Stories by JZ (25 matches)

Miles of Smiles

"Right on. This is my kind of protest," he says while going past me. I hadn't thought of it way before. But perhaps it is a protest for lack of smiles in the world. About 15 of us gathered earlier today to create poster boards that we would proudly hold up on busy street intersections of San Francisco. The posters would say simple things like "smile" or "smile anyways" or "spare a smile?" or "smile, it's free". We weren't doing this as a part of any organization but rather as friends and well-meaning citizens of the world. After our morning creative sessions, we split up into teams of four and spread over various intersections on San Francisco's Van Ness Road. My team was at the Lombard intersection, one of the busiest. For the first couple minutes, there's always that awkward question mark on your face -- "I am making a fool of myself?" ... Read Full Story >>

72.1K Reads

Twelve Minute Cab Ride To Penn Station

"Penn Station," I told the cab driver.  The young, heavy-set man peered at me through his sunglasses and motioned me to get in. "I've got to get to JFK airport by 2:30PM.  You think I'll be able to get there via LIRR or should I cab it all the way?" I ask him, as I get comfortable in the back seat.  "Hmmm.  You should be okay.  Yeah, you'll make it.  It will be much cheaper to take the train," he replied in a mild South Asian accent. "Thanks," I told him.  Given his engaging nature, we naturally started a conversation, which went from the weather and quickly veered into the struggles of a cab driver's life.  "How long have you been driving cabs?"  "Three years."  "You like it?"  "It's really hard work.  Not all people are so nice.  I get tired, but what can you do?  You have to pay the bills."  ... Read Full Story >>

54.1K Reads

10th Birthday, Car Washes, and $62.82

It was Neil's 10th birthday party. After a dozen close friends super-soaked each other with water and stuffed themselves with food and cake, this sunny August morning party would be about a different kind of fun -- fun of giving. Today, we decided to "tag" people with free car washes. First up were the signs. Taking all the art supplies and glitter and fancy colored pens, the kids sprawled all over the ground to create couple of large "Free Car Wash" signs; no matter how hard they tried to color inside the lines, these signs had "we are kids" written all over it. Soon enough, we gathered up the sponges, towels and soap and headed to the driveway. "Free Car Wash," we practiced our cheer on practically every car that drove by. To get our act together, though, we rolled in one of our own cars on the driveway. ... Read Full Story >>

35.9K Reads

Power Of A Trashed Pencil

She was a janitor at a school in India.   Her husband died soon after her marriage, she didn't have any family in the area.  She struggled with the responsibility of raising her kids.  For the last twenty years, she's continued to sweep classrooms at local schools. One day, though, she had a radical idea:  I want to give.  It was followed-up by a reasonable yet confusing thought:  But what can I possibly give? When she narrated her desire to a friend, he told her a story.  "Gandhi used to write many letters.  One day, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, a famous Indian author, saw him writing with a tiny pencil and immediately offered Gandhi a bigger pencil from his pocket.  Gandhi politely said that he didn't need it.  The next day, he saw Gandhi scrambling to find his pencil and Kakasaheb again offered him a pencil saying, 'Your pencil was so small anyway.'  Gandhi gently ... Read Full Story >>

22.6K Reads

Unspoken Contract With A Rickshaw Driver

"Where to?" the rickshaw driver asks me with his mouth full of tobacco. "Vijay Char Rasta," I say. I'm headed to meet a few friends to talk about the purpose of life and things like that. :) After some light conversation, the rickshaw driver and I quickly become friends. "Are you from Ahmedabad?" he asks me. "No, I'm just visiting a friend." "Just a visit?" "Yeah, he's opening a restaurant and he wanted my parents to inaugurate it. I'm helping him launch the café." "Café? You mean, it's like a Barista?" he asks showing his knowledge about the trendy coffee joints in town. "No, not quite like Barista. It's called the Seva Café." "Oh, what's that?" "Well, it's a place where most everyone is a volunteer, and no one gets charged for their food. It's going back to our cultural roots, where each person is treated as a ... Read Full Story >>

14.4K Reads

Chocolate Insanity

It was a routine trip. We, my wife and I, are walking back home from the grocery store when we spontaneously decide to walk into a coffee shop. As my wife orders a small cup of coffee at the counter, I huddle our grocery bags under our table and get ready to share some hot coffee on this unusually cold day. Just then, my eyes catch glimpse of a young woman in her thirties escorting a rather frail Mexican woman into the shop. Maybe it was the gentleness of their encounter or a vague familiarity with the circumstances, but something about them grabs my full attention. I immediately feel an impulse to do something for them. Anything. Unfortunately, before I can gather my wits, they leave the coffee shop without ordering anything! When my wife returns, I tell her of my silent encounter. "But I ... Read Full Story >>

