Category Archives: Random Acts of Kindness

Spread some joy with these activities

Goal Accomplished! Write 100 Thank You Notes in 100 Days (2014)

thank you pink flower tree card

Photo Credit: AForestFrolic (stampinmom) on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
–Henry Ward Beecher

First, thank you to everyone who supported me in achieving this goal. Your encouragement and kind words were much appreciated.

This post is a general reflection of the goal and how it went, as well as an attempt to answer some of the questions that came up during the 100 days, for those of you who are considering doing this project on your own.

There were many expectations that I had for myself and for this goal when I started out, most of which didn’t turn out like I thought they would.

I thought I’d write 1 thank you note each day. What I actually did was write an average of 1 per day (1 at first, then none for a few days, then 5 the next day, etc).

Number of notes written during the 100 days

I thought it would “give me motivation and structure to be more intentional about expressing gratitude” – This one happened, just by the nature of the goal. I am slightly surprised that I finished this goal, and even went 2 notes over goal in less than 100 days. Sometimes I get really excited about starting projects but don’t always finish them unless I have a deadline, which I did in this case, but 100 days seemed like a really long time/really far away (I know, it’s all perspective, 100 days isn’t really that long, but it felt that way at first, until I realized I only had 16 days left, and then it felt really fast!).

I thought I would suddenly become a more grateful person – It seems funny to think about now, but there really was a part of me that thought that by the end of 100 days, I would have this gratitude thing completely figured out. Silly me. There is no magical shortcut or special project that can hasten the process, but I still think the practice was good for me.

I thought this would be a one-way project, where I wrote cards to people, and then… that was it. Instead, I ended up getting many notes in return, which cheered me up and allowed me to be the recipient of other people’s gratitude. This made me realize graciously accepting gratitude takes more humility than sharing my gratitude with someone else.

I worried people wouldn’t think I was sincere if they found out about the goal, or that I wouldn’t feel sincere writing the notes because of the goal. This was a concern brought up by a few people when I told them about the goal, and that came to mind several times during these 100 days. I decided not to tell the people I was writing to, unless they asked about it, because I wanted to make sure that as much as possible this issue didn’t come up. Whenever it did come up, whether in my mind or in conversation, the important thing for me to remember was that I needed to write what I would have written regardless of whether I was doing it for this goal list item or as an individual thank you note. The 100 thank you notes wasn’t just a goal to meet, it was a prompt to be more grateful. It’s not insincere to write a card even if a gratitude project inspired it, unless you don’t mean it and you’re just writing it to meet a quota.

Another issue that came up was how to thank people in a way that they would be sure to get the note. I decided that as much as possible, I would send real mail to people (cards, letters, postcards, etc) because it’s fun to get mail. For the people I see on a regular basis, I tried to hand-deliver. For people I was unable to reach by any other written form of communication, I wrote in a journal (for example, I wrote a thank you to God, but this would also work for those who have passed away). Many people I sent notes to I communicate mostly through email, LinkedIn, or Facebook, so those are the methods I used to write their thank you notes. Website contact forms were used for organizations that didn’t list an email or have a mailing address.

Types of thank you notes written

When I started this goal, I thought it would be easy to think of 100 people/organizations to write to, but the day I started planning who to write to, I only could think of about 40 (I quickly filled in the rest, and then realized there were still more people to thank after the 100). I also wanted to make sure that I sent groups of people their thank you notes at the same time, so that no one in the group felt left out, so I saved them after I wrote them until I had one for everyone in the group. For example, everyone at work got their card on the same day, or as close to it as I could.

I’m glad that I did this goal when I did. It helped me get in touch with friends I hadn’t talked with in a while, reminded me to notice things I was grateful for, and helped me express and receive gratitude. I would recommend a project like this to everyone.

If you want more info, you can:

How to Be Thankful and Improve Your Life, an article by David Hochman from a 2009 Reader’s Digest issue. David shares his experience with his Month of Gratitude project, as well as tips about expressing gratitude from experts he interviewed, including this tip relevant to projects like the one I did: “‘If you overdo gratitude, it loses its meaning or, worse, becomes a chore,’ Martin E. P. Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, told me when I mentioned my slump. Be selective, he advised, and focus on thanking the unsung heroes in your life.”

