LOL (Love Out Loud)
Article for Foster City Parents Club September
I’m thankful for the opportunity to write about loving out loud and doing a little good in the world, because this has occupied much of my head and heart space for the past five years. I hope that you find my learnings useful and that you join in on making kindness and compassion fun, constant and contagious =)
A Snippet of MyJourney
My views on doing good five years ago looked very different than they do today. Sure, I donated time, money and goods, but I did so prescriptively...and if I were being really honest, not very generously. I was “that person” who when the pastor gave “that sermon” about tithing, I started analyzing what that “really meant”. I’d rationalize that if I added up all the money we gave to charity and offerings and tithes, it got close to 10%...or I’d think, “10% of net not gross, right??” Was I giving? Yep. Was I giving joyfully? Nope.
My husband has always been more altruistic than me =), but back then, as a family, we didn’t have a giving strategy. We gave indiscriminately; there wasn’t a common thread to the causes we supported, we didn’t have goals, and when we gave, it was more reactive than intentional.
And so it was that as a family we developed a clear philanthropic philosphy. (If you’re curious as to what ours is, shoot me a note, would be happy to share. =) And ironically, it was applying business practices to our personal life that began my journey of thinking with my heart, and not just my head.
O+ (oh positive), achoo and hi five
When I left my cushy corporate job (that’s another article entirely… ;) and started thinking about what I was going to do when I grew up, I knew this new “heart thinking” had to somehow be a part of this new chapter of my life. And so in my planning of rec room creative, our DNA was designed around LOL (Love Out Loud), which I define as organized and random acts of kindness. It informs many of the decisions we make as a business and is a small way of contributing to our local communities and doing a little good in the world.
LOL also helped bring our mascots into existence! achoo got his name because what do you say when someone sneezes? “Bless you!”
hi five the starfish was inspired by The Starfish Story. I’m including it below because it’s just soooo good.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
And lastly, O+ (oh positive), the non-disease carrying mosquito, was inspired by the African proverb, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try locking yourself in a room with a mosquito.”
I recently met an amazing mom at rec room creative, and after she’d shared some of her story with me, I’d asked her, “I’m curious given everything you’ve accomplished and been a part of professionally, how has this impacted your personal giving or philanthropic philosophy?” I’m going to paraphrase her response, but the net of it was that she had become incredibly jaded. If the smartest people and millions and millions of dollars couldn’t change anything even temporarily, why even try? But during the course of our conversation she’d also mentioned an elderly neighbor that lived alone. She and her family visited him regularly to simply spend time with him, and to also deliver food and freshly baked cookies on occasion. She didn’t share that in the context of generosity, but in the context of chatting about our neighbors and neighborhoods. And so I shared about our mascots and told her, “You may not be actively working to improve the lives of thousands anymore, but know that you and your family are making a profound difference in the life of one person, and that matters.”
Lately it feels like we’ve all somehow been transported into some kind of apocalyptic film. Charlottesville, Cancun and Los Cabos, Houston...and so many other atrocities happening every day all around the world. It’s paralyzing isn’t it? The depths of human depravity, the magnitude of destruction...what can any one person possibly do to make a difference?
If you feel paralyzed, or your actions simply haven’t caught up with your intentions, let me encourage you to start small, and to engage your littles. Ask them how they would go about creating smiles in the community. It’s inspiring and amazing to hear what they come up with!
I’ll share some things we do to get the ideas flowing. Sometimes we pay for the person ahead of us in line, or behind us when there are tolls. We keep socks for the homeless in our cars. Sometimes we just offer a word of encouragement to a harried cashier. Not too long ago, we saw a homeless gentleman outside of Safeway in San Mateo. We asked if he wanted dinner, and he replied that he’d love a sandwich and a Pepsi. So we went in and my girls chose a sandwich from the deli menu. A man was checking out in front of us and overheard me chatting with my girls. He asked if we were buying the man outside dinner. We replied that we were. He then went on to order three more sandwiches and sodas and said he felt he now needed to buy food for some folks he drove by everyday on his way home from work. Creating smiles doesn’t require tons of time and money, just a willing heart and a little action...and a little good can be contagious =)
During summer camp at rec room creative this past month, we started each day with story time to set the day’s intentions, we chose a ‘word of the day’ from the book - like consideration for example, and the campers struck a pose whenever that word was said (anyone remember Pee-Wee Herman’s secret word of the day?! ;), and we went on a couple LOL adventures.
On the first day of camp, I gave each camper a $5 bill and we walked to Starbucks. They had fun selecting their gift cards (the designs are cool aren’t they?!) and purchased them themselves. And we talked. A lot. About homelessness and poverty and mental illness, and how blessed we were, and how we had to practice kindness, and how we had to practice safety while carrying out acts of kindess, etc. They then got to decide where the gift cards would be kept - one camper opted for mommy’s wallet but first warned mommy that it wasn’t for a latte for said mommy (hahahaha!) Another day we also asked them to select items from their pantries or the store based on CALL Primrose’s needs list. They loaded up a wagon, and we pulled that wagon to the non-profit. They had a blast loading up and carrying their donations into the service elevator, loading the basket and touring the facility. They had TONS of awesome-sauce questions for the Director, and enjoyed meeting some of their clients.
It’s true that there is a lot of darkness in this world. But it’s also true that the smallest flicker of light can overcome darkness. The possibilities to create smiles is limitless, and can be lots of fun with friends. Start small and do something. Then from there, determine what it is that’s yours to do.
Be like achoo, O+ and hi five - we’ll be cheering you on as you LOL!