Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I use Smile Cards

Over the last couple years, I've really become a big proponent of Smile Cards, which are basically cards that track pay-it-forward acts of kindness.


They are wonderful in ways I cannot count.  Small, simple, humble, yet powerful.  They create ripples so that one act of kindness may or may not be the end of the chain.  But for all these reasons, the main reason why I use them is the subtle change in the way I think that has begun to occur. 


About a year ago I was riding in a plane reading a wonderful book my friend had given me.  As our flight landed I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was an elderly gentleman who asked for my thoughts on the book.  Turned out he had heard about it and as curious to read it.  I gave him my thoughts (as I found the book to be quite interesting), but then a thought entered my mind.  Why not just GIVE him the book???  I was mostly done with it anyways, and at the time it wasn't even available in the US.  With that, I handed the book over.  Of course, he refused, but I made my best case.  After a bit of back and forth, the man accepted the book with tears in his eyes.  He told me he had a hard time understanding why I should do such a thing, but that he'd pay-it-forward somehow.


Now, in the grand scheme of things, this story means nothing.  I mean, it's me handing a book to someone else.  Anyone can do it.  BUT... that thought, the 'why not just give him the book?' thought, was very new to me.  For the past few months prior, I had been walking around with Smile Cards in my wallet.  What initially started as some nice cards to talk about at parties turned into a pile of kind acts that I HAD to unload.  And slowly, my mind started shifting.  Instead of looking at how I could manipulate situations to my benefit, my mind was always busy trying to think of ways I could make someone's day better.  The cards were an excuse to be a better person!  The very attempt to be better started shifting my mind.  All this leads me back to the day I handed over the book to the stranger.  It was awesome BECAUSE it was ordinary.  I had experienced a moment where I wanted to give out of habit, almost because that's the only way I knew how to handle that situation.  And the most amazing part?  After I handed him the book, the person jumping around and giddy for the rest of the day was ME.


Of course you don't NEED Smile Cards to start the shift in mindset to other-orientation, but its another tool to help in the process, and it's been very helpful to me...

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