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Give flowers to a stranger (2014)

Flowers by Anderson Mancini (ektogamat) on Flickr - Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Flowers by Anderson Mancini on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Earth laughs in flowers.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowers make me happy, especially daisies and similar flowers, because they look so friendly and cheerful. For this list item, I bought the most cheerful, bright orange flowers I could find, then gave them away.

The flowers were labeled “garden bouquet” which I thought was kind of cute. They were long-stemmed, with huge flowers. I think 5 or 6 came in a bunch, and I briefly thought about separating them to give away one to each person, but then I liked the idea of giving a bunch of flowers to one person more.

It took me forever to try to get the price sticker off the wrapper holding the bouquet. I was trying to hold the wrapper, plus the sleeve they give you so the flowers don’t drip water all over, plus another bag and I’m uncoordinated at times, so I was dropping things all over while trying not to squish the flowers.

My original idea was to give away the flowers to someone who looked like they were having a difficult day, like a mother whose children were causing grief, or to someone who just looked a little sad. I wandered over to the neighborhood center to find a distressed mother, but (thankfully) no such luck. All the children I passed were well-behaved and the mothers all appeared to be pretty happy (it was early in the day).

So I kept walking through the center until I got to a cupcake shop where two ladies (one older, one middle-aged) were sitting eating cupcakes.

I walked up to the older lady (she was sitting closest to the walkway), and said, “Hi! My name is Shelly and I bought these flowers and I’m giving them away to a random person today. Would you accept them?”

They both looked at me kind of weird, and then the lady smiled, and took the flowers. The younger lady said, “That’s so nice!” and the older lady who accepted the flowers said, “You’re just giving them away?” in an amazed voice.

I was a little surprised the older lady didn’t seem as intensely happy as the younger one, even though she was the one with the flowers, but I figured, hey, maybe she was weirded out that I chose her. I didn’t want to make things awkward, so I said, “Have a nice day!” and started to leave.

As I walked away, the older lady was smelling her flowers and the younger lady was still saying “That’s so nice!” Then, just before I headed down the steps to the exit, I hear the older lady shout:

“And it’s my birthday tomorrow!”

I turned around and she was grinning from ear to ear, smelling her flowers and laughing. I wished her a happy birthday, said something like, “It’s perfect timing, then!” and manage to make a graceful exit without falling down any of the stairs on the way out.

I really can’t believe how well this bucket list item worked out for the lady who received the flowers. It really was great timing!

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Progress Update #2: Write 100 Thank You Notes in 100 Days

Gratitude Card Set 6 - Photo credit Fern R on Flickr, used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 License

Photo Credit: Fern R on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC Attribution license

“I think that 99% of people FORGET the effect that they can have on people with just a simple show of gratitude”
Daniel DiPiazza, IM conversation 5/25/14

When I started this list item, I was thinking about myself. This goal was going to miraculously fix my ungrateful, complaining attitude. I would become a grateful person. I would know that I shared my grateful thoughts with people who matter to me, to prevent me from feeling guilty in case something bad happened to any of them. I would single-handedly save the US Post Office from bankruptcy. Just kidding. But I have mailed a lot of cards.

All that doesn’t mean that my words and feelings that I sent to people were lies. I meant every word, and I still do. I also still think it’s important to tell people the good things you think about them, especially considering we don’t know when things are going to happen, and we really don’t give enough positive feedback to the people who matter to us.

I knew that sharing those words would probably make other people feel good, but I didn’t expect to receive the feedback I did. Some people sent cards back to me. Their responses came when I was having bad days and cheered me up. They came when I was having good days and made them better. Even just a simple “thanks for the card” text makes me feel good because words make a difference. And that was the story everyone was telling me too: my grateful words made a difference in their day.

This goal has also helped me reconnect with friends who I haven’t talked to in a while, and it’s been very fun to get to know what’s happening in their lives and to hear about their current joys and struggles, and to share mine, so we can go through them together. The thank you notes have started conversations of gratitude, and I have to admit, sometimes it’s difficult to allow myself to accept thank you’s in return. Accepting gratitude takes humility.

I am grateful for the effect that other people’s gratitude has had on my life during this time, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 8 days. I can’t wait to see the impact they will have!

Click to read: final reflection on this goal, progress update #1, or the initial post about this goal.

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