in under 30 minutes. Then we hit a wall. Our legs turned to Jell-o, and we ended up having to stop every 5 or so floors to regain our composure. But as we finally reached floor 70, we gained a second wind (or was it a 14th?) and hustled up the final 10 floors to finish in just over 31 minutes. Although, Brian just missed the under 30 minute bet, I think his girlfriend will see the effort he put in and pretend he won anyway. And even though I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my legs since they are like linguini, I am happy that I did the Step Up for Kids.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 28: Froze My Butt Off...For Charity

Before and After

Today I did a random act of kindness that would probably be better classified as a random act of insanity or stupidity. I did the annual Lakeview Polar Bear Club Polar Plunge. Last year when I drove by during the event, I said to my wife, "There is no way I will ever do something as dumb as that." It's funny the things this mission of kindness gets me to do.

I typically don't mind the cold. In fact, I don't really mind cold water due to certain fraternal events in college. However, standing on the shore of Lake Michigan today, I became terrified. I was flanked by people in bikinis and speedos who seemed to be ok in the weather (it could have been some liquid courage that calmed their nerves), but I was literally and figuratively shaking in my boots. As the time came for me to get in, I gave one last look to my wife and daughter and bolted towards the water. I was screaming like I was on the front lines of the final battle from Braveheart, but as soon as I hit the water, my lungs shrank and I could yell no more. What was probably 25-30 seconds seemed like an eternity. Imagine thousands of tiny knives stabbing at you from your head to your toes. I sprinted out of the water to my wife, who was waiting for me with a towel and dry clothes. I have never gotten dressed so quickly in my life. We hurried back to the car, picked up some hot soup, and came home. As I type this, I still have a tingly feeling in 4 out of my 10 fingers. Thus far, this was the craziest thing I have done during my year of kindness.

For as loony and insane as the Polar Plunge is, the event helps to raise money each year for two families in need. Through the Plunge participants' entry fees, donations, and fundraising efforts, the Brya and Kline families will receive the financial assistance needed to help their children continue to battle debilitating medical conditions. As cold as I was when I jumped into the water today, my heart was warmed knowing that these children were going to have a better chance to overcome their conditions. Please check out the link above to learn more about the families helped by the 2012 Polar Plunge.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 27: I Just Called To Say I Love You

Not every random act of kindness has to be a grand gesture. It doesn't have to be something that costs a bunch of money, or even requires a lot of time. In fact, sometimes, the smaller random acts of kindness have as much, if not more of an impact.

Before I met my wife, met any classmates, or made any friends, my sister was the person who I leaned on, laughed with, cried with, and occasionally argued with. She was my big sister. Someone I could look up to and try to emulate (although I still don't appreciate being dressed in a leotard). My sister was, and is still, the toughest person I know, and I love her with all of my heart. She lives in Florida now, so I don't get to spend as much time with her as I used to. More importantly, I haven't really told her how much I love her and miss her. So for today's random act of kindness, I decided to pick up the phone and tell my sister that I love her and I miss her terribly. Ever since I started this mission, my sister has told me (and others) how proud of me she is. But it should be the reverse. I am so proud of the person that she already is, and that she becomes every day. I am going to make sure not to let too much time pass without letting her know what she means to me. I also encourage all of you to pick up the phone and call those people who you haven't spoken to in a while. Let them know just how much you care about them. It is the small things that really count.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26: Greeted Everyone I Walked Past

The best part of my day happens only minutes after waking up. That is the time when I walk into my daughter's bedroom, and she is there waiting for my wife and I with the biggest smile in the world on her face. The innocence and sheer happiness in her face is enough to make my heart melt. My hope is that everyone has that one thing that they can look to or think about that, no matter the situation, can give them the feeling that I get from my daughter's smiles.

