While I was racking my brain for the best way to spend my 25th birthday, I decided to do a little crowdsourcing. After spending all 24 hours of my 24th birthday volunteering in and around New York City the year prior, I knew I had to do something big.
Finally, a dear friend suggested getting 25 people across 25 cities to commit to one act of kindness.
It was simple, it played on 25, and it was rooted in kindness. I was sold.
Thus began the planning process for #25Cities25Acts.
I reached out to friends across oceans and brainstormed kindness ideas with neighbors. I sent reminder emails, posted on The Smile Project Instagram, and created our hashtag.
Then, on May 20th, 2019, I woke up. And I waited.
What happened next was an overflowing of love personified. At the end of the day, we had 39 cities represented across 6 countries and 4 continents.
I spent some time trying to figure out the best way to share the results of this day through my own reflections, but this wasn’t about me. It was about you. And I want to celebrate you. Here’s what you did:
Abingdon, Maryland: One Man’s Trash “I donated 4 big bags of clothing in honor of The Smile Project.”
Arlington, Virginia: Using Talent for Kindness “In Arlington, Virginia, I made a painting for my boyfriend.”
Ashland, Ohio: Baking Up Joy “I shared my favorite cookies with all of my friendly bank tellers, cashiers, and mail ladies today to say I see them and I’m thankful for them. Cheers to little acts of kindness that can make a big difference in our town and this world!”
Athens, Greece: In Transit “Going up the stairs onto this plane, a lot of elderly passengers were struggling with their carry on. Even though the majority of these people spoke Greek, I was overwhelmed by the gratitude they poured on me for doing something as simple as carry a piece of luggage up a flight of stairs.”
Atlanta, Georgia: Fresh Air and Animals “One of our amazing volunteers took Findley (an adoptable dog at Fur Kids Animal Shelter) on a hike last weekend to get some fresh air and have a little fun outside of the shelter. We could think of no better story to share in celebration of kindness, service, and love.
Bakersfield, California: Serendipitous Parking “I noticed an elderly lady in the Costco parking lot who was pushing her cart and seemed a bit lost. I walked over and asked her if she needed any help. She told me she had a rental car and couldn’t remember where she parked it. I took the key fob and hit the lock button a couple times and we heard the horn. It was parked right next to me!”
Cheswick, Pennsylvania: Dressing Room Clean-Up “After I was done trying on a few dresses in the dressing room yesterday, I went into all the other dressing rooms, took out the clothes that people didn’t put away and took them to the rack.”
Chile: Preach “Activate a movement for kindness and generosity in the world, through a chain of random acts of kindness. Sometimes small actions can make great differences. Thank you for sharing a smile and inspiring others to be kinder and more generous. You have the power to make a positive change in your environment.”
Cleveland, Ohio: Coffee and Critters “I paid for everyone in lines’ coffee on this wonderful May morning. Later, after work, I donated a bag of toys, food, and supplies to four animal shelters in the Cleveland area. It felt so good to be doing good and knowing that I was making people (and lots of dogs) smile as a ripple of The Smile Project’s wave of kindness.”
Denver, Colorado: Sunday Best “Very proud to support Dress for Success Denver with these professional clothing donations.”
East Brady, Pennsylvania: In Memoriam “I took flowers to my parents’ grave and cleaned the area and planted the flowers for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.”
Edgeworth, Pennsylvania: Cookies for Cops “I took homemade snickerdoodles to the police department.”
Goa, India: Lunch on Me “I took my colleagues to breakfast to let them know I am both excited and appreciate to be working with them on my new project. So happy to have others excited to be creating something which is fun, empowering and can spread kindness around the world.”
Harmony, Pennsylvania: Make it Personal “For The Smile Project’s Birthday Giveback, the Seneca Valley SPARK Club unveiled its biggest project yet! We wrote down the name of every senior student at the high school and a personalized compliment for each!”
Herndon, Virginia: Dressing Others for Success “I was able to donate some quality professional clothing that will be great for interviews. I also contributed to Shelter House Inc., which provides incredible support to those in our area struggling from homelessness and domestic abuse.”
Houston, Texas: Teach Them “I spread kindness through our Lovescaping class at Law Elementary School.”
Kane, Pennsylvania: Lunch Lady Love “Everyday we see these ladies at lunch. They serve us delicious food and always with a smile on their face. We wanted to make sure they knew just how appreciated they truly are. So with that, we gave these lovely ladies some brownies and a letter to show them just how much we appreciate them. Their smiles and pure joy were overwhelming. What a lovely day to be kind.”
