Read how Lisa Bendall made doing good deeds a part of her everyday life and find out how to adopt the same mantra yourself.
It’s an ordinary weekday, and I’m juggling ordinary duties in my home ofﬁce: researching and writing, making phone calls, doing a load or two of laundry. Amid these tasks, I pop across the street to clear up an elderly widow’s computer problems. I mix up batter and throw a batch of chocolate cupcakes into the oven, to be given away to some rather reclusive neighbours. None of these acts takes long, and none is difﬁcult or costly.
Not long ago, I would have been surprised by how easy it is to lend a hand, brighten a day or make a difference. But now I’m not. That’s because I achieved my goal of doing a good deed every day for 50 days straight. Am I some kind of bleeding heart? No way. Was a good deed a day a daunting concept? You bet.
Most of my days are hectic. I’m a hands-on mum to Emily, now ten. My husband, Ian, and I work full-time. When I’m not at my desk, earning a living as a freelance writer, I’m cooking, cleaning, paying bills. I take my daughter to school, choir and swimming lessons. I provide assistance daily to my husband, who is a quadriplegic. Like millions of others, I’m short on time and careful with spending.
It’s a sad reality that many of us ﬁnd ourselves just too busy to contribute to our communities or the world at large. For a long time, I, too, believed it cost too much in time, money and energy to make a real difference. But all that changed when I started my good-deed-a-day project. My daughter was my primary inspiration. She already knew we supported a foster girl in Egypt, donated our used clothing, gave change to door-to-door collectors for charity. But I wanted to show her we could do more, so I resolved to do a good deed a day for 50 days.
The ﬁrst week, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I browsed the internet for ideas and looked for potential acts of kindness to ﬁll my daily quota. One day, I cleared a handicapped-parking spot of shopping trolleys. Another day, I guided a blind man at the train station. He beamed as he thanked me.
Sometimes, I had to go out of my way to ﬁnd something kind to do, which meant straying from my comfort zone. I gathered up rubbish at the playground, disconcertingly aware of other families watching. I could only hope I was sparking ideas in others.
After just a few days, though, I found it easier than I’d expected. I felt almost guilty for the smallness, the simpleness, of the deeds I was doing. I was slotting them into our jam-packed lifestyle in a way that suited me. But wasn’t that the point? That good deeds don’t have to be taxing? And even though most of what I’d done was small potatoes – I hadn’t funded an orphanage or saved a life with the Heimlich manoeuvre – I knew I was making a difference.
Of course, being a do-gooder wasn’t without hazards. One day, on a bus, I was squatting to pick up newspapers when a woman pushed past, scraping the top of my head with her oversized handbag. I returned home with a headache, but still a sense of a job well done. Other good deeds went ﬂat.
I went to donate blood, but after fruitless poking at my inadequate veins, I was sent away. Another time, I tried to give food to a homeless person, only to have it rejected because she was vegetarian. (She gladly accepted some coins instead.) On day 50, I congratulated myself for rising to the challenge. I had done it! More importantly, I learned that three quarters of my good deeds had taken less than 15 minutes to do. Three quarters of them had cost no money. And yet these acts had surely made an impact.
On day 51 to my own surprise, I felt compelled to throw away rubbish left in a public cloakroom. As it turned out, 50 days of good deeds had established a habit in me that has continued ever since. I now do many more good deeds than I used to, as does the rest of my family.
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