I've noticed that a lot of people walking around the city with their head down or a glum look on their face. Maybe they are in a bad mood. Maybe they are stressed out. Maybe they are just having an overall bad day. Well today, for my random act of kindness, I am going to try to cheer them up with a small gesture. While not as cute and cuddly as my daughter, I am going to try to replicate the happiness she gives to me to a small extent. Today, I am going to give a smile and a quick "hello"/"how are you doing?" to every person that I walk past. Even if I don't get a smile or a greet back, I hope that seeing a smile from another person might make them forget about anything that has them down at that moment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25: Wrote a Letter to My Congressmen

Ever since finding out about Len Austrevich and his son Miles' battle with cancer, I have been reading and researching about childhood/teenage cancers and the treatments that are available. While reading an article about pediatric cancer medicine, I found that since 1980, the FDA has only approved one drug for the treatment of childhood cancer compared to 50 for adults. The main reason why these drugs have not been developed for decades is due to a lack of profitability for the companies that would create them. This doesn't seem right or appropriate due to the fact that pediatric cancer remains the number one disease killer of American children. The other day though, one of our awesome Facebook friends, Monique V., made me aware of a proposed piece of legislation, The Creating Hope Act of 2011, that would "incentivize pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for rare pediatric diseases, such as childhood cancers." My mission is, and will remain, apolitical. However, this is something that is backed by both major parties and seems like reform that can have a tremendous impact on children and teens. So today, as my random act of kindess, and on behalf of Monique, I emailed Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk (feel better soon) of Illinois asking for their help to get this passed. You can find more information on the Creating Hope Act here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24: Ordered a Pizza

Outside of my wife's fantastic cooking, there is nothing I love to eat more than pizza. Deep dish, thin crust, frozen, it doesn't matter. I could have just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, but if there is pizza around, I am eating it. I am sure that I am not alone in my love for pie. So in an effort to spread my love for this culinary masterpiece to others, for today's random act of kindness, I ordered a pizza. No I didn't order it for myself, although now that I think about it, I may have to have it for lunch. With the help of Pizzas4Patriots.com, I ordered a pizza for soldiers overseas. Since 2008, Pizzas 4 Patriots has helped our soldiers enjoy a little slice (see what I did there) of home while abroad. A friend of mine who is a marine told me that even something as small as a meal that reminds them of home is enough to get them through the conditions they are in. So if you can give even a little, please visit the Pizzas 4 Patriots website to send something to our men and women overseas.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 23: Registered to Become An Organ & Tissue Donor

Saving someone's life. It seems like something better left to professionals like doctors, police, or fire fighters. When do most people really have the opportunity to save the life of another person? What if I told you that the opportunity was only a few clicks of a mouse button away. A friend of mine recently reached out to me and asked if I would register online to become a donor at the Donate Life website. Rather than just giving you statistics and asking you to go sign up, I will just share with you the message I received from my friend.

"It takes less than 1-minute and can literally save the lives of many people who will, not might, die. It can also improve the quality of life for someone who otherwise might not now be able to see clearly or restore tissue for someone who has been burned badly. For all the wonders of modern medicine, people suffer and die every day because they need these life saving gifts that can only come from another person. 110,000 people are on the organ/transplant list right now. My son was born with a condition that will likely one day require a liver transplant. While livers can sometimes be spliced from a living donor, I cringe to think of those who will watch their children or family member suffer because they are waiting on the list. The gift costs nothing of the person who donates it, and can have the unbelievable impact of saving or changing someone's life forever. That's a good return."

Today's random act took only a few moments of my time, and the impact it could have is immeasurable. So if you have a few spare minutes, please go to Donate Life and register to become and organ and tissue donor.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: Wrote a Poem

Today is my mom's birthday. Last year for her birthday, my wife and I surprised her with the news that we were expecting. I knew that it was an impossibility to top that this year. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and this is what she said, "Take any money you were going to spend on me, and perform one of your random acts of kindness with it." My mom has always been the sweetest person I know, so I wasn't shocked that she suggested that. I fully intend to follow through on her wishes in the near future. However, today I decided for my random act of kindness that I would thank her for all that she had done for me by attempting to write a poem for her. (Try not to laugh too hard at my attempt) So Mom, Happy Birthday, this is for you:

The First Lady of My Life

Mom, you will always be the first lady of my life.
Because of you, I knew what to look for when I was searching for my wife.
We've been through tough times together. Some, they were the worst.
But no matter how challenging, you always put my sister and me first.
You always lifted me up, even when I felt less than zero.
Not Jordan, not Payton. Not anyone. It was you Mom, that was my hero.
Even though I am older now, with a family of my own,
I still rely on you for guidance, and I know I'm not alone.
It's exciting to see you embracing your brand new Grandma role.
Instilling in your granddaughter, that which you already put in my soul.
Please make her your focus now, and show her worlds of joy.
But know that no matter what, I'll always be a Mama's Boy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 21: Cleared Snow Off Of All The Cars On My Block

There was another snow storm that passed through Chicago last night. It only took a mere 2 hours and 45 minutes for me to pick up my wife and daughter, then drive 2 miles to our home. Around 8 inches fell and as expected, the traffic crawled to a standstill. While driving home, my wife noticed a girl standing in the blizzard like conditions trying to decide whether to wait for the bus or walk to wherever she was going. The girl look cold, so my wife rolled down the window and offered to give her a ride home (I must be rubbing off). The girl obliged, and although she had to put up with a baby who was losing her mind and an hour commute, we dropped her off at her destination.

