Without warning Biddeford, Maine experienced a tornado of kindness on Thursday. Residents were lifted up and spirits were tossed into unfamiliar territory as Michael Chase of the Kindness Center churned up a whirlwind of “100 acts of kindness in 100 minutes.”
At ground zero, the back of his truck parked behind city hall in the small downtown area, Michael dispensed from a large board 100 kindness cards containing action items for the volunteers to complete. Young kids handed out flowers and balloons to strangers and passers-by, who, often wanted to help with the kindness challenge themselves.
“Give me #56,” demanded a new recruit. When he turned the card over, it instructed him to go collect 12 non-perishable items for the local food pantry. He dutifully returned with a bag of groceries which the Kindness Center later donated.
Two young men were just coming from a meeting with their probation officer and asked what was going on. They immediately volunteered, but added a caveat, “But first, can I tell my probation officer? Let him know we’re doing something good?”
In the small town of 30,000 Michael Chase has become known as the “Kindness guy”. It fits. Though he was a professional portrait photographer for 16 years he gave it up recently, he says, to “pursue a career in kindness”. Chase, 38, wants to get the message out to schools and businesses about the benefits of doing something good for the community, but also of being kind to yourself.
It acted like a gentle breeze, kindness card #32, which directed the volunteer to do just that: Take 30 minutes to do something good for yourself – go have a cup of coffee and read a book!
The 100 minute kindness spree started at 6:00pm and was set to end at 7:40. People were taking a card and completing the kindness, then racing back to say ‘Give me another one!”
One volunteer joined a tree planting group at the cemetery to help them beautify the landscape, another bought coffee for someone. One picked up trash, another bought ice cream.
“Some people had such a hard time stopping,” Michael told the Good News Network by phone yesterday.
“One girl was really scared. She drew a card that said, ‘Go up to 8 strangers and give them a kindness card’.” These cards were to be handed out with a flower and they ask the person who receives the kindness to ‘pass it on’.
“She was invited by a friend and I don’t think she wanted to be there,” Chase recalled. “But then, after giving out a few flowers, she became a kindness junkie. She was just glowing.”
Another guy was thrown into unfamiliar territory when he picked a card that required someone to volunteer to call out BINGO numbers at a local nursing home.
“This guy was not into it, his girlfriend made him come,” said Chase. “We never expected that he would go.”
But he did not refuse, or, ask for another assignment. He returned after playing BINGO with the seniors, and he said, “That was awesome.” He really enjoyed it.
Each month, The Kindness Center is dedicated to projects that promote a spirit of kindness throughout our community.
On April 15-16, The Kindness Center ventured out on a non-stop day of performing spontaneous acts of kindness. Joined by his kindness crew, Michael Hallahan and Tracy Chaplin, Michael Chase spent a full 24 hours on the streets of Southern Maine (without sleep) looking for anyone that could use a hug, helping hand, or a dose of kindness. Random acts included everything from buying coffee for strangers, paying for people’s movie tickets, free city bus rides, handing out balloons, flowers and cookies, visiting schools and nursing homes, working in soup kitchens, and helping the homeless. Over 200 acts of kindness were performed.
Sign up for the Living Kindness newsletter on Michael’s lovely website here, at TheKindnesCenter.com.