9823 Reads

Music of a Stolen Symphony

It's a late night on the streets of New York. Larger-than-life size billboards come alive with their glitz, trying to make you want things that you don't really need. Up ahead, I notice a homeless man who doesn't have the things he really does need. Ironic. "Gift size chocolate bar, one dollar, one dollar," he says while showing a candy bar to people walking by. He's rejected. "Just one dollar." Rejected again. "Candy bar, candy bar for you," he shows it to a child walking with her mom. The mom jerks her kid away and moved further. They say that homeless are used to taking rejections, but seeing the charades ahead of me, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. As I stand next to him, shoulder to shoulder, I pause to see if he will try to sell me ... Read Full Story >>

9189 Reads

Sometimes It Just Takes A Penny

On the street, outside a restaurant door, my wife and I are chatting with friend about some good news in her life.  Right then, a woman comes up to me and asks, "I'm so sorry to interrupt, but I'm really hungry and I'm wondering if you could spare some money?" In our city, there are many pan-handlers, so I typically would just share a kind word and move on.  But somehow I feel moved to do something this time.  Perhaps it was because we were just conversing about some good events happening in our friend's life and I had a sublte sense of paying it forward.  I don't know. "Yeah, sure.  I'll take you to eat dinner today.  Where do you want to go?" I ask the homeless woman. With a surprising smile, she says: "Oh, there a Taqueria just down that street.  I'd love to get a burrito." So the two of us ... Read Full Story >>

9033 Reads

Sunflower and a Frog

He took it out from around his neck and leaned down a bit, his eyes looking straight into mine. "Would you mind?" he asks. Looking at him through his eye glasses, I smile and say, "Of course not, Lee. It would be an honor." And with that, I was garlanded -- probably for the first time in my life -- with a simple necklace. Lee is the epitome of a happy-go-lucky guy. He used to be a trucker, I think. If there were one word to describe him, it would be happy. Or joyous. And what a pure heart. In one of those fits of unadulterated compassion, he just felt like giving me something. So he takes off his own necklace and offers it to me. It was far from an ordinary necklace. In a small town of Oregon, Lee met a Japanese-American fellow selling small hand-made, glass items. While conversing with ... Read Full Story >>

8304 Reads

Wear Smiles

In the middle of lunch, we get a phone call. "Sir, I've got a special package for you." "Special package? Um, ok, I'll come down to get it." "This is for you," the slim, twenty-something guy says with a mischevious smile. "Who is it from?" "It's from an anonymous friend." Actually, in all my excitement I couldn't tell if he said "friend" or "friends" but it didn't matter. With radiant joy for having kind friends, I took a peek inside the box. "Thank you." The kid rushes off as if his 007 mission is accomplished. Inside the box -- guess what? T-shirts. Lots of them, I think about 25-30 of them. Each t-shirt had the same kind of "smile" written on it, the way each smile card has, and a happy face. ... Read Full Story >>

8071 Reads

My Most Prized Possession

When I was on CBS's Survivor - Africa all I had with me were the clothes on my back and my one luxury item of choice: a hackey sack. My hackey sack was my most prized possession, the one item that took me temporarily away from the Survivor game and home to the familiar... and I gave it away. It may sound silly, but it was a tough decision - a real moment of personal truth. I was with a group of other Survivor contestants distributing HIV/AIDS testing kits to a small village in Kenya when I met Milton. Milton didn't have any of the luxuries I had growing up- no TV, no bike, no PlayStation. But Milton's eyes were full of laughter, and they lit up when I produced my hackey sack. I knew exactly how Milton felt, and that I would be leaving my beloved hackey sack with him ... Read Full Story >>

7575 Reads

A Little Red Book

When you buy things with money, you feel like its owed to you. But when you receive something as an offering from someone else, the gift is a reminder of something bigger than yourself and you are filled with a humble reverance for all life. Well, this is a story of one of those gifts. In our middle-class living room, we have three shelves of books. We call it the "open source" bookshelf because any of our guests can take any book and contribute any book to it. No one tracks it; it's all based on trust, even though our home hosts many events with hundreds of different people passing through it. These books are typically of the broader inspiration genre -- there's the general Chicken-Soup-For-Everyone books, self-help books like Power of Now, fictional masterpieces like Siddhartha, sacred texts like the Bible, Koran, the Dhammapada, and Gita, many biographies of ... Read Full Story >>

