To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 20, 2011


A while ago a friend of mine asked me if I could have dinner with three people alive or dead, who I would pick. Mother Teresa. That one came easily to me. I adore that lady. I am inspired by her life and all that she stands for, and all that she did, and all that she taught. She once said "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, it's the only thing that ever has."

A week ago Saturday I turned 35.... eeeeeeek! How did that happen?!? I am not much of a planner. I never had much of life plan, per se. That being said, I am definitely not where I thought I would be at 35. Yet, I have lived a life of constant privilege. I have been blessed far beyond that which I deserve. Never in my life have I ever had to go without anything that I need. And, honestly, not very often have I even had to go without anything I want. I have always tried to give back in little ways. But, I am sure I have always fallen short.

A few weeks before my birthday I saw something on the internet that I thought was super awesome. This lady decided to do an act of kindness for every year of her life. It was an awesome idea, one I decided I really wanted to replicate. 35 acts of kindness. (Said inspirational lady had to do 38).

I sort of hesitated to post about this project, because it isn't something I ever intended to boast about, and I certainly hope it doesn't come across as such. But, as I was going about doing my kindnesses, I recognized how often goodness inspires goodness. And, like the lady whose idea I stole, I thought maybe my efforts could influence those around me.

I intended to do all 35 acts of kindness ON my actual birthday. But, instead of doing little things, I wanted to go big. I wanted to do things that were lasting. I spent many weeks compiling a list of things I wanted to do. And, as I called around and did some research, I realized that in order to do BIG things, I needed more than 24 hours (plus a lot of the agencies/organizations I contacted, were not open on Saturdays).

I actually spent my birthday in Santa Barbara, with two of my closest friends, Mandy and Wendy. We woke up in the morning and ran a 1/2 marathon. It was fun to be in the place I grew up, running along the same streets I often ran on decades before. After our run (or my run/walk) we began to knock out, one by one, each of the tasks on my list of kindnesses (many of which lasted the whole week, and many of which Mandy and Wendy accompanied me):

1. I wrote a card and left a thank you treat for my postal carrier.

2. Mandy, Wendy and I made 10 care packages for the homeless. (All of these packages had a PB&J sandwich, an apple, a bottle of water, a granola bar, candy, other snacks, a toothbrush, wet wipes and two trash bags - which were intended to keep the homeless warm and dry because it was raining, but I fear might have been used as new vessels to store hoard... eerrrr treasures, and a pick-me up note). We hand delivered these packages. And, made several new friends. And, had some very tender experiences.... and we MAY or MAY NOT have been howled at.... and not in a pick-up sort of way, but more of a mental patient sort of way.

3. We put quarters in laundry mats in the poor areas of town. (One guy told me that he hadn't done laundry for three weeks. I politely told him it was time and put some money in his hand. His name was Richard. And, now we are friends. Not that I'll ever see him again, but...).

4. I gave money to every homeless person within near proximity to me, all who asked, and all who didn't, for an entire week.

5. I started a piggy bank for a cause (first up, the LDS humanitarian fund). I have started putting all of my change in the piggy bank and will cash it in and donate it once it's filled. I plan to keep this going, changing the cause with the filling of the bank each time.

6. I didn't say anything negative or critical all day. (Confession: I woke up slightly before 7, by 7:20, I had my first do over. CLEARLY, something I need to work on).

7. We put money in a street musician's hat.... eeeerrrrr shoe (we couldn't find any other depository and Wendy almost got hit by a car, so.....), which made me think of this video... WHICH ALWAYS MAKES ME CRY.

8. I donated money to the Wounded Warrior Fund.

9. I donated my old clothes to a women's shelter nearby.

10. I donated canned food to the local food bank/Rescue Mission.

11. During the 1/2 marathon, I stopped to pick up the "Mile 10" sign that blew over AND I stopped to personally thank all the volunteers who handed me water (I can't decide if this was a kindness, or just an excuse to stop more frequently than I should have).

12. I bought a plant and a thank you card to give to my mom's best friend for letting us stay with her and making me a cake and singing to me and forcing me to wear a crown.

13. I donated money to an under-privileged youth program.

14. We donated blood (this was the WORST one. Eeeek, I hate giving blood, which makes me feel guilty, since I have the universal O+ blood type... but I also have RIDICULOUSLY tiny veins and it always HURTS). Wendy and Mandy and Nikki Crawford and I all gave blood. And, as Nikki said "it's one of the only things you can do for someone else that in their time of need, they can't do for themselves". So, even though it sucked, I felt good. Plus, I got some cookies. Total bonus!

15. We picked up Brandi (the foster kid I have mentored for the past few years) for dinner and a play date. And, actually we had her help us with some of our kindnesses. (She LOVES to hang out. She thinks every thing I do is great, like going to the bank and Target... whatever it is, she is in!) LOVE THAT KID!!!

16. We made treats and wrote a thank you note and took them to the LDS missionaries (because they ROCK)!

17. We wrote a note and dropped off a treat to the NB firemen (the note was awesome... scribed by moi and written by Brandi).

18. We wrote a note and dropped off cookies to the other 5 girls and the staff members who live and work in the group home that Brandi lives in.

19. We volunteered at a soup kitchen AND
19 1/2. I wore a skirt there (bad idea, but it's hard to do 35 acts of kindness when you have a full-time job - next time I am bringing a change of clothes to work).

20. I told each of my siblings that I love them and why. (Sadly, I do not do that nearly enough).

21. We made treats and notes and delivered them to people in need (a guy who was going into surgery, a family that lost a child, a family whose live-in daughter has brain tumors, a lady whose house flooded and a was living in a hotel, and one of Mandy's co-workers who was visiting from out-of-town.).

