The weekend kicked off with an evening lecture by Michael Chase, also know as The Kindness Guy. Michael is the founder of The Kindness Center and author of the book, Am I Being Kind? He told his story. From abusive childhood to high school bully to an encounter with a turtle in the middle of the road that literally changed his life and set his course on Kindness.
Michael shared that when an act of kindness is done, the doer experiences an increased seritonin level in the brain. Seritonin is the "feel good" chemical. The result ... happiness. He then explained that the receiver also experiences a rise in seritonin levels and also feels good. The best part is that even an observer of an act of kindness experiences a rise in seritonin as well. So one simple act of kindness ... shared, received and witnessed ... is really a win, win, win.
After a standing ovation and lots of hugs, the Kindness Coordinator, Michael Kline invited the crowd to come back to the park for coffee and dessert and to experience the candlelight labyrinth to enhance the Kindness experience. Some people socialized over an amazing spread of sweets. Others headed outside to experience to walk the labyrinth and release past hurts and resentments and move toward forgiveness or simply to walk in gratitude along the candlelit path toward center. An awesome experience.
Kids, teens, adults, coworkers, families, community leaders and Valley visitors gathered before the Wall of Kindness, selected their activities, picked up their kindness supplies that had been donated by valley businesses and went on their way!
As the hours ticked by the energy under the tent rose to a level that was palpable. People returned to the tent to share their stories of giving out cups of coffee, smiley face ballons, free hugs, seeds to plant and a host of other gestures of kindness. And then, as if addicted to the seritonin, they made another visit to the Wall of Kindness, charted their next course and headed out once again.
A group of teens I am connected with shared the story of their Free Hug station set up on the corner of Main Street. The donned their iHug pins and held up their signs and offered free hugs to passersby. They met with some resistance at first. They reported back that only about 1/3 of the people they met accepted their free hug offer. One person yelled, "why the hell would I want a free hug!" They persisted. About 2 hours into the morning, three girs came running back to tell me this story.
They were walking down the street holding up their signs, Mikayla leading the way. From about 50 feet away, a woman saw the sign and headed toward her with outstretched arms. Mikayla put her arms out as they walked toward each other and met in a huge hug. The woman held on tight and Mikayla felt her crying. When they pulled away the woman shared that seeing that sign was not at all what she expected on Main Sreet that day ...but it was exactly what she needed. The day before she had lost her best friend to a terminal illness and she was feeling quite alone. She thanked the girls for their Free Hug brigade and then all four of them embraced in a group hug. Seritonin levels flying high and four lives touched forever.
Needless to say, as their energy rose, the free hug campaign got stronger. Their success rates rose and they became more confident that hugs could really make a difference to strangers. They focused their Kindness Campaign to not just strangers on the street. They targeted the "bank ladies" and a whole host of people that serve them during their day to day lives. They delivered hugs and smiles and thank yous to the banks, retail clerks, wait staff, and service workers all along Main Street. Then they got in their cars and headed to the Mall to deliver kindness.
As for me, I had to man the tent ... but I got to affirm that Michael was right about "oberserver seritonin". As each team came back and shared their stories, my energy rose. And from where I stood, as teams headed out, i watched as they came across their first kindness victim. My heart swelled as I watched a 6 foot teen get down on his knees to tie a balloon on the wrist of a 4 year old and then stand up and hand the mom a flower and reach into his pocket for a bone for their dog.
Kindness all around!
Lives were touched. Some forever. Stories were exchanged at the Kindness Rally
and the energy of kindness weekend lives on. At the end of the day one of the kids told me she didn't want it to end. She told me that she didn't want to go back to her "unkind" home. She told me she wanted to quit her job, buy a Kindness Van and be a Michael Chase groupie. I suggested she wait a week to let things sink in before making any major life decisions.
She agreed ... and then suggested we go for ice cream to keep the seritonin flowing for just a little bit longer ... which of course we did :)
IHug buttons are a great conversation starter around hugging. Wearing the button indicates that the wearer is open to giving and receiving hugs and allows potential receivers to accept the free hug offer. Our experience is one over the awkwardness, hugging becomes addictive and seritonin flows!
To get a copy of the book Am I Being Kind or to book Michael Chase for an inspirational event for your school, business or community, visit The Kindness Center at www.thekindnesscenter.com