26 Acts Of Kindness – Are You In?

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 In the wake of our nation’s grief over the Sandy Hook massacre, NBC’s Ann Curry has urged Americans to undertake one act of kindness for each of the 26 innocent lives that were lost.  Are you in? 

This is the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions. A time, I’m convinced, when most people make their first mistake of the new year. They choose an ambitious resolution like losing weight or drinking less. Why doom yourself with those kinds of odds? I am of the school of thought that resolutions should be fun. That way you not only have something to look forward to, you have the feeling of success when you complete them. It’s great for building self-esteem with minimal effort.

Trying a new food once a month is a good resolution. It’s horizon expanding in a non-stressful way. It was also the only reason I knew what edamame was when Kelly Ripa talked about feeding it to her kids. Without that resolution, I would have had to go through the whole day ashamed of my uneducated palate.

One of my favorite food resolutions was the year I tried a new barbecue sauce every month. Some were bottled, (Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey #1,) some were homemade, like an excellent Hawaiian pork glaze with lime and pineapple bits and brown sugar that was so good I now make it for company, or I would if I ever had company. And one month during the hockey playoffs, the sauce was on ribs at Ginopolis BBQ Smokehouse, a nearby restaurant that a lot of the Red Wings frequent. Not only did I discover their excellent ribs use the same Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce conveniently available in a bottled version in my local grocery store, I sawBrendan Shanahan in the parking lot. I asked him how to find Orchard Lake Road, just to have an excuse to talk to him. At the end of that year, I not only got to say, “I fulfilled my New Year’s Resolution,” I had 12 tasty BBQ meals, and I was the envy of my friends and family for having conversed with a Stanley Cup winning sports hero. Win-win-win.

Lest you think I have no serious side, for many years, along with my more frivolous resolutions to taste new wines, read new authors, or to watch all the Oscar nominated movies, (I don’t recommend that one,) I have also made the more serious resolution to go outside my comfort zone once a month. In fact, when our founder, David Badash, first asked me to write for The New Civil Rights Movement, and when I started my weekly On Our Radar column, I used those events to fulfill that month’s resolution. A straight person who didn’t know any gay people writing for an LGBT website? I think it qualifies. And by the way, you shouldn’t read too much into that admission. I have been in a wheelchair for more than 25 years and I don’t know a single other wheelchair rider either. I really need to get out more. Hence the resolution.

But this year, for the first time in more than a quarter of a century, I am not going to make my “Go beyond your comfort zone” resolution. I am replacing it. With the wound of Sandy Hook so fresh, I feel compelled to devote  myself to efforts less about self-improvement, and more about world improvement. That is why for 2013,  I have pledged myself to commit 26 acts of kindness, one for every innocent life lost in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Ann Curry26 Acts of kindness is the brainchild, or perhaps I should say the “heartchild,” of NBC journalist Ann Curry. If you are an MSNBC watcher, you have probably seen her promotional spot asking “Are you in?” Ann said she came up with the idea after Sandy Hook, when like so many grieving Americans she asked herself “what can I do?”

Like Ann, all over the country people have been driven by the need to do something to respond to the Sandy Hook tragedy. I saw a news report last week asking people to stop sending stuffed animals to Newtown, where the shootings took place,  because there are so many gifts coming in, the postal workers in the small town can’t handle them all. People want to do something. But this is not like a tornado or a hurricane when we can send blankets, or text a donation to the Red Cross and feel better that we have done our part. We can’t even volunteer our time and sweat to personally help clean up and rebuild. We cannot make it better. What the people of Sandy Hook need, none of us has to offer.

400085_131582430334324_1783073760_nOxymoronic as it may sound, the fact that there is nothing we can do does not mean there is nothing we can do. Ann Curry’s call for Americans across the country to embark on a personal campaign of random acts of kindness was met with a wave of assent. The Twitter hashtag #26acts exploded, with people tweeting each random act of kindness they performed. As I write this, the 26 Acts Of Kindness Facebook page has 96,000 Likes, and has inspired similar pages from communities all over the country, where people are posting their kind acts and making suggestions for good deeds others can do, especially those who don’t have cash to give away.

My Dad always said, if you do a good deed anonymously, it counts twice. Remembering that advice, I won’t be posting my kind acts on the web. But I will be doing them. With 52 weeks in the year, that means I will be looking for an opportunity once every two weeks. I think I can handle that. It’s one thing to miss a month with a new BBQ sauce. It’s quite another to fail in my promise to do my part, however small, to make our world a kinder, more peaceful place.

So when Ann Curry asks “Are you in?” Hell yes, I’m in! How about you? Are you ready to be the change you want to see in the world?

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