This morning when I woke up, all of the cars on my street were absolutely covered in snow. We have the luxury of an indoor parking space, so needless to say, our scraper hadn't really been broken in. I decided to give the scraper some work today and clear all of the snow and ice off the windshield and windows of every car on my block for today's random act of kindness. I noticed a man giving me a weird look as I had gone from one car to the next, but then when he realized what I was doing, he gave me a smile and a nod. I left believing that the man would pass along kindness to someone else today.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20: Bought Breakfast for a Stranger

I was slow getting up this morning and wasn't able to get breakfast before dropping off my wife and daughter. So before my first appointment of the day, I stopped in to McDonald's to grab some food (sorry babe, it was the only thing around). While I was trying to decide with which delicious fare I would clog my arteries, I noticed a woman counting change to pay for her order. It was apparent that she was going to come up short and not be able to pay for her meal. At best, she was going to be able to get just the coffee. Before she had the opportunity to cancel her order, I decided to buy the woman's breakfast. She was very thankful and sweet and even offered to give me the change to cover part of the cost. I told her she didn't need to pay me and asked if she could just do a random act of kindness for someone today. She was very happy to oblige. So, today's random act ended up actually being random and spur of the moment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 19: Bought Girl Scout Cookies

When my daughter grows up, I want her to be a strong, independent woman. I want her to always be a leader rather than a follower. I want her to be able to build strong friendships like the ones I have been able to develop over my life. I want her to always have high self esteem and the confidence that if she always strives to be the best person she can be, great things will come to her. This year, the Girl Scouts of America celebrate the 100th anniversary of helping to instill these traits in to girls nationwide. You may have read the title for this day and thought, "Buying cookies? How is that an act of kindness?" Before knowing exactly the impact the Girl Scout Cookie program had, I probably would have asked the same questions. Not only does the program generate about $700 million for the Girl Scouts (money that is then utilized for expansion of programs for the girls and different charities), but even the act of selling the cookies teaches the girls goal setting and interpersonal skills. So although it may be unkind to my waist line, today's random act of kindness is buying some cookies from a girl in my building. If you have someone in your neighborhood selling these treats, maybe buy a box. It is a delicious way to have a real impact.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 18: Helped Someone See His Favorite Team

After I graduated from Indiana University, I moved to California on a whim with a friend of mine. While living there I met my wife, so I would consider the move an unequivocal success. While out there though, there would be times that I became extremely home sick and saddened from being away from friends and family. One of the things that really calmed me down and allowed me to feel like I was home was seeing one of my favorite teams whenever they came to the Bay Area. It was my little piece of Chicago, and more often then not, it gave me the opportunity to interact with other transplants in the area. It is hard to put in to words, but the ability to break into "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" with strangers is extremely therapeutic when you are homesick. I'm not sure I would have lasted the whole 2 years there if it wasn't for seeing my teams in person every now and again.

There is a guy named Adam who works in the front office of my building. He is, honest to God, one of the nicest people that I have met. I thought that I was typically in a good mood, but he puts me to shame. Every time we have a visitor, they make a comment about how nice of a guy he is. Adam is from the Buffalo, NY area and is a huge Buffalo Sabres fan. I thought about how much seeing my hometown teams meant to me as a transplant, so I thought that for today's random act of kindness, I would get Adam tickets to the Blackhawks game tonight vs. Buffalo. The only issue: I didn't have any tickets.

When I started this, one of my goals was to inspire others to spread kindness. Well that goal really came to fruition today. A friend I've known since I was a young child, Stephanie Sims, donated her tickets to tonight's game. She was doing it because she believed in the mission to spread kindness. I couldn't be more grateful for her gesture. Because of her, hopefully Adam can feel like he is back in upstate New York for a little while.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

366 Random Acts on ABC News!

Thank you everyone for your support! As always, if you have a suggestion, please let me know.