7261 Reads

Mikey's Kindness Booklet

For their first baby-shower, my cousin and her husband created a very unique kindness theme for everyone to partake in. To support their heartfelt intention, my wife and I decided to surprise them with a booklet that contained many of our favorite stories from the site. The compassion conspiracy, as we soon learned, went way above and beyond our expectations. On Saturday, Michael was running the night shift at the 24-hour Kinkos and flat out said that they won't be able to get the project done that night. We nodded but still carried on with our part of bargain -- photocopying, sorting, printing. Four hours (and many adventures) later, Michael had become Mikey, he knew about deep interest in kindness and we knew about his dream of hittin' it big as a hip-hop DJ. By midnight, our homie says to us: "Alright, ... Read Full Story >>

7113 Reads

Seven Questions on Giving Time

How can giving time be more powerful than spending money?  Below are seven questions of an interview with Nipun Mehta in Healing Life Styles and Spa Magazine: 1.      How is spending time on gifts more beneficial than spending money? In the moment when we spend money for others, there is the deep joy of expressing gratitude, of imagining the recipient's delight and of silently recognizing our interconnection.  It's beautiful.  Yet, it only lasts for that moment.  Instead, when you give time and allow yourself space to experience the process, you witness a long series of those joyous moments.  If spending money is generosity, spending time is like generosity on steroids. :) 2.      Can you please provide some examples of how to spend time? How are these just as rewarding (if not more rewarding) as purchasing a gift? The minute my mom gets invited to a baby-shower, she'll start knitting ... Read Full Story >>

6975 Reads

The Japanese Man, Frank, and Michael

The Japanese man points to my airplane seat, right as I head to the bathroom.  He didn't speak much English, so I just signal that I'll be back in couple minutes.  When I return, we play charades to see if he wants to swap his aisle seat with my window seat.  "Yes, yes," he says with a child-like glee. I am more than happy to oblige.  My window shutter has been down for couple hours of the flight already and I am hardly planning on making any further use of it. Right before he changes seats, he folds his hands and bows as a gesture of gratitude.  It's touching when someone is thankful for something that takes almost no effort on your part. Before he can even get settled in, he slides up the window shutter and curiously looks outside at the clouds.  He's happy.  I can just tell.  And that he's happy, ... Read Full Story >>

6830 Reads

The Happiness Pandemic: HP101

The 'WWO' (World-Wellness-Organisation) foresees billions of people becoming infected within the coming decade! Here are the most prominent symptoms of this wonderful enlivening 'disease': 1). The tendency to let yourself be guided by intuition instead of acting under pressure of fear, forced ideas and pre-conditioned behaviour. 2). A total loss of interest in:- judging others, convicting yourself and preoccupation with things that create conflict. 3). A complete loss of the capacity to worry: This is one of the most serious symptoms! 4). A continual pleasure in appreciating humans and things the way they are, which weakens one's tendency to want to 'change' others. 5). The desire to change oneself so that innate thoughts, feelings, emotions and bodily matters are managed in ways that facilitate only Health, Creativity and Love. 6). Repetitive attacks of smiling - a smile that says THANK YOU and stimulates being at-one with all those around. 7). ... Read Full Story >>

6700 Reads

No Choice But To Do Something

My "You Don’t Have Any Choice but to Do Something" moment ... I owned and ran a book publishing company for many years. During the first Gulf War when we were all watching cruise missiles fly through he air on television and telling ourselves this was a “good” war, I was struck by a small column in a local newspaper that mentioned seeing 'Random Acts of Kindness' graffiti on a freeway overpass. The rest of the story is long and fascinating but I resolved to publish a book of people’s stories about Random Acts of Kindness in their lives. At the time no such thing existed. There were no books of inspirational stories (I know hard to believe now since the Chicken Soup series has beaten it into the ground) but I was worried the book would not be understood so in a moment of panic I stuck a marketing tag on ... Read Full Story >>

6423 Reads

Oprah's 24 Acts of Kindness

January: Adopt your new coworker, take her to lunch and make yourself available for any little question she has. If someone says flattering things about your friends, don't hesitate to let them know they have fans. February: On Valentine's Day, call your single friends just to say, "Hello." If a waiter or a manicurist or plumber does an especially good job, let them know.  Even better, let their boss know. March: Honk your horn only to prevent a car accident. Resist the temptation to lash out when you're in a bad mood. April: Get back in touch with someone who once meant something to you, if only to tell her she made an impact. Offer to share your cab from the train station on a rainy evening. May: If you come across a funny childhood picture of you and your brother, send him a framed copy. If you're out of gift ideas for a friend's birthday, making her favorite dessert will always trump a ... Read Full Story >>

