My giving journey began as a personal challenge in anticipation of my 40th birthday earlier this year. The challenge was to spread 40 acts of kindness in the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday. Throughout the 40 days, I collected supplies for a local animal shelter, volunteered for local organizations that feed and clothe needy children, wrote letters to the military, left goodie bags for the garbage collectors, and so much more. I started an Instagram page, @Fabfortykindnesschallenge, and kept track of my good deeds there.
This challenge was a game changer in both expected and unexpected ways. I knew I would gain more from this journey than any of the recipients of my acts of kindness would. As a stay-at-home mom, whose to-do lists look pretty much the same from one day to the next, this kindness journey gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Like so many others who commit to a month or more of giving, my challenge didn’t stop after 40 days; it became a way of life. My forty days of kindness helped me see that opportunities for giving are all around me, and opened my heart to respond to those opportunities.
Once my 40-day kindness challenge was over, I started to feel like something was missing. Although kindness had become a habit, I wasn’t actively looking for a NEW giving opportunity every day. After reading 29 Gifts, I understood: I was still giving when giving was easy but I wasn’t giving intentionally. I knew I needed to start again; and as Lent approached, I decided to start another 40-day giving challenge. Instead of giving something up for Lent as is the usual custom, I was going to give for another 40 days.
The outcome I didn’t expect from this little challenge of mine came from the Instagram page I had set up to track my acts of kindness and the giving challenge. I was following inspirational people on Instagram, and had gained some followers of my own. Social media had become an avenue to share my challenge with others, with the hope that if just one person completed a challenge along with me, I would have doubled my efforts for that day.
But it was about to get bigger. In late March, when I was in the midst of the Lenten giving challenge, I received a direct message on Instagram, which said:
“Angela, my name is Drew Myers. I’m the producer/host of the Defining Audacity Radio Show. I wanted to gauge your interest in coming on my show. We can record a 20-minute interview over the phone any time. Let me know if that would interest you at all. I want to discuss your kindness challenge.”
My initial reaction was “No, thanks, I DON’T want to come on the radio and talk about my challenge. I am not a public speaker, and there’s no way I could give an interview. And, anyway, why me? There are SO many other people who ‘do good’ on such a larger scale! Why not talk to THEM?” But a small part of me saw this as an opportunity to share my story with an even bigger audience and perhaps inspire other people to do something like this. So I accepted Drew’s invitation to come on his show.
Over email, Drew shared with me a little about his radio show. The Defining Audacity Radio Show, he said, “encourages people to #liveonpurpose, to stop saying ‘I’ll just do it tomorrow’ and start living a bold, adventurous and intentional life.” Drew said the show had recently been putting an emphasis on showing kindness and he wanted to share my journey because he thought I was “over-the-top intentional about showing kindness.”
If the 40-day kindness challenge was a game changer, then talking about my kindness challenge on the radio was a walk-off home run! After conquering a huge fear of public speaking, I now felt bulletproof! I was ready to live intentionally in all other areas of my life as well. At Drew’s suggestion, I made a “Life List,” a list of things I want to do in my life (think: Bucket List, but with the emphasis on the “Life” part). I now wake up every day with a sense of purpose and intention. Instead of thinking “Ugh, what do I have to do today?”, among my first thoughts every morning are “How am I going to make this day count?”
In 29 Gifts, Mbali asks Cami to think, “What’s easy to give? What’s hard?” For me, it was easy to give gifts that were anonymous, and difficult to give gifts that made me more visible. And yet, here I was, talking about my acts of kindness on the radio and sharing my radio podcast with friends on Facebook. As a result of my being bold and sharing the story of my kindness journey with people that I knew, I received comments from friends who listened and were inspired to think they could do something like this too. One of my friends said her 8-year-old son listened to my interview and then spent the next day planning some random kindness acts that he could do. If the goal all along was to reach one person, then I had proof of success right there!
In this new undertaking to give daily and to spread kindness wherever I go, I really feel like I am starting to make a difference in the world, or at least my little corner of it. I know that I am a better wife, a better mom, a better daughter, sister, and friend. I’m a better PERSON. And all of that happened because of a little kindness challenge that I began in order to overcome the dread of turning 40.
Submitted by Angela Stanley, Wake Forest, NC, Stay-at-home mom to 2 boys and creator of the Fab Forty Kindness Challenge.