Day 17: Gave Away Free Hugs to Whomever Wanted One

I knew that I couldn't give away belongings or money every day of this journey. For one, I would go broke. The other reason is that I wanted to show that kindness doesn't always have to have monetary value. Some things have value that you may not be as apparent or discernible as cash or gifts. One of those things is a hug. Anthropologist and Humanitarian, Dr. Ashley Montagu once said of the value of a hug, "Hugging is health-enhancing because it reduces tension and stress, aids the immune system, helps with sleep, assists in building self-esteem and best of all has no negative side effects. When we open our hearts and arms to others, we inspire them to do likewise." So for today's random act of kindness, I am going to one of the busier areas in Chicago and offering free hugs to whomever wants one. I am guaranteed to get some strange looks, but maybe I will be able to offer a hug to someone who is really in need of one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 16: Participated in Martin Luther King Jr. Day Service Activities

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Every day on this journey I am trying to do as much as I can for others. Through charity, donations or service, I am going to try my best to help as many people out as I can. Today the message of my mission is more apropos and poignant than other days. That is because today honors a man who lived his life for the betterment of others. Martin Luther King Jr. lived his life more concerned for the rights and well-being of others than he did for himself. So today, my random act of kindness is an attempt to exemplify the man who we honor today. Later in the afternoon I will donate my time helping children learn about Martin Luther King Jr. If you have the day off of work, maybe try to find one of the service activities happening in your city and take part in them.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 15: Sent Condolences to the Parents of a Fallen Soldier

I can't imagine being apart from my daughter. I had to go to New York for 10 days for work and it felt like I was away from her for years. Parents of deployed soldiers have it much worse. Not only are their children away from them for months and years in arguably the most dangerous places on the planet, sometimes the unthinkable happens and they don't get the opportunity to ever reunite with them. War is horrific. It wrecks me every time I turn on the news and see yet another soldier has lost their life, but that is nothing compared to what the parents are probably feeling. So today, my random act is something that I wish I didn't have to do. I am writing a letter sending my condolences to the family of Spc. Brian Leonhardt of Merrillville, Indiana who was recently killed in Afghanistan. Not only am I sending my condolences, I am also going to thank them for the sacrifice they and their son have made. It isn't much, but I am hoping that they get that there are people, even strangers, out there who appreciate everything they have gone through and are there for them.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 14: Delivered Care Packages to the Homeless

This morning I woke up, took a shower, ate breakfast, and brushed my teeth. Then, due to the frigid temperatures outside, I put on some warm socks and was sure to put on gloves before I went outside with my wife and daughter. It was a fairly run of the mill morning. These were things that I do every day. To be honest, these are things that I take for granted.

There are an estimated 6,000 homeless living in Chicago. Many of them are forced to sleep on the streets, even in our freezing winters, due to overcrowding at warming centers and shelters. So today for the random act of kindness, I decided do something to try and help some of them. I went to Costco and loaded up on warm socks, gloves, and handwarmers. I also decided to get some everyday accoutrements such as deodorant, tooth brushes and toothpaste. Finally, I packed them all up in a bag with some instant oatmeal and granola bars. I delivered these care packages to the homeless around my neighborhood and some adjacent areas. Each person was so grateful, but each was also very surprised by getting the care package, which kind of broke my heart. I almost lost it when I man said to me, "I was praying that something positive would happen to me. I just knew it would happen" I just can't imagine sleeping outside in this weather, and the fact that this man was able to still remain positive was incredible. This was a random act I may have to duplicate later on.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 13: Helped a Senior Citizen Shovel Snow

It finally happened. After weeks of great weather, the inevitable finally happened. Chicago finally got blasted with a snow storm. It wasn't Snowmageddon 2011 proportions, but we did get enough that cars and walkways were covered. The snow, for as much hassle as it brings, allowed me to do my first true random act. After I dropped my wife off at work, I was on my way to taking my daughter to the nanny. I saw an older gentleman struggling with clearing his walkway and the sidewalk in front of his house. I decided at that time that helping him was going to be today's random act. He was a very proud man, and at first declined any help. However, I hung out for a little while and asked him if I could maybe tag in for a few minutes. He finally decided to yield control of the shovel over to me and I finished up his walkway. He said to me, "Thank you, more people should help like you." I don't include that to pat my own back, but to put it out there that if you know of a senior citizen that might need some help clearing their snow or something of that nature, try to lend a hand if you have a few minutes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 12: Wrote a "Thank You" Letter to a Former Teacher

