Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Kindness Chain-Gifting Experiment #1

--by twocents, posted Oct 26, 2006

"A" is a struggling, but brilliant, cookbook author in rural Washington.  "M" is his friend in Brooklyn, New York, who financed the cost of publishing the first edition "A's" cookbook.

I secretly purchased 10 copies of "A's" book --  my gift to "A" as well as to "M".

"L" is a former personal chef now working for a natural foods start-up in Austin, Texas.  The kind of gal who not only would enjoy "A's" cookbook, but whose active use of it at dinner parties and events would effectively sell many more cookbooks as the guests inquired about these innovative and refreshing recipes.  Both "A" and "L" benefit tremendously by "L" getting "A's" book, sooo...

...I drop one copy off (and some mail-money!) with "P", a retired software engineer and budding artist, in Seattle, WA.  "P"'s assignment is to send "A's" book to "L" along with a smile card and anonymous note encouraging her to pay-it-forward.

As part of the chain, "P" gets to put down the name of two of her friends along with 1 idea for each about something that "L" can do to pay-it-forward to one of them.  "L" must encourage the anonymous friend of "P" to pay-it-forward to one her own friends.  A chain letter of kindness, with gifts included!

Confused yet?

Recap:  I gift to A & M by buying a cookbook they produced, then pass it off to P.  P sends it to L with two suggested gifts that L can use to pay-it-forward to a friend of P.  Hopefully, L does that, and writes down two names and two gifts of her own friends, such that the friend of P will then do something kind to the friend of L.

Everyone wins!  And keeps winning! 

If spam can propagate around the world, if silly videos can be virally distributed to large numbers of people, why can't gifts of kindness be propagated through our address books and mailboxes as well?  I get to stay anonymous (only "P" knows what I'm up to because she gets instructions) while also feeling more confident that the kindness I start is tangibly rippling to friends, friends of friends, and theoretically (six degrees out) eventually everybody.

What are your thoughts on how to improve this basic concept?

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Readers Comments

Rav wrote: Robert,

There has been much discussion around this with some groups. One argument was that no act of kindness was truly random b/c the giver had thought out what they were going to do (in moment or premeditated). In my mind the term random acts of kindness is more applicable from the recipient's perspective.
Rav wrote: I love taking part in 'outsourced' kindness acts and this is a perfect example:). I've helped organize many acts in this manner and I would say you have done everything I would have done. The only improvement to the concept is to find your next recipient.
Robert Rodriguez wrote: How do you know what act of kindness is random and what is from a good heart? Or are they the same?

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