Friday, July 20th marked the halfway point of The Smile Project Road Trip. It also served as a tangible break for the both of us. After 28 days together, we split up for the weekend – Zack to visit a friend in San Jose, and myself to attend a retreat for The Pollination Project’s Global Kindness Team.
The retreat was beautiful for so many reasons. I was in a lovely and eco-friendly home surrounded by compassionate people talking about service and inspiring social change. More than that, it came at a perfect time for me during my own journey – serving as a forced break from the road. For a few days, I wouldn’t be driving or worried about an itinerary or even thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner. Everything was taken care of.
My Global Kindness Team consists of myself and three other individuals. I’d like to take a moment to highlight them and their projects now.
Chris McGilvery is our fearless leader. He is the founder of Give More HUGS (HUGS stands for “Helping Unite Giving Souls).” Chris and his team believe that every student deserves an opportunity to receive and actively participate in a quality education. They run an ambassador program, hold school supply drives, and donate books to needy schools in their communities.
I was fortunate enough to work with Chris when we passed through Temple, Texas around the 4th of July. We joined the town parade, brought coffee and cake pops to a local hospital, and decorate a staff room with inspirational sticky notes. We were also able to take book donations from him for later stops on our journey.
Greg Acuna is our technology guru and gamer extraordinaire. Greg created a card game called Acting Kindly that teaches kids the joys of being kind to one another. Having had the opportunity to play the game, I’ve seen how truly fun it is. I’ve seen videos of kids playing the game in Greg’s town in Goa, India, and it’s incredible to see students working together and overcoming differences in the name of play.
When I passed through Las Vegas in early July, I stayed with Greg and his family. We spent the evening in downtown Las Vegas, encouraging people to play the game with us and “clowning.” Greg is also our certified clown. He can make anyone laugh and anyone smile and to able to be totally carefree like that is a beautiful thing.
Laura Lavigne is our dreamer and our voice of reason all at the same time. I am continually amazed at her ability to dream big while keeping her eye on the step by step process to get there. Laura founded the Anacortes Center for Happiness in Anacortes, Washington where she lives. This community center hosts yoga classes, Happiness workshops, and salad jar making groups. She also runs the Happiness Sprinkling Project which takes big signs with encouraging messages on them (like “You Rock” or “Everything is Going to Be Okay)” and mails them to ambassadors around the globe who stand in public places and wave the signs around.
We had the opportunity to do a Happiness Sprinkling in Fairfax, California – near our retreat center – on Friday evening. To see the faces of people passing by light up and wave and give us thumbs up was so joyous. We played music and danced and smiled at everyone we saw.
Working with The Global Kindness Team has been perhaps the most natural thing I have ever done. I still can’t believe I get to work with such a powerful group of kindness leaders to spread more love and joy into the world. Being at the retreat with them was exactly what I needed at the halfway point of the trip.
To learn more about how you can receive a $1,000 grant to spread kindness in your community, visit: www.thepollinationproject.org/kindness