Las Cruces, New Mexico: Art of the Card “We made handmade cards that were delivered to a memory care home today. The children were happy to create these wonderful cards and the residents were so touched to receive these cards that were made with love just for them. One resident said with the biggest smile, ‘this is for me?!’ We are grateful for you all and we are grateful to have shared some kindness with others today. The smallest acts of kindness truly can make a big difference.”
Long Island, New York: Monday Treats “I got snacks for the office today for an afternoon pick-me-up!”
Longmont, Colorado: Easy as Pie “Being kind can be a simple act. Smile at your neighbor, let someone in a hurry go in front of you while standing in a line, give encouragement to a friend. Easy peasy!”
Longview, Texas: Come Together with Kindness “We did 25 acts of kindness. We took packets of quarters and shared them all around town on vending machines, at the gas station, and at the arcade. We also created a kindness kit (Mission 025) to encourage people to do kindness for their birthday!”
Los Angeles, California: Pups and Pastries “I donated a dozen bandanas to my local vet to help other pups and made chocolate chip scones for my coworkers.
Madison, Wisconsin: Laundry Lovin’ “I left a bottle of eco-friendly laundry detergent at the laundromat today in honor of The Smile Project. I hope it makes someone’s (or even a few people’s) day a bit bright. I absolutely love the idea of encouraging others to commit small acts of kindness for their birthday.
Maui, Hawaii: Dream Together “We helped one of our houseless friends by holding onto her prized plants and expensive tent while she attends a 3-month rehab program. May we all listen for ways to spread kindness and care.”
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: For the Love of Pets “We decided to bring donations to the Humane Society. We brought needed supplies and treats for the animals, as well as treats for the helpers. Spread some happiness today by showing kindness!”
New York, New York: Need a Swipe “One of my favorite easy acts of kindness is swiping someone else into the NYC subway when you see their MetroCard has been declined (especially when you have an unlimited card)!
Oak Harbor, Washington: Green Thumb “I went to a women’s house (I met her at Home Depot and she was saying how much she needed help) and I helped her weed her garden for free).
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Letters of Love "Point Park University’s Campus Cursive Program asked their members to write anonymous letters of encouragement and place them around the city."
Speedy Delivery “I wrote a letter to my mail man/woman with some cookies to show my appreciation. I think it’s really great to do acts of kindness for people, especially those who may not get much appreciation!”
Late Night Snacks “For my random act of kindness, I surprised my sister with her favorite smoothie after a long day at work. It’s the little things that matter the most!”
Triple Threat “Today, 3 amazing young women were the recipients of an act of kindness – free Starbucks!”
Port Saint Lucie, Florida: Good Service “We gave our pregnant server at lunch a $100 tip.”
Raleigh, North Carolina: Caffeinated Kindness “It can be as simple as buying breakfast for the people behind you, which is what I did in line at Dunkin today!”
Rochester, New York: Take What You Need “We created ‘Take What You Need’ signs and taped them around the city tonight. We also gave $20 to a man who approached us while we were hanging up the signs and was in need of a place to stay that night.”
St. Catharines, Canada: Canadian Coffee “I bought five coffees for five people at Tim Hortons.”
St. Paul, Minnesota: River Snacks “We went on a walk at the river to hand out delicious peanut butter cups. Definitely saw some smiles and gratitude.”
Strasbourg, France: Strangers No More “I bought a croissant for my Airbnb host because he’s been studying for his doctorate.” (The next day, the Airbnb host left strawberries in the kitchen for this person, maybe inspired by the croissant? Kindness is spreading)!
Temple, Texas: Carnations for Kindness “My son handed out carnations to teachers and friends. It was all smiles, hugs, and surprises. After a long day, this act of kindness brought so much joy for the teachers. Even the children were so excited to get flowers. It was awesome to see the ripples of kindness from the simple gesture of giving away a flower.”
Toronto, Canada: A Helping Hand “Today I walked by an older gentleman with a cane in his hand. I noticed him because I was impressed by how he was able to balance so many bags on his left arm. After walking a few more steps, I heard his cane hit the sidewalk. I quickly turned around to help him pick it up. We exchanged a couple kind words, smiled at each other and went about our days. Moments like these are magic.”
Wilmington, North Carolina: A Good Kind of Payback “I paid it ‘backward’ at line in the drive thru coffee line this morning!”
Youngstown, Ohio: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle “I donated some clothes and picked up some trash in the park while on a nice, little walk.”
There are not enough words to explain the gratitude I felt watching people share photos and videos throughout the day as they reported on their kind acts. I am so blessed.
One of my favorite takeaways came from one of our Pittsburgh representatives. When asked if she had any reflections from taking part in the day, she said, “a random act of kindness doesn’t need to be extravagant. I did something as simple as surprising my sister with a smoothie after her long day at work and it was the best feeling in the world.”
Kindness is truly the gift that keeps on giving.