As mentioned in my last column, I love the fact that April is national volunteer month. It encourages us to pay tribute to the many people who make a difference for the university. It honors the VCSU promise “Difference Makers—Become One.”
The great thing about becoming a difference maker is that the impact is threefold. Research has established that when one person does something kind for another person, and someone else happens to witness that act of kindness, in that one moment three people benefit: the difference maker, the recipient, and the witness. Research also indicates that random acts of kindness improve health and life satisfaction, increase energy and self-worth as well as optimism and a sense of belonging and connection in the world. Amazing!
As I was thinking about how witnessing one simple event can bring happiness and optimism to others, I immediately remembered the absolute joy of being part of the presentation team at Fort Hays State last October when Amanda Thompson won the National Disability Institute’s “My American Dream” video contest.
Amanda was a college student who acquired a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following a car accident. Not only did she complete college, but at the time of the award Amanda was pursuing a master’s degree in communication disorders to achieve her dream of becoming a speech therapist to help other people living with TBIs. This annual contest encourages people with disabilities to share their dream—to demonstrate that having a career, succeeding in college, and achieving financial independence is an important American Dream for everyone.
The surprise presentation happened during one of Amanda’s classes. I will never forget the moment—the pride, the joy, the hopefulness. That day the benefit of kindness was not threefold, but rather 33-fold!
As I think about national volunteer month and being a difference maker, I am also reminded about the many nuances of difference-making celebrated through a variety of events such as Administrative Professional Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, World Kindness Day, and National School Counselors Week.
In fact, April 30 is Pay It Forward Day. In the spirit of Pay It Forward Day, I call on all VCSU difference makers to be the change you want to see in the world. Colleagues, let’s pay it forward with random acts of kindness. And to see our one-day impact, if you are on social media, post your act using the hashtag #2015DifferenceMaker.
Need some ideas to get started?
1. Send a positive text message to five people.
2. Tape an envelope on a vending machine with some money in it and a note saying “enjoy a drink and snack.”
3. Surprise a neighbor with freshly baked cookies.
4. Donate towels or blankets to an animal shelter.
5. Pick-up litter.
6. Clean windshields of cars in the parking lot.
7. Compliment a parent on well-behaved children.
8. Leave positive Post-it notes on the mirrors in public bathrooms.
9. Write your significant other a list of things you love about them.
10. Tape coins around a playground for kids to find.
If you need more ideas, check out the following:
1. Facebook: www.facebook.com/therandomactsofkindnessfoundation
2. YouTube: www.youtube.com/randomactsofkindness
3. Twitter: twitter.com/rakfoundation
4. Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/rakfoundation/kindness-ideas
Jean Jacques Rousseau asked, “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” To that I reply none, and that is why as a VCSU Difference Maker, it is a great day to be a Viking!