Humans touch

rekaone

I’ve done some math. I’ll touch at least 365 people with kindness this year. That’s a fact I can control. It’s doubtful my poetry will reach that many in 2019. At last count I had 73 poems out for submission. Today’s e-mail brought this news about five of my favorites:

“Thank you for sending us “Catherine Keefe Poetry for —” Although we appreciate your interest in—, we are unable to publish your work at this time….”

Blah, blah blah.

Time to #procrastibake.

365 Days of Kindness – Day 2
I saved the containers that held neighbors’ Christmas treat offerings. They’ve been stacked messily on the kitchen counter so I won’t forget to return them. After knocking tins and plastic tubs over for the third time this week, I decided to fill them with homemade granola and thank you notes. 

granola

The baking and delivery took about an hour and a half away from my writing time, but my granola is really good so I figure I’m adding more benefit to the world with toasted oatmeal than words this week.

But I did also write a poem today because I promised myself to write a poem a day in January. These daily poems are drafts. Messy. Unrefined. But they’ll become something to mulch in spring. 

It was inspired by an encounter with a woman in the DC Metro restroom, just steps from that gorgeous James Reka mural I’m touching in the photo above. This lady was huge as the door, and filled the empty bathroom with such keen sound the while tile quaked. When we simultaneously said, You are beautiful, I knew I wanted to write her. The poem draft begins like this:

Awkward / Not Awkward Encounters with You

are beautiful as mirror to the twilight
woman in the DC Metro
L’Enfant Plaza restroom
singing Prince’s
Purple Rain lyrics
throwing her own back
beat pa-chhhhhed over her left
shoulder while washing her right hand and face
and feet in the sink…

With work, this poem might become as good as my granola. I‘ve practiced making both just about equally. You can find the recipe over on Backyard Sisters. The granola is easy to make, easy to give.

Be kind.
~Catherine

That’s me in front of James REKA’s mural at L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C. 

 

Believe

Image

new floats

I’m embarking on a new adventure: to intentionally incorporate one simple act of kindness into each day for one year. My certainty that kindness can change the world is a little like throwing a glass ball into the ocean and believing it won’t break.

Feel free to call this series: 365 Reasons to Roll Your Eyes, but science says your own happiness will increase if you share the journey.

#1
I printed out the January 2019 Random Acts of Kindness Calendar to stuff in my adult kids’ Christmas stockings. I thought instead of buying things, our family could bond over the challenge of trying to do something kind in our own little worlds, in a Bingo sort of way. First person to finish five kind acts across the calendar, or down, or diagonal, or a blackout, would win the month and share the victory via family text. If it went well, I’d branch out to my sisters, nieces, nephews and send everyone a February calendar, then March, then…then…then…

random acts of kindness

I anticipated darting glances, an awkward silence or, worse, feigned public interest with hidden giggles. At the last minute, I yanked the gold-tied calendar scrolls and hid them in my underwear drawer. I hung the stockings, with not so much care as a light touch since there was nothing in them but a book: 52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy by Moreea Seal.

Who doesn’t want happiness for their children?

Maybe I should have persisted with my Random Acts of Kindness monthly calendar idea. (Would it seem as if I don’t think my kids are kind enough already? Is it pushy to take my values and wrap them as a gift?)

It turns out that kindness makes you happier. In her article for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, Elizabeth Hopper breaks down the findings of a May, 2018 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, authored by Dr. Lee Rowland and Oliver Scott Curry: “A range of kindness activities boost happiness.”

“Researchers asked 683 adults from over two dozen countries—from the United States and Brazil to the United Kingdom and South Africa—to complete at least one act of kindness daily for a week, such as helping a neighbor, writing a thank you card, or paying for someone’s movie ticket. People were encouraged to carry out more kind acts—or different types of kind acts—than they normally would. One group was asked to direct their kindness towards people they were close to (i.e., friends and family), while another group was kind towards people they were less close to (i.e., acquaintances and people they didn’t know as well).

Other participants were asked to make an effort to practice self-kindness—for example, by meditating, going on a walk, or dancing to a favorite song. A fourth group didn’t engage in kind acts themselves, but they tried to observe acts of goodness carried out by other people—for example, when someone volunteered, bought coffee for someone else, or simply stopped to pick up litter. The researchers compared all these groups to a control group of people who went about their lives as usual.”

Small daily acts of kindness – for strangers, or family, or self – can quantifiably improve your happiness. We also get a mood boost by simply observing a kind act being performed.

To keep myself accountable to performing 365 Acts of Kindness, and to make you dear reader, happier by simple observation, I reached out to Kindness.org, a group with this mission statement:

“We are a nonprofit with a bold hypothesis: Kindness is the catalyst in solving the world’s biggest challenges. We believe a kinder world is possible, and we’re here to make it happen.”

Kindness.org offers the opportunity for anyone to become a Citizen Scientist, that is to try and quantify how acts of kindness in the world create positive effects. I offered myself and my writing skills up as a Citizen Scientist with this pitch:

“I too believe a kinder world is possible. I believe there are more ordinary people building a stepping-stone path toward a gentler world than any news story can tell. Invisibility isn’t non-existence. If I can help quantify and amplify with my writing skills how kindness matters, then I’m happy to do so.”

We’ll see if they get back to me. In the meantime, I’m going to call my friend who’s moving today out of the house she’s lived in for more than 30 years. I want to bring her bread and soup.

Be kind
~Catherine

I photographed Niijima Floats,” at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, WA.