'Truly, I believe that you have two hands - one to help yourself, and one to help others'.
Earlier this year, Hillary Sadlon turned 22. For her birthday, she didn't want gifts and cards and cake. The perfect present, says Hillary, was being able to spread a little kindness and make people smile.
It's becoming quite a phenomenon, this: People using their birthdays - occasions that, by their very nature, are self-focused - as an excuse to get out there and help others. Hillary, a senior at Seton Hall University, admits that it's not an original idea, and that she decided to do it after reading about a similar thing online. This is an important point to make, for it underlines that doing good deeds can prove infectious and that, if we set an example in the way in which we live our lives, others are sure to follow.
'Truly, I believe that you have two hands - one to help yourself, and one to help others', explains Hillary, who was joined on her kindness quest by Evan Reed, her boyfriend, and best friend Meghan Cox. 'When we were done, we were in the best mood you could ever imagine, and that's what I wanted for my birthday. Your birthday is supposed to be a happy day, and that's what it was. Making someone else smile makes you want to smile'.
Calling the project Hillary's 22 Random Acts of Kindness, the benevolent trio carried out good deeds in five cities in two states, spending ten hours on their goodwill tour. The acts themselves included handing over supplies to an animal shelter, bringing brownies to neighbors, clearing away shopping carts at Walmart and donating blood.
'This [the blood donation] goes back to me being a nursing major,' says Hillary. 'I know the importance [of this and I know] that one of the problems is getting the younger generation to donate blood. Of all the people able to donate, just 5% do. So I was really happy to do this for them'.
During the day, Hillary's good deeds met with obvious gratitude and it was this - the connections made and the basic human contact - that proved the most rewarding aspect of all. 'We went up to an elderly couple at Walmart and offered to load their groceries into their car,' she says. 'When I explained who I was and what I was doing, they kept saying 'Bless you, there needs to be more kindness in the world, you're so inspiring'. They wanted a picture of us to take back home to Florida and I love that we could spread the kindness to them and that they'll go back and talk about what happened when they were in New Jersey. When we did all the different acts, it was so heartwarming. I hate to say it, but the way society is today, it's kind of hard to approach a stranger and have them accept your kindness. There was an apprehensiveness in the beginning, but every time I approached someone and explained what I was doing, the kindness was accepted and not a single person turned us down'.
Hillary's birthday ended with a special visit to see her grandmother. 'I love my nana,' she adds. 'She's full-blown Italian and, whenever you come, she's like 'How long are you staying?' and 'Can I feed you?' but this time I said 'Nana, we have to pass on the food but this [weeding the yard] is what we want to do for you.
'It means so much when people say 'I'm going to have my kids do this' and I want to get it out there because the more people who see it, [the better]. It hits everyone differently, and people go about it in their own way, but hopefully, although it's kind of a cliche, it can maybe make the world a better place,'
Here at OM®, we're in full agreement and we'd like to congratulate and thank Hillary, Evan and Meghan: For making a difference in other people's lives. For inspiring and encouraging others to do the same. For underlining that good deeds are infectious and that human contact counts. For proving that a little kindness goes a long way. Here's to making the world a better place . . .