The lasting impact of a teacher is profound. I have been in the classroom to see my wife teach and witness that impact first hand. You may say I am biased for this, but I know that my wife is one of the greatest teachers out there. For the past 4 years, she has had the unique opportunity to teach the same students from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and I have been able to see these children develop both academically and socially. I know that 10 or 20 or 30 years from now they will remember my wife. The reason I know that is because to this day, I remember lessons, both educational and life, that were taught to me by Mr. Dennis Plecas. Mr. Plecas was always able to make school fun while still maintaining a focus on our education. I am sure I am not the only person from my elementary school who remembers his sayings or funny faces. I will always remember that Mr. Plecas was the first person to come up and talk to me when I returned to school after my grandfather passed away. So today, I am going to sit down and write a letter to Mr. Plecas so that he knows of the impact he has had on me. Maybe if you get a chance, write a letter to someone who has impacted your life. Maybe it was a teacher or a coach. I am sure they would definitely appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 11: Mentored a Child in Need

For the past 3 years, I have volunteered with the Time To Read program put forth by the Off The Street Club (www.otsc.org) here in Chicago. I have had the pleasure of spending time in those three years with an awesome and hilarious boy named Demetrius a.k.a Meechie. Meechie comes from a rough part of town and has had somewhat of a tough life growing up. However, when I speak to him, he never complains about that at all. Meechie and all of the other kids in the group have made the choice to join the club rather than join the gangs and violence that surrounds them on a daily basis. Tonight, and every Wednesday moving forward, I will once again be spending time with Meechie reading and doing homework (hopefully), and just having a blast laughing. There are kids that remain behind at the club due to the fact that there aren't enough tutors for the program. If you have a free hour and a half during your week, and want to make a lasting difference and impact, Off the Street Club would be truly appreciative of more mentors.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 10: Complimented 25 Strangers UPDATE!!

I love getting compliments. Everyone does. Even if they play coy or disagree when you compliment someone, deep down, they definitely appreciate it and it makes them feel better. So today's random act of kindness will be to compliment 25 or more random people during my work day. I will try to target anyone with a sad or mad look on their face in an attempt to brighten their day a little bit. My goal is to show that even small random acts of kindness will have an impact. I will follow up this evening with an update on how it went.

Update: So I definitely received my fair share of weird looks, but most people were very appreciative. When I complimented a runner on their running form, I got the double guns right back at me. One particular person today made me realize that kindness really does beget kindness. A woman (I am terribly sorry that I didn't get your name if you are reading this) saw me compliment a couple of people on the EL and struck up a conversation with me. I let her know all about 366 Random Acts and that today was dedicated to complimenting people. She let me know that she appreciated what I was doing, but more importantly, that she was going to try to compliment as many people today as possible too. That was awesome (and Thank You if you are reading this).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9: Signed a Petition to Stop Using "The R Word" (and Dedicated Myself to Stop Using It)

Outside of showing kindness and helping others, I knew that embarking on this journey would aid me in some personal growth as well. Today's random act is something that doesn't atone for what I have done in the past, but it helps me to remain cognizant of my words and actions. I have used the words retard or retarded in the past. I have used them jokingly. I have used them as derogatory towards friends (great friend right?). I have used them in such a nonchalant manner that I probably didn't even realize I was saying them. I'm not sure why I have said it so freely without thinking about how negative a connotation it has. So today, I have dedicated myself to stop using The R Word. Moving forward, if I catch myself or others catch me using it, then I will add an additional $1 to the end of the year donation. However, I intend not to use it moving forward. To solidify my stance on not using the word, I signed the petition at www.r-word.org, which is a group dedicated to eliminating the cavalier and negative use of the words retard and retarded. From now on, I am going to be more mindful of the things I say to others and the impact that it can have.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 8: Told a Joke

"What is invisible and smells like carrots? Easter Bunny farts."

This is the joke I told. (Technically my daughter told it via thought bubble cue cards)

Now you are probably asking yourself, "How is that a random act of kindness?"

