A Day Of Miracles, Cupcakes And Smiles
--by sonrisa, posted Sep 8, 2009
One evening in July, a few friends and I decided we would get together to brainstorm an idea for a local Smile Card event in London -- something we could do as a group to share smiles anonymously and cultivate kindness in our hearts. We came up with a few suggestions and then picked an idea that got everyone excited and moved ahead with planning it – we were going to bake and decorate 200 cupcakes, buy a bunch of sweets, make some fun smile posters and give it all away at Hyde Park! Our little team of 6 people spent a month planning every fine detail from inviting friends to get involved, baking cupcakes ahead of time, buying supplies, getting t-shirts that say SMILE and a banner with a giant Smile Card on it and visiting the park ahead of time to find the perfect spot for the event. A special thanks to Bluebell for sending us a package of her lovely homemade Smile Cards and pay-it-forward wristbands, which would prove to be a huge hit, especially with the kids!
It all came together last Sunday, August 23rd, as 17 of us joined hearts to spread smiles in London! Everyone arrived at our home in the morning, rolled up their sleeves and got busy with preparations for the event: some made colourful posters with fun phrases on them like “Smile, there’s nothing stopping you”, “Give me a smile” and “Help Wanted: Smiles Needed”; the cooking team made icing and beautifully decorated over 200 cupcakes with colourful designs and smiley faces that would be hard to refuse; some wrote inspiring kindness quotes on napkins to serve with the cupcakes; and others planted a GenerosiTree on a big board filled with loads of kindness ideas that people could pick off. We had a brief discussion over lunch to understand more deeply why we are doing this, to review plans for the afternoon including roles and to go through a pre-prepared list we made of questions that passers-by would commonly ask and their answers, so that everyone felt prepared before heading to the park.
At 2pm, we arrived on the Broad Walk at Hyde Park, set-up our goodies, split up into teams and began spreading smiles! The couple of hours provided us all with the ultimate experience to cultivate kindness in our own hearts and connect with people in that spirit! Our afternoon started with a visit from the Police – and no, it wasn’t the parks police -- it was the Metropolitan Police! I must admit, I got a little nervous as I thought they had stopped two of our friends in their tracks and I was worried that the police would ask why we didn’t have a permit to give out food, etc. Only later did I find out that in fact our friends had screamed, “Smile!” at the police in the car to stop them, walked right up with big smiles on their faces and tagged them with cupcakes and smile cards! The police were intrigued by what our friends shared with them, and though they politely declined the offer of a cupcake, they took a smile card and said they’d like to pay-it-forward, as it’s sometimes challenging to make people smile in their profession.
Passersby from around the world (London is indeed very international) stopped by to give us a smile, find out what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, take photos and videos, and to take a smile card along with them so that they could pay-it-forward. Some teams went around the park in pairs with a smile poster and a tray of cupcakes and sweets, while others engaged in lively conversations with people who stopped by the table. We even had a few in-house photographers capturing all of the moments!
Children were so fascinated by the GenerosiTree and loved that they could literally pick off a kindness idea and take it with them to remind them to pay-it-forward! Some people covered their eyes, so as to pick an idea randomly, while others studied all the ideas very carefully before they picked one that struck a chord in them. Other adults and parents came by and said they were so delighted to see people doing something like this – some wondered if we’re there every week! Some were cynical (surprise, surprise, this is London after all :)), but we saw many of the cynics transformed through the course of a heart-to-heart conversation with a friendly person in a SMILE t-shirt and by the end, many had an epiphany of, “Oh, I get it!” with big smiles on their faces. Even Stirling, the adorable black lab, joined us for part of the day playing with his ball with a smiley face!
At the end of the afternoon, we all regrouped for a Circle of Sharing about everyone’s stories and how the day helped them to cultivate kindness, and as you can imagine, it was heart-melting stuff :)
- "B" and "K" met two ladies from America, who asked them to do a video clip for them, so that they could go and show their grandkids, family and friends that "kind people do exist". They were completely blown away by the fact that young kids were out on a Sunday making people smile, just because…
- As "AM" walked around with a smile poster and goodies, some guys stopped him and said, “Hey, I know you guys. I’ve seen you in Central Park in New York!” A shout-out to our friends in NYC for all you do to make New Yorkers smile and spread kindness :)
- Some folks met people who actually paid the kindness forward right in front of their eyes -- from making strangers smile at any cost to hi-5’ing random people in the park, including "J" as she walked along with a smile poster!
