I was startled when the Starbucks barista handed me my coffee and said it had been paid for. “Who is my benefactor?” I asked. She pointed to a young woman with a slightly Goth appearance who had been ahead of me in line.
Although she and I hadn’t spoken, I suspected she’d been eavesdropping on my conversation with the fellow who was part of a group headed to a church camp, as was she.
I went over to thank her and discovered that random acts of kindness seemed to be her specialty. She modestly accepted my thanks and said she was always on the lookout for ways to share with strangers.
Years before the term random acts of kindness was coined, David Dunn wrote a wonderful book called Try Giving Yourself Away. Dunn first came upon his hobby when he gave away an advertising idea to a railroad. Later he found enormous pleasure in seeing his idea used in ads at railway stations and hotel lobbies.
He writes, “It was thus I made the important discovery that anything which makes one glow with pleasure is beyond money calculation, in this world where there is altogether too much grubbing and too little glowing.
“I began to experiment with giving-away and discovered it to be great fun. I discovered, too, that successful giving-away has to be cultivated. There is a knack to it, just as there is to successful getting.
“Opportunities for reaping dividends of happiness are fleeting. You have to act quickly or they elude you. But that only adds zest to the exercise.”
If you’re in the market for a new hobby, consider the examples of my young benefactor and David Dunn. I have a hunch that the people we see going about their daily business with a smile on their face have already discovered the joy of anonymously making life a little bit better for people who will never repay them—or even know their names.
An old adage says, “Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you who you are.” We all need living models of success—even if we have to look long and hard before we find those people who inspire us to do more and be more.
When we don’t actively look for people who inspire us, we lose the capacity for genuine appreciation. That spills over into under appreciating our own gifts and achievements.
Whether you’ve got such a list of people or it’s time to start one, here’s a little exercise to help you pay closer attention.
For years I’ve been [...] Continue Reading…
I headed into my birthday week thinking it was time for a fresh inventory. As I was pondering this little project, I realized (once again) what a surprising life I’ve had. It certainly has exceeded my early expectations.
I played around with that a bit and began to wonder what my expectations had been fifty years ago. (No one is more startled than I am that I was an adult fifty years ago!)
Back in 1964, I was 22, newly married and in my second year of teaching high school English and speech. I was still living in the small town [...] Continue Reading…
If you are a reader of Joyfully Jobless News, this may be familiar. When I came across it again the other day, I decided it was worth a second visit. This simple idea has added enormously to my productivity and fun.
The sky was overcast and the wind was frigid, but there we stood huddled together with hundreds of others for three shivering hours. It was our second day in Amsterdam and we were in line to see what we had come for—the Van Gogh Museum.
My siblings and I had been planning this trip for months. Hundreds of emails hammered [...] Continue Reading…
The message I got about work when I was growing up pointed out that there was good work and bad work. Good work meant you didn’t have to sweat.
Nobody mentioned that sweat-free work probably would involve sitting at a desk all day doing repetitive chores.
It wasn’t until I became obsessed with the role of work in our lives that I began to challenge such limiting notions. Eventually, I came to think that the best work called us to use our minds, bodies and spirits.
That, of course, is also why the concept of having multiple profit centers appeals to so [...] Continue Reading…
Life often seems like an endless series of decisions to be made. Chai latte or decaf Americano? Take a walk or sit at the computer? Plant roses or zinnias? Start a business now or wait until you get fired?
Given the fact that we are called upon to make decision after decision everyday, it would seem reasonable to assume that most of us would have given thought to how we make decisions. We’d have our own decision-making tools that we could employ when needed.
If we l lack such tools, too many decisions are simply based on habit. (Chai latte yesterday, [...] Continue Reading…
During the years that I lived in Santa Barbara, I always looked forward to the annual writer’s conference. Although I never attended the entire program, I often showed up for the evening talks given by successful writers.
The highlight for me was opening night when the legendary Ray Bradbury was the conference kick-off speaker. He was so popular that he held that distinction for years.
Members of the audience were often treated to personal information such as the fact that he refused to travel by air and would only go places that could be reached by car or train.
It was also [...] Continue Reading…
Julia Cameron calls them Artist’s Dates. Sarah Ban Breathnach calls them Creative Excursions. Whatever you call them, they are worth making a regular event in your life.
“The Artist Date need not be overtly artistic,” says Cameron, “think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.”
The purpose of such solo events is to take time every week to make a visit to a new place to gather ideas or just [...] Continue Reading…
When Marla decided she wanted to leave her high-paying corporate job and start a small business, she feared it would be difficult to convince her musician husband of the wisdom of her plan. She carefully outlined her vision to him and waited for his response.
He considered what she said about living on a tighter budget and rearranging responsibilities and then replied, “Oh, so you’re saying we’ll move ahead by going backwards first.”
His insight is one that many people, unfortunately, lack.
But almost every dream worth going after demands a willingness to step back. That step can take many [...] Continue Reading…