Happy Sunday, everyone!
In case you missed it, The Smile Project has reinstated #ServiceSunday in a big way. Each week I have been focusing on some important aspect of service - whether by interviewing an awesome org or writing my own thoughts on how we serve. The past couple weeks have been more research or opinion based posts (Check out How to Start a Movement Part I and Part II) but today, I’m returning to the basics - picking organizations or individuals who are making a difference in the world and telling you why you should care about them.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Pure Thirst and the incredible work they do providing clean water for communities in need around the globe. Learn more about that world-shaking group by reading their post here.
This week, I am thrilled to highlight one of my role model organizations. I’m not sure when I first found out about the The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation but I’ve been hooked from day one. I’ve spent hours on their website and social media accounts.To put it simply: they live and breathe active inspiration. A few years ago, I became a RAKtivist within the organization (more on that below) and continued to be in awe of the circle of do-gooders that the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation connected me to.
All this said, imagine my bubbling joy when I was able to complete a phone interview with Community Engagement Coordinator, Rachelle Stubby, part of the tiny 4-person team who act in kindness and love not just in their work hours but in all aspects of daily living. Without further ado, allow me to introduce...
Organization: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion: give me a “Happiness is!”
Rachelle: Happiness is.. being comfortable with who you are and what you have.
Tell me a little bit about your organization.
Rachelle: The foundation was born in the 1990s in the Bay Area, during a summer of violence. There was an unmatched amount of destruction and brutality that reporters coined the term “random acts of violence.”
When media focuses on the negative, that is ultimately what permeates into society. However, if you can change the dialogue…
A reporter changed the phrase and instead encouraged media viewers to “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
While we’re not exactly sure of the origins of the foundation, we’ve come to know about a man
by the name of Will Glennon who compiled and published a book called Random Acts of Kindness, featuring individuals’ stories of giving and receiving kindness from strangers. The response was overwhelming and thus the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was born. A private philanthropist bought the foundation and the group was moved to Denver, Colorado - where the current office stands.
The group began as a marketing foundation - sending people out with bookmarks, shirts, or other fun kindness swag to simply get people involved in the idea of every day kindness and inspiration. On top of that, the social media following has provided people with a great network to get involved in kindness projects and ideas, and while every day kindness and group inspiration is still a huge part of the mission, the past four years has seen a new focus: the education program.
The idea is to create a culture of kindness in classrooms. We are heavily focused on social and emotional learning and teaching children how their actions impact others. For more information, check out the RAK for Educators page.
What is the driving force behind what you do?
Rachelle: It’s pretty simple - inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on.
What does “service” mean to you?
Rachelle: To me, it’s really doing what you can with what you have where you are.
So we have this really great exercise that we do at the beginning of conferences where we ask people to think about their daily to-do lists. They come up with things like, wake up, drive to work, sit in traffic, grab lunch from the deli across the street, etc. Then we ask them one simple question:
How can you add kindness to that?
For example, when you wake up in the morning, can you text someone a nice note of appreciation? When you drive to work and sit in traffic, can you let someone go ahead of you? When you go to the deli, can you wait an extra couple seconds to hold the door for the person entering behind you?
Really, it’s about making a conscious decision to practice kindness and realizing that kindness doesn’t have to be a big grandiose idea. Anyone can do kindness wherever they are in life.
How can people get involved?
Rachelle: One of the biggest ways people can get involved is through our RAKtivists group. RAKtivist stands for Random Acts of Kindness Activist. Right now we have people from ages 14 through 89 in countries all over the world. You simply apply and when accepted are placed into a private Facebook community. It’s essential a social media platform for Random Acts of Kindness. These RAKtivists are able to be loud and intentional about their kindness. Often times, it can seem strange or seem like bragging to post about an act of kindness on your personal social media page, so having a group that is dedicated to sharing and encouraging others in the pursuit of good is a huge way to get more people involved in the activities.
Additionally, at the beginning of each month, the RAKtivists receive kindness missions (ex. writing positive sticky notes, making care packages, etc.) for the whole community to take part and then report back to the community. It’s the biggest way to bring people together and create a sense of community out of helping others.
Some of our other events include RAK Week - which takes place each February - where we put out different campaigns for each day. For example, do something kind for yourself, for your friends and family, and for strangers. World Kindness Day (November 13) is also a big day for us in terms of spreading positivity across our social channels.
Basically, we want to be loud with our kindness.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Rachelle: I’ve been here for almost 2 years now and the neatest thing that I’ve learned is that the more intentional people are about focusing on kindness, the more impactful it becomes on their every day - it’s a really simple concept that I think has the potential to change somebody’s life and change the world.
One of my favorite stories comes from a RAKtivist application from a 15-year-old girl who was suffering from depression and had become suicidal. She was walking home from school and considering ending her life upon reaching her house. Suddenly, a girl walked up to her - a stranger - and told her that she had a rip in her skirt and offered her jacket to tie around her waist to cover it until she got home.
The one tiny act of kindness changed that girls life. That one tiny act of doing something good kept that young woman alive another day. This is the perfect illustration of how kindness doesn’t just change lives - it save them.
You never know what someone is going through and by being intentional and looking out for others, you really have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. The more intentional we become with this, the more it will permeate into society and make everything better for all of us.
This concludes another #ServiceSunday. Thanks for allowing me to share another impactful organization with you. Make sure to check out what Rachelle and her team are doing by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube or by sharing the website with a friend. And as for my incredible readers, practice some kindness this week - maybe even become a Raktivist yourself! As Rachelle said, it doesn’t have to be a big grandiose plan for goodness. It can be as simple as holding the door for someone. You never know what a simple smile could mean to a hurting soul. You never know whose life you might change forever.
As for me, I’ll see you next Sunday as I highlight another phenomenal example of humankind.
Looking to nominate an individual or organization that you know? Reach out to The Smile Project on social media or by filling out the contact form here.
Bonus Question: Do you have a favorite quote?
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”