Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.
I just finished the book 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change your Life by Linda Cohen.
Linda graciously sent me a copy after seeing an inquiry I posted looking for stories for my Philanthropy Friday series. She noted that the book might be a fit with my work. She was right.
The book is about a project she took on after the death of her father. She set out to perform 1,000 mitzvahs in her father’s memory. She tells me “though a mitzvah is actually a commandment in Judaism, it has also become synonymous for doing acts of kindness. The book is inspiring others to take on their own mitzvah projects both individually and as communities.”
In fact, Linda has been getting wonderful reviews for the book and was recently featured in the national spotlight on Fox’s show called “Better TV.”
Linda didn’t set out to change the world. She simply wanted to perform acts of kindness to honor her father. She found that the cumulative effect of the project not only helped her in her grieving, it also made a huge positive impact on her life.
I really enjoyed reading the book. It’s a pretty quick read and covers the various mitzvahs she completed after her father died. Each chapter has a different theme – food, volunteer work, donations, environmental conscience, birthdays, death and grieving, etc. – and includes short stories about the mitzvahs performed.
The neat thing is that just about anyone can complete these simple acts of kindness. Throughout the project, Linda observed how easy it was to do good deeds and to notice when others do good deeds as well. She chronicled her mitzvahs on her blog and continues to post daily mitzvahs on her Facebook page.
A few of my favorite examples included making sure that the next person in the public bathroom has toilet paper, using reusable bags on vacation, recognizing someone who has done a good job, taking the time to send handwritten notes to thank people, and telling someone how they have affected you. Simple stuff that we can do every day and will put a smile on other people’s faces.
I loved the fact that her husband and kids got into the project as well, even discussing whether or not certain acts even counted as a mitzvah. And you could see how the project helped the entire family give more.
By the way, this is not a religious book, and you certainly don’t need to be Jewish to appreciate it. Not being Jewish myself, I found that I actually learned quite a bit about the traditions of Judaism. An added bonus I didn’t expect.
I’ve often noted on this blog that performing small good deeds can make a big impact on another person’s life. They can also help you feel happier. The more I explore the concept of philanthropy and the ways in which we all can contribute, the more I think about doing these simple acts of kindness in everyday life. Or, “spontaneous kindness” as Linda described in her book.
Just the other night, my husband and I were out having a drink of wine, enjoying the fact that we had a babysitter for a short time. It was getting later, and we were the last people in the restaurant. We were sitting in the bar area at a table. When we were all ready to leave, my husband picked up our glasses and set them on the bar. He only walked a few feet, but a man who also worked at the restaurant, looked at us in disbelief and said, “Wow. Thanks.”
He didn’t have to bring our dirty glasses to the bar, and most people wouldn’t even think to do this. But my husband took the extra few seconds to walk a few extra feet and save the waitstaff a little bit of time in the clean up process. Not a huge act, but you could tell it was very much appreciated by the staff.
And all I could think was, “Hey, we just performed a mitzvah!”