Those with the least often give the most

I loved this story from Reddit. It reminded me of so many occasions when kind people with nothing would have been happy to give me the shirt off their back.

“This homeless man found a bunch of my wife’s stolen property strewn all over downtown Tulsa,” Redditor anitasanger wroteon Friday. “He took the time to gather it all up in the rain and call us for retrieval. I just want to recognize him as an awesome human being.”

“He didn’t want a thing in return,” anitasanger stated. “We gave him the $15 we had and thanked him for his kindness. It’s awesome to be reminded that there is a lot of good in the world.

So many of us only give “once we can afford it”. Yet for this man these possessions could have been useful or even sold on, but no he decided to return them.  Is it because he appreciates the value of things more? Is it because it was just the right thing to do?  Is it because he doesn’t value things at all and just seeks human interaction (A friend of mine once decide to go homeless for a weekend, just to understand the experience a little. His take away was that it was nice when someone just acknowledged him)? I guess we will never know, but I it is heartwarming to hear about these acts of kindness.


My kind of invasion

North and South Korea are constantly at it and generally do that testosterone fueled thing of firing rockets into the sea to prove some sort of point that isn’t very clear. Nothing like a bit of saber-rattling to impress the populace and keep the fear mongers in business.

Well, in a fun change of pace the South decided to send 10’000 Choco Pies (yes edible snacks, not rockets that destroy lives and generate anger) into North Korea on balloons.

Choco Pie invasion baloons

People in Paju, South Korea, ready to release balloons, carrying Choco Pies and cookies, over to North Korea on July 30, 2014. – IMAGE: AHN YOUNG-JOON/ASSOCIATED PRESS

No doubt, the North Korean propaganda machine will tell their populace that in fact they have come from the North to reward the wonderful workers.

In the absence of a clever response the North of course threatened to bomb the people launching the balloons. It’s like that person, you argue with, that really has no basis for their argument, but in the absence of being able to accept defeat gracefully they just threaten violence.

Fortunately, the bombs never came and hopefully some malnourished North Koreans can enjoy a little treat… probably not what they really need, but more enjoyable than a bowl of rice.


Talk about Upcycling

NY tImes Pass it On.

NY tImes Pass it On.

Ah, I just love the ingenuity of humans and how people who have little just make do and are no less happy. In fact, they need less to make them happy.

In the lead up to the World Cup, it seems only appropriate to show an ingenious Congolese man, who fashions scraps into a soccer ball for village children, so they can play the sport they love.

Long live human ingenuity and keep up the recycling!

FreeStores – little gifts of gratefulness

Last weekend some friends helped to open a FreeStore. I had never heard of the concept, but now I have it seems to be everywhere. A FreeStore does what the name implies. They accept donations and give stuff away to people who can’t afford it.

You can't buy happiness, but you might just get it for free

You can’t buy happiness, but you might just get it for FREE!

There was an interesting interview with a longer standing FreeStore owner yesterday, which was very sweet. 38 year old Andrea Berdine tells the story of what drove her to start a “business” where people give if they can or just receive if they can’t.

“Berdine started the project in 2012 after witnessing something that brought her to tears. She was shopping at a retail store when she saw a man turned away because he asked for a coat.

“He was ridiculed, put down, made fun of,” she recalled. “He was wanting a coat. I said, ‘So you have racks and racks of coats here. And that man is cold and he’s wet and it’s raining and he’s obviously homeless.’ And nobody would give him a coat.”

Berdine was stunned. She got in her car and drove around until she found the man. She then picked up her husband’s jacket from the back seat.

“I gave him the coat. Told him he was a man of worth. Told him I was embarrassed that that happened in our community,” she said.”

Most of us would have that spare coat at home, but few of us would have reacted in such a generous manner. We will probably give the coat to a thrift store down the line and they will sell it on to someone that can afford it. Why not give it to the person that is cold and wet right now? A small sacrifice in time for a very compassionate act. I do hope I can see beyond the business of my life if I am placed in a similar situation.

I was saddened to hear that my friends’ FreeStore has encountered some people in the community that are angry about what they are doing. It is a curious reaction that I can’t grasp. I would be intrigued to find out why they feel this way. They don’t have to go there, they don’t have to donate … a little odd I feel.

Good luck to all those people that are trying to make the world a better place, one little solution at at time.


Exploiting stereotypes

Generally I am not a big fan of stereotypes. We all have preconceived ideas and they can often get in the way of judging people on merit rather than past experience or worse on hearsay. However, in the case of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) they are being exploited to great effect!

Bikers are so often maligned as bad influences, violent and criminal elements, but BACA exploits that reputation to help children that have been abused. Arriving as a big presence, they send a clear message to the local community and the children, that they will protect them.  In many cases this has given the victims the confidence to speak out against their abusers and has given them a ‘family’ around which they can rebuild their lives after their ordeal.

Way to use a stereotype for good! It also demonstrates the dangers of judging a book by its cover.

First slow food now slow coffee with a smile

I’m a big fan of my morning coffee, but a personalized coffee cup designed by the 41-year-old barista and artist Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte would certainly add some wow. Each cup can take up to  40 hours to design and gives his masterpieces to customers who have exhibited kindness. Lafitte loves seeing the delight and appreciation in the faces of people that get their coffee in his art cups. Lafitte hopes that one day he may be able to craft his designs on a more permanent medium like ceramic mugs.

If you want a special cup , make your way to the British Museum and be kind to others!

Lafitte's work is on display inside the Starbucks opposite the British Museum in central London.

He gets daily requests from fans who come to the museum hoping he’ll produce a cup for them.
He gets daily requests from fans who come to the museum hoping he'll produce a cup for them.