6345 Reads


One of my friends, let's call him Jose, is one of those guys who doesn't even need to say anything and people will just feel comfortable in his presence. He is an amazingly compassionate guy, who will flat out tell you that his purpose in life is to bring more beauty on this planet. No, if's, and's, but's ... clear and simple, unwavering in his life mission. He doesn't need to convince anyone and he can't be swayed from it by anyone else. It's a funny story about how he learned his initial lesson of compassion.   He was madly in love with his high school sweet-heart for many years. He would do anything for her and she was the most important thing in the world to him. Until ... she left him oneday (perhaps she cheated on him before that). It hit him like a bucket of cold water. Never before had he ... Read Full Story >>

5818 Reads

One Size Fits All

We were recently at a concert. The young artists were playing their hearts out but unfortunately, the audience was largely empty. Moved by the artists, my wife felt we ought to do something to support them. Something, anything. The guy next to us, an Italian youngster named Arthur, had become our friend in applause. We just knew that he felt the same way, because at the end of the concert, all three of us stood up to give our own version of a standing ovation for these budding artists. After the concert, we go outside to the front desk and ask the little girl behind the CD-counter. "What is your favorite item? This t-shirt or this CD or this card?" The little girl was also part of the ten-person band; she was the daughter of the lead singer. A little shy, she shrugs her shoulder with ... Read Full Story >>

5791 Reads

Stories With the KeyMaker

Locksmith story ... from last afternoon. A friend of mine loses her purse and all the keys in it. She didn't have any copies of her key, so her white, 4-door car is idly stranded outside my house. I called up a locksmith, to create another key (apparently they can do it in ten minutes -- so much for the illusion of security). In thirty minutes of my phone call, a young man in his thirties rolls through with "Grant" written on the left side of his shirt and "AA Locks" on the right side. He asked me for proof of registration for the car and I told him it wasn't my car. After some hesitation he called his boss on the cell, to check if that's ok; eventually he said yes, figuring that I wasn't really the type of guy who would car-jack a 1992 Toyota Corolla. :) There's a ... Read Full Story >>

5153 Reads

Soulful Strut At MidDay

My wife opens the doors and says, "Man, that lady must be having a really bad day.  She was really rude."  After a slight pause, she adds, "What she really needs is someone to tag her."  "Well, let's do it!", I proposed in an excited tone.  "Who is this lady anyhow?  Any ideas of what she would like?" Two minutes, later: Operation Mid-Day Chocolate to Lady Behind the Counter.  I get a box of new chocolates from the refrigerator and think up a note to write about.  As my wife was walking to an errand earlier in the downtown area, she said the usual "how are you" to a homeless man -- Ronnie -- on the streets; oddly enough, the man responded, "Could be better .... but can't complain."  While returning, she saw him from a distance and thought of ways to "better" his day. With her usual smile, she ... Read Full Story >>

3876 Reads

Pay-It-Forward $20 Tip For An Airport Shuttle Driver

After an inspired weekend with some kindred spirits, I stepped into the airport shuttle.  The shuttle driver offered me two seat options: the shot-gun seat or the seat way in the back of the van.  I said, "You know what, I'm going to take the back seat.   Perhaps the next passenger can enjoy the front seat."  Instantly, he did a double take and smiled.  As I got in, he made a public announcement to the four others already in the van: "This man took the back seat just so someone else could have the front.  What a nice guy!"  Then, he looked at me and said, "Welcome aboard, Sir."  It turns out that John, our driver, has been a long-time native to Santa Fe.  His ancestors, dating back to 1800s, were all based in the Native American communities locally.  "Yeah, I could tell you anything about Santa Fe," he joked ... Read Full Story >>

3547 Reads

It Is In Giving That You Get

It was one of those unexpected moments of generosity that just takes your breath away - I called up my favorite sandwich shop, ordered two veggie hoagies, and arranged to pick them up in ten minutes. Parking places are hard to find around there so my wife dropped me off, saying she would pick me up again in a few minutes.  I walk in and mention my order. "Ah yes! Here you go. That'll be $14.87," the burly man behind the counter said.  I gave him the cash and he handed me my change. As I picked up the napkins he handed me a giant empty glass. "Here you go," he said. "That's for your drink."  I took it, not really sure why he had given it to me. "Um, I actually didn't order a drink," I said and tried to hand him the glass back.  "Oh, I know. Go ahead, help yourself to a ... Read Full Story >>

3298 Reads

Seeds of Kindness Go A Long Ways

"A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The plants sprang up quickly, but they soon wilted beneath the hot sun and died because the roots had no nourishment in the shallow soil. Other seeds fell among thorns that shot up and choked out the tender blades. But some seeds fell on fertile soil and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted."

May all the seeds you plant land in fertile soil, and for the seeds that don't, give them another try.

2756 Reads

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