Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Power of a Note

Years ago my mother sent me an article cut from the New York Times. The article was about the president of Harvard University, Rudenstine, who served from 1991-2001. If my memory serves me, the article told of the president's return to work after being required to take an unexpected leave of absence for health related reasons. He explained upon returning to work, that he expected to modify his style in a number of ways... fewer people reporting to him, delegate more, and relinquish oversight of the central administration budget.

Interestingly enough... one thing the president refused to change was making time to write the handwritten notes that made him famous around campus. I always thought to myself... if someone as busy as the president of Harvard can make time to write handwritten notes - while simultaneously being responsible for a $2.1 billion (yes, billion) capital campaign, then by golly, I should surely be able to scrounge up a few extra minutes. Because, it's true... no amount of email, phone-calling, faxing, texting, or instant messaging can replace the unadulterated joy that comes from finding a handwritten note in your mailbox. It's so rare, that yes... this simple act has the ability to evoke a level of joy that goes virtually unmatched by other gestures of kindness.

So today - this fourth day of our random acts of kindness celebration - we will focus on the power of a note. This seems especially appropriate since it was only a few weeks ago that I was the recipient of such a gesture. A friend and colleague sent a postcard... a simple postcard. At the top is are the computer printed words, "Random acts of kindness." Below it is a simple note saying, "You inspire me. I wish we lived closer." Wow! What an unexpected treat to receive in my mail box. So simple, yet I can't bring myself to toss it... I think because it is handwritten and because it is from someone for whom I have a great amount of respect. So, yes... today I will think of a few people I know who deserve a note from me and before the day is over, random notes of kindness will be mailed. That's one approach to sharing the power of a note... making time to recognize deserved people we know.

Here's another. Share the power of a note with someone you do not know - a total stranger! When I lived in Oxford, Ohio I had a United Way appointed Little Sister. We had two dates a week. One on the weekend and one every Wednesday afternoon. Amanda's house was about thirty five minutes from my on-campus apartment at Miami University. Each time I drove to and from her house, I passed what to me - a New York City girl - seemed like the most perfect farm house and barn. The house was a deep, brick red with white shutters, and pristine green grass for as far as the eye could see. The barn was painted black and when set behind the red house and under the blue skies, seemed to be - in my eyes - perfect! I found myself looking forward to passing the house four times a week and making up all kinds of stories about what it was like on the inside and who lived there.

Before I moved from Ohio in 1995, after passing the house four times a week for three straight years, I decided it was time to tell the owners how appreciative I was of their home. One Wednesday afternoon, I slowed my car down while passing the red farm house and quickly jotted down their address. That same night, I sent them a note telling them of my trips to Hamilton, Ohio and thanking the owners for keeping such a well manicured home - one that I looked forward to visiting each week as I passed by. I still don't know who lives in that home. I never met them. I feel great, though, about sharing with those owners how much joy they brought me... without intending.

How about you? Do you have a favorite house you pass? What about a store you love visiting because of their unique items... or a restaurant that over-delivers with great service or impeccably clean restrooms? Consider using today to make someone you don't know the recipient of a random act of kindness?
  • Today we celebrate Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii. So, regardless of where you call home, if you have a fun memory, favorite place, or a friend in any one of these places, let us know. Click on the Taste of USA icon, check out our fun facts (provided exclusively by Cheryl) and then leave a post. It's simple and fun.
  • NOTE: If you live in anyone of the states celebrated this week (Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, or Hawaii) you will want to gather forces for TOMORROW. Friday is the day residents of their respective states must post "what your state is made of" (favorite locations, cools sights, novel places to see). The winning state - once we've completed our national tour - will win a creative brainstorming session with me to help create the future of (not to mention win cool prizes and so much more!).
  • Next week we celebrate... Idaho, Alaska, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan.

1 comment:

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