He told Metro: “I love seeing people’s reaction to my drawings. I enjoy the joy and surprise on their faces.”

He told Metro : "I love seeing people’s reaction to my drawings. I enjoy the joy and surprise on their faces."

Some designs take up to 40 hours for him to complete.
Some designs take up to 40 hours for him to complete.

He tells BuzzFeed he would love to see his designs become real ceramic cups on day.

You can see more below and on his Facebook page.
You can see more below and on his Facebook page .

Learn to appreciate the little things

I was watching this clip and instantly thought that the is must be in England. The poor english are so reserved that they can’t even show that they are enjoying some amazing artistic talent when it happens in front of them. Instead they stoically stare over the top of the talented piano player. The ones snapping pictures and videos are probably tourists.

One shame about the video is that they don’t seem to have used the original soundtrack. I guess it didn’t record well, but it does detract from the authenticity. Still it looks like he is a brilliant piano player and it is a shame that the people treated to this free concert didn’t take a moment out of their busy life bubbles to go “wow what a treat!”.

Most of us can’t have amazing lives every moment of the day, but appreciating the little things along the way certainly makes them feel better!


Giving to others in secret a truly noble deed

Gino Bartali competing in the Tour de France in 1938

Gino Bartali competing in the Tour de France in 1938

As the Giro D’Italia kicks off, the BBC has run a fascinating story about Gino Bartali who was not only a brilliant cyclist at the peak of his career around WWII, but he was also humble hero. He was so secretive about his great deeds that his son had to pry them out of him and was sworn to secrecy.

“When I asked my father why I couldn’t tell anyone, he said, ‘You must do good, but you must not talk about it. If you talk about it you’re taking advantage of others misfortunes’ for your own gain.’

In an age of selfies and ‘Personal Branding’ this is one of the most selfless quotes I have heard for a long time. Despite endangering his own life and that of his family by saving numerous jewish lives, he refused to be seen as a hero.

“When people were telling him, ‘Gino, you’re a hero’, he would reply: ‘No, no – I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements. Real heroes are others, those who have suffered in their soul, in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, for their loved ones. Those are the real heroes. I’m just a cyclist.'”

Working for a secret organization he cycled thousands of miles around occupied Italy, under the auspices of his training program, with documents concealed in his bike frame. This, so well as the fact that he hid an entire family could well have cost him and his family their lives, but he not only aided those in need, he refused to be acknowledged for it. The story of his deeds was only painstakingly pieced together after his death in 2000.

The act of giving not for social equity, but just because it is the right thing to do! I take my hat off to you Gino.  Though I guess that is exactly the opposite of what you would wish for.

Bartali's bike on display in the cycling museum in Madonna del Ghisallo Church, Lombardy

Bartali’s bike on display in the cycling museum in Madonna del Ghisallo Church, Lombardy

8-year-old takes up fight against childhood hunger

Via Huffington Post

8-year-old William Winslow of Raleigh, N.C., has taken it upon himself to fight childhood hunger in his community.

It all started a year ago, when William heard about BackPack Buddies, a hunger-relief program run by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Moved by the idea of young children in his community going without food, he decided to forgo the usual gifts and turned his 7th birthday into a donation drive.

happy news

Unwilling to rest on his laurels, he then proceeded to ask his mother to drive him to the local grocery store so he could convince the manager to start a food drive. His motivation was simple “I can’t stand the thought of my classmates being hungry” and in that unencumbered childhood way he went for it.

good news

The inaugural food drive, in 2013, raised $305 and amassed 1,400 pounds of food. A fantastic result, but William wasn’t going to stop there. 

This year he involved four grocery stores, a restaurant, his parents and around 50 volunteers. Together they gathered 3,335 pounds of food and more than $3,000 in donations. enough to feed at least 16 children for an entire year.

William has the goal of eradicating childhood hunger. He has received a $500 grant from the Sodexo Foundation, which works to end childhood hunger, and with it he wants to grow the program further. In William’s words:  “I see no kids hungry”.

positive news

“It took my breath away. He just believes with his whole heart that he can help make this better. He doesn’t understand why people wouldn’t help kids in need,” said his father. “He just wants to help feed hungry kids and he expects others to help him. I don’t think he gets how inspiring he is or how incredible it is to be so empathetic at such a young age.”

Perhaps we should all take a page out of his book. 

Via Huffington Post

Are happiness and fulfillment mutually exclusive?

I stumbled across this fascinating article by Emily Esfahani Smith: There’s more to life than being happy

In it she talks to Roy Baumeister who’s research seems to indicate that the pursuit of meaning is what makes us all uniquely human. Discarding our selfish interests in pursuit of service to someone or something larger than ourselves, and “giving” rather than “taking”, we  acknowledge that that there is more to a good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

Interestingly some of the research goes as far as to say that, in order to lead a meaningful life one must contemplate the future and the past. This in turn can actually reduce your happiness. Presumably because one contemplates negative so well as positive events. In contrast the happiest people, live for the moment and think almost exclusively about the present.

I come from the world of double blind experiments and placebos, and am always cautious about research that extrapolates conclusions from what may well be a biased and very small sample group. Surveys are notoriously unreliable and cultural differences are always interesting to add to the mix. Take for example the German word “Schadenfreude” – yes the joy of laughing at others misfortune. Surely a culture that has a word for such a thing must have different way of looking at happiness. 

Emily goes on to quote Kathleen Vohs, who explains that “Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others,”. Ah, now that sounds like people leading meaningful lives can also be happy!

Ah, to oversimplify and generalize is so much fun. What if we could do both! Shoot for the moon and be meaningfully happy. After all if meaning can derive happiness, why not commit meaningful acts that you enjoy. I personally like being happy and I like helping others, does that make me odd? If so, I’ll get over it 🙂