When was the last time you performed a random act of kindness? Today, last week or last month? All too often we forget the impact that a random act of kindness can have on the recipient. Instead we get sucked into our own daily struggles and walk through life with our heads down absorbed in our smart phones. Well it is time to stop being on auto pilot and start practicing random acts of kindness.
Last Thursday night I had a front row seat and to witness just this very thing…and it changed my life. I’m serious! Thursday, April 24 at 8:30 PM I witnessed such a powerful act of giving that it brought the entire room to tears.
For every meeting I plan, I travel with a team of talented, freelance Travel Directors that make me (and my clients) look good. We can’t do these programs without their tireless efforts, most of which go unnoticed. Emily Robinson is one such person and has been an integral part of the Annual Customer Forum for the last five years. In this time she has developed friendships with many of the Forum’s leaders even though she only sees them once a year.
In late February Emily called me to let me know she had been diagnosed with stage 3A colon cancer. She had surgery earlier in the month to remove part of her colon and would start chemotherapy in March. By April she will have finished her third round of chemo, but was unsure how she would feel and may need to cancel off my program. Obviously I was upset to hear her news, but understood. By the end of the call we agreed to wait to see how she was feeling before removing her from the program. Despite telling me this terrible news she was amazingly upbeat and positive (which if you know Emily – this is how she is on a daily basis!). Her prognosis for beating this is very good and she was happy to learn she probably won’t lose her hair through this process.
On April 1st, Emily was traveling through the Las Vegas airport and ran into Mike, one of the Forum’s leaders. They recognized each other immediately and stopped to catch up. She shared with him that she was recently diagnosed with colon cancer and was not sure she would make it to this event this year. Mike was upset to hear her news and offered to help her understand any insurance questions she might have. She appreciated the gesture but did not take him up on his offer.
Fast forward to last week’s Annual Customer Forum.
Alex Kip is a 26 year old cancer survivor and one of our keynote speakers. During his senior year in college, he was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had a 15-30% chance of survival. Hearing this kind of news would crush most people’s spirit, but not his. He fought the statistics, is now in remission and sharing his story with the world.
The day before his keynote address I was told he wanted 350 blank note cards. It was arrival day with the typical chaos, so finding 350 blank note cards at a hotel was not going to be easy. By chance Emily was asked to handle this project. Emily went to the business center, bought yellow cardstock, had it cut in half, and folded the half sheets again to make note cards. Genius! Thursday morning the yellow note cards were propped up at each place setting across 350 chairs. It was quite a sight. During Alex’s speech he asks each attendee to write a “Kindness Card” – a positive, inspirational note he delivers to hospitals for patients undergoing chemotherapy. By the end of our General Session we collected almost 200 of those yellow cards.
At the break after Alex’s keynote, Mike approached Alex and shared Emily’s story with him. Mike considered Emily part of the family and it would mean a great deal to him if Alex would give her a few of those cards. And that is when the plan was devised, a mandatory staff dinner!
We never have mandatory staff dinners. Staff typically eats on the fly when they have a few spare moments, rarely getting 3 square meals in a day. We just grab what we can and off we go. But tonight would be different. Some of the staff were in on the secret and used left over paper flower decorations from the night before to make our dinner table more festive. At 8:30 PM all of the staff was in place around the table except Emily. In her typical hyper fashion she was still buzzing around the office. Conveniently the staff left the chair at the head of the table open. Smiling and tapping on my watch, I yelled at Emily stating she needed to sit down, our mandatory dinner was starting. Once she was seated I explained that we were going to have a special guest join us tonight and with that I walked to the door welcoming Alex, Mike and Joe (Mike’s boss) into the room.
Alex approached Emily, told her he heard her story and was impressed with her attitude, strength and outlook. It was when he heard her story that he decided SHE would be the perfect recipient for ALL of the kindness cards, then handed her all 200 of the yellow note cards that she created the day before. Words will never be able to fully describe the energy in the room at that moment. It was the ultimate act of kindness on not only Alex’s part, but Mike’s part as well.
Tear instantly sprung from her eyes while she kept repeating “I don’t deserve these cards, I don’t feel sick!” Through the tears she thanked everyone profusely, telling us all how loved she felt. There was not a dry eye in the room, including the five men. For Emily, to be able to work this program (after canceling off five others) was clearly meant to be. The Universe was practicing its own act of kindness.
It is not every day that we get to participate in such a huge/personal act of kindness, but why should that stop us from trying? Each day we have the opportunity to be kind to one another, you just need to slow down and notice it. That small act of kindness can be a bright spot in the other person’s day.
While traveling home on Saturday, still on the adrenaline rush from Thursday night, I started to pay notice in the airport for random acts of kindness. And they were all around me. While sitting at the gate waiting to board my flight I sneezed. And the man behind me said “Bless You!” He had been involved in a conversation with his girlfriend but took the moment to say the words. Now I realize this is not a huge act of kindness, but he did not have to stop his conversation to do that.
Later that day as the plane landed and everyone was getting up to collect their carryon, the gentleman in the middle seat of my row lifted the arm rest for me to get out of the window seat easier. Again, not a huge act, but was still being mindful of me needing to get out of my seat. Two rows ahead of me was an older gentleman struggling to get his arm through the strap on his back pack. The young man behind him lifted up the backpack to make it easier for him to put it on. There are so many ways to perform random (or not so random) acts of kindness.
Over the weekend, still riding the rush of emotions from Thursday night, Emily decided that she would follow Alex’s advice to become a “beacon of light for someone in the dark.” She would bring the cards to her fourth chemo treatment on Wednesday. Her hope was that the patients at Texas Oncology Cedar Park would feel the love and positive energy that these cards possess.
When she arrived for her treatment today, there were five other patients in the room. She shared this story with them and explained that she was meant to share this gift with them as well. She gave each patient a stack of cards to read, and when they were finished with that stack, they passed it around to the next person, and continued until each patient read all 200 cards.
It was wonderful and got the room talking! It sparked conversations between patients that usually receive treatment in silence. From the conversation ideas started to form about how they can take these kindness cards a step further. Possibly decorate boxes to put in the chemo rooms and constantly stock them with #kindness cards for the patients to read. If they come across one that really speaks to them they can take it! Or the patients can add cards of their own to support their fellow chemo patients. Emily now has a purpose during her treatments and has found a way to give back (or pay it forward). She realizes how blessed she is with such an incredible support system that she looks forward to being a shining light to others.
So I ask you to start practicing random acts of kindness, no matter how big or small. You never know the power or the impact it will have on the other person.
“Be a shining light for someone in the dark.” – Alex Kip
Written by Laurel Axelrod – Senior Account Manager, Travel Operations
Laurel updates her personal blog “Resilient and Hopeful” regularly and it can be viewed here.
JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.