Greg Gano and Sarah Sellman from AmericanBearFilm.com, along with myself undertook that exact experiment in the beautiful city of Scranton, PA. The idea was to pass out "random snacks of kindness" while promoting a simple message -- "be kind".
Of course, Greg and Sarah were no strangers to this type of experiment as they had already been doing this type of exercise across the United States starting back in July of 2010. Their cross country adventure had them relying on strangers for a place to crash every night while travelling for two months to all the towns named "Bear" in America.
They simply wanted to see how kind strangers would be to other strangers in need.
Needless to say, their experiment was a success, but even more so, the lessons gained from the experience continued to motivate them years after they adventure.
So, on a bright Saturday morning, with cupcakes in hand, the three of us took to the streets, testing the hypothetical question.
I'm not going to lie...It took a little while for us to find some takers. But once we did, it didn't take long to pass out pan after pan of delicious cupcakes.
So what did I take away from volunteering my time to be kind to strangers?
1. It doesn't take much to brighten someone's day.
While walking around downtown Scranton, we had the chance to interact with a variety of people - some were waiting for the bus, others were heading to the local festival, one gentleman was waiting for his sister to take him back to jail - all of them remarked about how happy they were that we were there. A couple of guys were replacing a sewer line remarked that we were saints, one shop owner thought we were angels, and two friends under the eaves made a remark that we brightened their day and gave them hope about future generations. This all happened just by showing kindness to a handful of strangers.
2. A smile goes a long way.
Thinking about this experience makes me wonder if I should have worn a black trench coat with an evil looking bunny mask to see if what I was wearing would have affected the results of our experiment. The obvious answer is, YES! There is no doubt in my mind that when Greg, Sarah, and myself smiled and were warm and friendly to strangers, they were much more willing to enjoy a cupcake.
3. Strangers aren't usually dangerous.
Yes, I know what we were all taught back in grade school, but is that safety lesson meant to spill over into adulthood? It's my belief that we tend to be wary of ordinary, everyday people because we were taught that strangers want to harm us. This simply isn't true, and the "random snacks of kindness" campaign seemed to shine a light on this.
4. Volunteering isn't always for a specific cause.
Sometimes I get caught up thinking I have to help out with an established group in order to be an effective volunteer. But that isn't always the case. If you think a certain value or virtue is important, think of something creative to do that will promote a bigger theme (like kindness, honesty, entrepreneurship, etc.).
How about you? What are the big themes in life that you give your time to? What do you do in order to promote those virtues? I'd love to hear from you in comments below.
Also, if you'd like to find others who volunteer for big themes in your corner of the world, try Create The Good's volunteer opportunity search engine. It's a great way to connect to groups and individuals already serving in your community.
Also of Interest
- How a Random Act of Kindness Helped Me Heal
- Meals on Wheels Caught in Budget Food Fight
- Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more