22. I bought food and a can opener and took it to the lady who was living in a hotel... because when I asked her if there was anything she needed, she said "yes, a can opener" - RANDOM -(the food was just a bonus). Plus, I took my lap top because she asked me if I would help her write a letter to the insurance company. Oy vey... that was a doosie, I couldn't even understand what she wanted to say. But, I sure did try. (P.S. She's Catholic, but she came to the LDS church today... that's right kids - Mormon's rock!).

23. I signed up to give Christmas to a family in need.

24. I gave all of the books I have already read to the local library.

25. I bought toys and donated them to a local toy drive. (Jackie went with me and she bought some too)! Some kids are going to be super stoked at Christmas!

26. I offered to babysit for a single mom.

27. I signed up to be a permanent volunteer for an organization called Women Helping Women (a place where they help battered and unemployed women find jobs). I will be fixing resumes a few hours a week in order to help people be more marketable in the workforce. This one was awesome. Because when I had my volunteer orientation they asked me what my qualifications were. And, I told them I had a Bachelor's Degree in English and for the past 12 years I have been employed as a Business Development Director/Technical Writer. And, they said "Is that it? Anything else?" I knew I should've gotten a Master's Degree... so I could be more qualified for a non-paying volunteer position. Ridiculous.

28. I sent a friend of mine who was having a rough day a love note and an article that I had read that I knew she would LOVE.

29. I volunteered to bring dinner (purchased, not made - don't give me TOO much credit) and consoled a friend who recently lost her job.

30. I gave an old friend a dress I didn't need anymore that I knew would look great on her.

31. I thanked each of the Veterans in my office (and one homeless man) for their service to our country.

32. I went to the store to buy groceries for my roommate who was supposed to bring treats to work, but had to work until 10 pm and didn't have any free time to get the supplies she needed.

33. I packed a shoebox for Samaritan's Purse.

34. I adopted a grandma. I volunteered to visit a lady in an assisted living home every Sunday. This was also a rad experience for three reasons. 1. The assisted living home also asked me what my qualifications were to which I said "um.... well, I HAD two grandmas. And, I am like REALLY good at talking." And, then they asked me if I had any skilled living facility experience. And, I politely said no and also offered up that I was TOTALLY unwilling to change or bathe ANYONE. (I have a very very acute gag reflex); 2. She told me I was young AND pretty AND that she was addicted to Diet Coke (trifecta!!!); and 3. She did not wear any pants. None.

35. Attended a session at the temple.

36. And, this is my last one (one to grow on). I wanted to publicly thank my parents for being wonderful examples to me of charity and kindness. And, I hope I don't embarrass them. But, I came up with a list of things I have seen my parents do in their lifetime that have inspired me and helped make me the woman that I am: paroled people out of jail (only once was it someone in my own family... ahem ADAM... I am sure you are all shocked!), rallied our family every year to donate Christmas to families in need, gave thousands of dollars to hurricane victims, housed a student going to medical school for free, my mom gave her mother's day gift to another mother who was having a rough year, gave enough fast offerings every single month so their ward would never have to borrow from the coffers of the church while my dad was Bishop, my dad has served as Bishop twice (so I can't even begin to imagine how many people he's moved!), my mom nursed a dying friend AND my parents agreed to adopt her daughter when she asked them if they would, my dad walked a fatherless friend down the aisle on her wedding day, my mom has picked up and purchased food and supplies for many single moms, my mom worked in the LDS temple for 5 years and served as a Relief Society President, my parents feed the hoards of lonely people (and some of their kids) every Thanksgiving, they have contributed in purchasing and retro-fitting a home for a friend who was in a terrible accident, they have given away at least 2 cars and more of our old or sometimes current clothes and toys than I can even remember, they housed 7 family friends after their house burned in a fire, they have babysat for dozens and dozens of people under numerous circumstances, they have been honorary parents to several people who don't have great relationships with their own parents, my dad hugs EVERYONE... EVERYONE and I can't remember him EVER saying anything unkind, EVER! (Can you imagine?!?!?). And, I won't even begin to go into all the things they have done for their five children. Words can not even express how grateful I am for their examples.

Another person I would love to have dinner with is the former Prophet of my church, Gordon B. Hinkley who said "ordinary people who faithfully diligently and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results." In due time, I can only hope to become one of those "ordinary people".


Kari said...

That was a lot of reading, but I did it all! haha.

Way to go Ali! Wow, that was all awesome. I got choked up a few times there. (I think part of that is because I'm PMSing and crazy, but I think I would've gotten choked up on a non-crazed day, too.)

Pierce + Stacy Thiot said...

Did you just wake up and say, "I want to make Stacy cry today" ??? Because it worked. And yes, I read the entire thing... word-for-word.


I saw that lady's status on Facebook as well and thought that was really neat and since forgot... so thank you for the reminder. I need to be better about giving service.

Can we be friends since we live close and we're related? I'd like that. I need to see you more often. Okay. Love you!

Erin said...

Hugs Ali - sure miss you! Come visit soon... we have a guest bed you know :) Maybe you can come in February and help me with 30 acts of kindness?! Thanks for your example!

Reyna said...

You are awesome, and so clearly the daughter of your incredible parents. When I got to the part about Jan and Phil I cried....they really are the most amazing people and I love them so much and I LOVE YOU!! I think you're onto something with this whole 35 acts of kindness thing. I have a few months to figure out what I want to do for my 35th. Thanks for being you.

Chelsea said...

This is so great! Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

Sandra Nixon said...

Wow I love it!! Thanks for sharing. I really feel inspired to do more. You are such a great person:)

Amanda said...

Yep, made me cry too. And laugh. You are great Miss Ali.