What if I told you that telling this joke was helping somebody cope with and fight against cancer? Well that is why I did today's random act of kindness. Off the recommendation of one of our tremendous Facebook followers, I visited a website called Jokes 4 Miles. There I learned the story of fellow Chicagoans, Miles and his father:

"For the past three years, my son Miles has been fighting brain cancer. While in the hospital, I asked his schoolmates, doctors, comedians, celebrities and total strangers to tape a joke for him to watch. Now, as he’s facing a third recurrence, I'm on a quest to get 5,000 people to tape a quick joke or well-wish, to show him he’s not alone in his fight against cancer. As we attempt to get 5,000 people to tell Miles a joke, we hope to create awareness worldwide and inspire people to go out of their way to tell a joke to someone facing a serious illness. We will soon be reaching out to other kids like Miles."

I instantly knew that this is something that I (and hopefully all of the 366 Random Acts Facebook friends, Twitter and blog followers) had to do. So even if you are the most unfunny person out there, join me in helping Miles reach his goal of 5,000 jokes by submitting one of your own at Jokes 4 Miles.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 7: Donated Blood and a Bone Marrow Sample

I hate needles. So much so that not only do I get squeamish when I have to give blood or get an injection, but whenever I see a needle going near ANY person I feel like I am going to pass out. Needless to say I have never given blood in my entire life. Just the thought of proactively having a needle jammed in my arm was enough to make me quiver. But I knew when I started on this journey, I was going to end up doing things I wasn't necessarily accustomed to. So when I woke up this morning, I decided to look up places to donate blood. Much to my surprise, Shaun Gayle of the 1985 Chicago Bears was hosting a blood drive at Soldier Field. An opportunity to do a good deed while rubbing elbows with members of the greatest football team ever assembled is something I had to do.

So I met with my friend Matt at Soldier Field and we proceeded to go through the exam to give blood. Prior to doing that, Matt and I learned about a little girl suffering from sickle cell anemia that is in dire need of a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow matches are difficult to find because there are not enough samples and matches in the database. Currently, there are about 10,000 people in the United States in need of a bone marrow transplant, but less than half will receive one due to the lack of suitable matches. Adding yourself to the database is as simple as getting a cotton swab of your mouth, so Matt and I both decided to do it. (If you want to find out more info on how to donate a sample visit www.BeTheMatch.org).

After we gave our samples for the marrow transplant, we went through a quick screening of our vitals. My blood pressure was much higher than normal, and the nurse attributed that to me being nervous (Read: Fear). When I finally sat down, I was calmed down by Lisa, the phlebotomist who was helping me. She found the vein and put the needle in. Much to my surprise, everything went pretty well and I was actually giving blood. However, when they started cycling my plasma back into my system, I started to black out and become nauseous. Luckily, Lisa quickly gave me some fluids that brought me back to normal and I was able to give a full amount of blood. I'm really happy she got me back to feeling good too because after the donation Matt and I were able to tour the Chicago Bears locker room and meet Shaun Gayle and Mike Anderson of the Super Bowl Champs.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 6: Read a book to my daughter/Donated a book to children

There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with my daughter. I love talking to her, I love playing with her, and I love reading books to her. She doesn't fully grasp what I am reading yet, but she loves looking at pictures. Through numerous gifts from friends and family, my daughter already has a giant library from which she will be able to learn how to read. Having access to these books is something that I want her to really appreciate. A sad statistic I have learned about is that 1 in 3 children in the United States does not have a single book in their home, and thus has more of a struggle with learning to read. A friend recently told me about a website that helps to add books to children's home libraries both here and abroad. The We Give Books (http://www.wegivebooks.org/) campaign allowed me to read a book to my daughter online. After completing the book, you are then given the option to donate a book FOR FREE to a child either here in the United States or abroad. If you have a child, niece/nephew, or if you want to just buzz through a book to donate, please go to that site so that more and more children worldwide will experience the joy of reading.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 5: Let Everyone Go First, EVERYONE

