March 10 is Good Deeds Day–an opportunity and invitation to do something nice, or kind, or helpful for someone. Even if it’s as simple as a smile or a hug.
You could be forgiven if you’ve never heard about the day. Because we are now bombarded with all manner of “days.” National Clean Out Your Fridge Day or Brutus Day, anyone? And yeah, go ahead, roll your eyes. You could be forgiven your skepticism about the optimism with which the day’s founder Shari Arison says a good deed, or the celebration of good can make the world a better place.
Except–and unless you’re just determined to be cranky about the whole project–it’s hard to argue with an idea that doesn’t demand much other than good intention, accentuates the positive, and lets anyone to take part. And therein, says Arison – who has written a book on the subject of activating your goodness, lies the power of Good Deeds Day.
The Power of Good Deeds
Says Arison, “People think that to volunteer you need time, to donate you need money. But anyone can do a good deed–rich, poor, old, young. Anyone can do something nice for someone.”
Her favorite example is that of the little girl who came up to her during a recent event in a packed square, and offered her a piece of candy. Arison, whose friendly voice gives no indication of past trials in a now successful jetsetting life*, seems genuinely touched and delighted as she recounts the story. It is her example of how “even a smile is a good deed if it brightens up someone’s day.” And one of her barometers of success is equally simple, it’s “when everyone gets it and does their bit.”
A welcome reality check here for the eye-rollers.
“You can’t ignore reality,” Arison says, aware that individual good deeds aren’t going to immediately move the needle on big issues like war or climate change.
Certainly, this is an argument that’s come up before in this blog, specifically about a post on ending world hunger (by yours truly, see the comments). But should that mean we don’t try? How does that help anything?
Committing to Good Deeds
It does take a commitment to do good.
Asked how she, in particular, remains optimistic and makes the mental space for goodness as a resident of Israel (where worrying for your own safety might often outweigh an impulse to do good), Arison laughs.
“It’s all about perspective,” she says. “I live in Tel Aviv which is blessed with beautiful beaches.”
On a more serious note, Arison makes room for goodness by “reconnecting” to herself everyday. In other words, she chooses to be positive, chooses to be happy. And understands that “it’s a process that takes time, and requires us to be generous with others who aren’t ready to accept” an overture.
Good Deeds Sweep the World
So far, the optimism seems to have other convinced or outweighed the naysayers enough to build momentum. March 10, 2013 will be the 7th annual celebration of Good Deeds Day. What started out with 7,000 people in Israel has now grown to some 370,000 people in 50 countries–and that’s counting only the people who actually registered.
Arison is counting on the multiplier effect–documented or otherwise–for a critical mass of people to make a difference. Her optimism might seem ambitious or misplaced, except you remind yourself that there are entire religious philosophies (not to mention persuasive ad campaigns) built around the concept of doing unto others.
And if we become the change we want to see in the process of a small action, so much the better.
If you want to be part of a celebration of Good Deeds Day in the US, check out the options. Or perhaps just go over to the neighbor’s or friends who needs your generosity. It costs you nothing, makes you feel better, and leaves us all better off.
Hard to beat that.
* Arison will go from New York City, to DC, to LA in a 48-hour span later this week to promote Good Deeds Day.