I’m sure most people are familiar with the concept of random acts of kindness – you unexpectedly do something nice for someone, like help a little old lady cross a street, or hold the door open for someone (which good manners dictates you should be doing anyways), or give a ride to that kid you always see waiting for the bus in the morning.
Related to that is paying it forward – you pay for the coffee of the person behind you, who pays for the coffee of the person behind him, who pays for the coffee for the person behind her, etc. Or you give a kid $20 to spend on any charity he wants, and he spends it on stamps for letters asking for donations to a homeless shelter and ends up collecting $1300 worth of stuff. And then you make a movie about the whole concept starring Kevin Spacey and that kid who sees dead people.
Well, I’m introducing a new concept – guerrilla acts of kindness. This is where you do something nice for someone, without them knowing about it, and you feel really good in part because you know you did it to help someone and not for the recognition. This happened at Christmas this year at K-Marts all across the country, when anonymous strangers paid off people’s layaways so their kids could get Christmas presents.
To raise awareness of guerrilla acts of kindness, I’m going to have a little contest here on my blog. The grand prize will be a critique of a work of your choice (either short story or novel chapter), up to about 3000 words. Or someone else’s work, if you want to continue the guerrilla acts of kindness. :)
Here’s how it works:
- Leave a comment on this post about the best guerrilla act of kindness you or a “friend” has performed, or that’s been done for you, along with your email or other way to contact you. Or email me at edmartin(dot)writer(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll post it for you. Entries are due next Sunday at midnight CST.
- Next Monday, January 16th, I’ll read through them all. The one I find the most inspiring will win the crit. And who knows, if there are several awesome ones, there might be several winners (hey, it’s my contest and I can give out as many prizes as I want).
- Please be honest. Obviously there’s no way I can verify if the stories are true, and I know that as writers we like to exaggerate details some time. If you want to tell me about something big, please go do it first. This isn’t just about winning a crit; it’s about making the world a better, cheesier place (and yes, I realize having a contest rewarding anonymous acts kinda takes away the anonymity part, but again, it’s my contest :) ).
So, that’s it! Good luck to everyone!
I’m going to be honest, I’ve only ever told one person about this. I usually don’t like talking about this because the value of it is not in being recognize. But I would like a 3,000 word crit, so.
Several years ago the father of a family I worked with was found guilty of a crime and incarcerated, leaving his wife to care for their three small children. Since that time, I have given 10% of all money I’ve earned (after taxes) to the wife and children.
I don’t know if this counts as “guerilla,” but there is no way to write a check without them knowing who I am.
From Anonymous #1:
“My 20 yo son rolled our minivan (icy roads) a few days before Christmas. He was fine, but husband was bummed out about it- coverage on the vehicle wasn’t that great and it was older. And money is kind of tight right now, shelling out a couple thousand for a new (used) vehicle is NOT in the budget. But the vehicle needed replacing. He talked with our local mechanic (a trustworthy fellow) whoe had one. Husband decided to buy it after the new year.
“Oldest daughter, 28, gets wind of this, goes to the mechanic, buys the vehicle and gives it to her dad for Christmas. Now, she’s NOT interdependently wealthy or anything. Married with 2 kids, she works as a cosmetologist, lives frugally in a small house. And just GIVES him the van for a gift because he was so bummed out. Generous woman!”
From Anonymous #2:
“November 2007 ~ I had just gotten my home repo’d and was staying at a cabin paid for by the local homeless shelter along with my husband, his teenage son, and my mother ~ who had been evicted that same month.
One day, I walked the mile or so the the nearest grocery store to buy some food. There was a man sitting on a bench out front who looked both homeless and lost ~ messed up hair, dirty clothes, staring into his coffee as though it was the only safe thing to look at.
I couldn’t shake this gut feeling that this guy totally needed help. I went up to him and said I was heading into the store, and asked if he needed food. He said that he did, so I told him to wait there and I’d give him some.
Along with the ‘family’ food, I bought a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, 2 pouches of tuna, and some Vienna sausages. I also went around to the deli counter, and got some mayo and plastic silverware.
He was still out there, so I gave him the bag of food. I also gave him two bus passes that I had, and a bus schedule. I told him how to get to the homeless shelter, and the ‘safe harbor’ churches. He thanked me, and walked over to where the bus stop was.
On the walk ‘home’, I felt like I’d done something that really mattered. I didn’t tell anyone, because I knew my husband would jump my case for using up some of the food stamps on a stranger.
About 3 days later, we got into the shelter ourselves. A week after that, I saw him there as well. Once more I felt that sense that I’d really helped someone out.
I didn’t go up to him and tell him that I was the person who’d helped him that day. It felt better to just keep it between myself and the powers that be. This is actually the first time I’ve told anyone about it.”
Another one from Scrib:
“Not for your contest or anything, but a repetative act a friend taught me to do. Everytime we go into a public women’s restroom, we put a quarter in the tampon machine and turn it enough that you can’t fish the quarter back out.
There’s always someone who will need that tampon!”
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