They say that patience is a virtue. For me, however, this is not a virtue that I have practiced most of my life. I have always been easily frustrated if it took too long to leave the house, if I had to wait at red lights, and if people were walking slowly ahead of me. There is really no good reason to feel like I am in a rush all the time. Everyone only has a finite amount of time on this Earth, so why not take some time to slow it all down and appreciate what is going on around you. So today's act, on top of it passing kindness to others, will also be an exercise in patience and appreciation for yours truly. Not every act of kindness has to be a donation or charity. Kindness can be spread through doing small, courteous things everyday. So the random act of kindness for today is that I am going to let everyone go first ahead of me. So if I am at a 4 way stop sign, I will wave on the other cars to go first. If there is a line at the store, I will let others in front of me. Getting on an elevator? I will be the last one on. Whatever the situation, if there is some sort of order, I will do whatever it takes to let everyone else go in front of me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 4: Helped Promote Someone Who is Trying to Help Others

I started this journey with the hope that others might see what I am doing and perform their own RAKs or help others in need. I also wanted to make a point to promote people who are making a difference, raise awareness for certain charities, and to show how easy it is for one person or act to have an impact. The other day I received an email from a friend who, for the 5th straight year, is participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. By participating in these walks, she has been able to raise a significant amount of money for breast cancer research. It is people like her, through these types of efforts, that can help find a way to finally eradicate this terrible disease. I don't intend to come on here every day and ask you all for money, but if you can join me in donating even a small amount, I know it will truly be appreciated. So if you get the opportunity, please visit her personal page here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 3: Donated Eye Glasses

All of my life I have had terrible vision. If I took off my glasses or contacts, I probably couldn't even read the screen I am staring at right now. I have always complained about how much of a hassle and inconvenience it was to have to put in my contacts or wear my glasses. In retrospect, I should have been thankful that I even had access to these things. Around 100 million people world wide are in need of eyeglasses, but do not have access or the means to afford them. In Africa, about three months salary is required to afford eye glasses. Here in the US, about 15% of the population that needs glasses cannot afford them. So today, my random act of kindness is to help a couple of people get access to better sight. Recently my company, ZocDoc, gave us a gift card for a free pair of glasses from a company in New York called Warby Parker. Warby Parker's mission is to give people access to affordable eyeglasses, and for every pair purchased, they will donate a brand new pair of glasses to a third world country. I went to Warby Parker's website and picked out a new pair of glasses. Now, combined with their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, two people will be receiving a new pair of glasses. The Lions Club of Chicago collects new and used prescription glasses that they sort and donate to those in need. Also, Pearle Vision has a program where you can take you used and worn glasses for refurbishment. So if you have any old glasses laying around, please donate them because there is someone out there who would love to see the world as you do.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 2: Sent a letter to a soldier in Afghanistan

When I first decided to do this, one of my goals was to do something different each day of the 366 days. However, after thinking about it, there are some things that I have planned that would be more impactful if they happened more often. One that I will be sure to repeat multiple times is today's random act of kindness (or RAK for those that prefer brevity). Today I wrote a letter to a soldier that is currently serving in Afghanistan. I wanted to let them know how thankful I am for the life I have due to the sacrifices they and others have made. I wanted to let her/him know that although it may seem lonely overseas, there are people here back home thinking about them everyday. I wanted to let them know that their bravery is unparalleled. I wanted to let them know that I would be extremely proud if my daughter grows up with just a fraction of their will, strength, and heart.

The last thing I wanted to do with 366 Random Acts was to get preachy and tell people to do certain things, but I do have a favor to ask. Regardless of your thoughts on war or political stance, please take a few minutes to show your support for the members of our armed forces. You can send a care package, send a hand written letter, or even send a quick email. There are a number of websites dedicated to helping you do this (www.anysoldier.com, www.letterstosoldiers.org, www.operationshoebox.com, there are many others you can find as well). So, please, if you get a few minutes, jump on one of these sites because it will go a long way with our men and women overseas.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 1: Gave A Hard Working StreetWise Vendor Money For Groceries

For the past month, Jewel has been running a promotion where you get game pieces to win prizes for spending certain amounts of money and buying certain products (very similar to the Monopoly game from McDonalds). My wife and I have become somewhat addicted to collecting game pieces, and have shopped almost exclusively at the Jewel on Division and Dearborn. One constant of this specific Jewel location is the presence of StreetWise vendor, Renee. It doesn't matter if it is freezing cold, raining or snowing, Renee is always outside selling StreetWise. So, recently, Lindsey and I have collected the right game pieces to win a $20 grocery gift card. We decided that the best way to spend the gift card would be to give it to Renee so that should could purchase some groceries for herself.