- "AK" came across a little boy who smiled big before helping himself to a cupcake and then told his little sister that she had to show her best smile before she could have one too -- and after a little bit of convincing, she did and it was so cute!
- "R" had a lengthy conversation with a typically cynical Londoner, who couldn’t get her head around why anybody would do this. Then as she began to share stories and explain how it all works, the lady suddenly said, “Oh, I get it. It’s like when I leave change in the ticket machine at a train station for the next person to use or when I leave unused parking passes at the ticket machine for others to use.” Rakhee had changed the lense through which this lady sees the world!
- "J's" heart melted when she saw the excitement in children's eyes as they reached over to pick an idea from the GenerosiTree and then share it with their parents.
- "KHD's" day started in a panic as her cupcakes took a turn overnight and she felt horrible about disappointing everyone by not bringing along enough cakes on Sunday morning. And then she said her spirit was completely transformed after arriving to help prepare everything in the morning and even moreso within the first 10 minutes of smile action in the park! Read all about her “day of miracles” in her own words– powerful stuff! A preview of it here: “We went on the entire afternoon giving, and giving and giving...our small bowl never seemed to go empty. In fact, most of us would agree that even when our bowl finally was empty, it was indeed full of smiles and good wishes we received, and small moments of transformation that we experienced. It was indeed a fantastic day, just as I knew it would be. It was the miracle of love, giving and baraka.”
- "J and P" thought the highlight of the day was going to be decorating cupcakes until they got to the park and had even more fun giving them all away and spreading smiles!
- "B" approached a couple, who couldn’t believe that we were doing all of this free of charge and just making people smile! She said, “They took pictures with us and I had to explain the whole concept behind it. We only had one pay-it-forward wristband left and her boyfriend took it. The lady really wanted one because she ‘wanted something to remember us by, the people who do nice things and make people smile.’ So, I gave her my wristband and she was really appreciative!”
We hope this may inspire other Help Others members to try out a local "Smile" event in their area! It's really easy, a lot of fun and an incredible experience to deepen our understanding of kindess in a very hands-on way. Here are some basic steps you can follow to get your Smile Event together:
- Invite a few like-hearted friends to get together to brainstorm kindness ideas you can do in a group -- pick one that gets everyone really excited!
- Set-up a quick to-do list online somewhere (we used Google Spreadsheets because it's easy to use) and have everyone sign-up to do different things including buying supplies, scoping out a good location, preparing materials including getting enough Smile Cards, etc.
- Have all members of the planning team email their friends about what you are planning to do and invite them to join you -- you'd be surprised how many of your friends would love to join in the adventure!
- If you want to make a banner or get some t-shirts with the SMILE :) logo made, just contact the HelpOthers team like we did and they'll send you the graphics files you can use to get things printed which look super professional!
- 1 week before the event, email a follow-up note to everyone who is interested in joining with more details including what time and where you are planning to meet, how to get there, what they should/could bring, and generally what the plan is.
- Before the day, review your to-do list to ensure everything is ready to go.
- On the day, get together at one place to prepare everything (eg. in this case, we got together to decorate the cupcakes, make smile posters and make a GenerosiTree). It's great to involve everyone in the preparations so everyone has an opportunity to put their love and energy into making it all happen.
- Once preparations are finished, get everyone together to talk about random acts of kindness, why you are doing this event (the focus being on cultivating internal kindness in our hearts and not on external outcomes of how people react to our kindness). Review detailed plans for the second part of the day and allocate roles so everyone knows the part they will be playing.
- Head out together, set-up and begin spreading smiles!
- Once you are finished with the main activity or you run out of whatever you are gifting, sit together and do a Circle of Sharing about the wonderful stories throughout the day and how the event helped everyone to cultivate kindness.
- Clean everything up (very important so you're not uninvited back to wherever you've set-up) and head home smiling :)
- Post the story on HelpOthers to share your adventures and inspire others to do something too and keep the ripples of kindness going!
Loads of love.
Sounds like you all had a great time doing this,