Thursday, April 26, 2007

Smile Cards - Pay It Forward

Smile Cards!

Starting in September of 2003, smile cards began appearing all around the world. They are markers of a newfangled game of tag, where "you're it" because someone has done something nice for you. Then it's your turn to do something nice for someone else and, in the process, pass the card along. This is a game of pay-it-forward: anonymously make someone smile, leave behind a card asking them to keep the ripple going. It's easy and fun. Is kindness truly contagious? There's only one way to find out ...

Join in the fun!

My Smile Card Story

--posted by Richard on Mar 8, 2007

About a month ago I learned about "smile cards," which can be found at Smile cards are "an experiment in anonymous kindness," as stated on each card.

Each card, when used in the spirit intended, serves at least two immediate purposes. One, it becomes the physical marker of an event of anonymous kindness. This is important because, physically persisting, it can serve as the template for the perpetuation of the idea of itself: new acts of anonymous kindness. As an object carrying an explanation of itself, it also will serve as a reference point for the recipient of the anonymous act of kindness who, besides being grateful may well be befuddled. Anonymous acts of kindness verge on the incomprehensible to most of us in this culture. The mere idea remains a little shocking. Imagine how disorienting it might be to receive an anonymous act of kindness oneself! It could be both discombobulating and bejooberating at the same time! It's easy to see how one would need to look again at the card to double-check on what just happened. And on the back of each card, the explanation is there: "someone reached out to you with an anonymous act of kindness. Now it's your turn to do the same. Do something nice for someone, leave this card behind, and keep the spirit going."

Ten minutes after putting the card in your pocket you'd start doubting what happened. Did that really happen to me? And you'd reach in your pocket and pull out the smile card to read it again.

And so, out of the confusion, the gratitude, the disorientation any act of anonymous kindness is likely to induce, each card remains as the gentle, orienting reminder to the recipient of what happened. Thus it points toward a realignment, perhaps the beginning of a new attitude, one of greater alertness to whatever is taking place around one, especially with regard to others.

Smile cards came into my life about a month ago. The act that made me aware that the idea of the smile card had sunk in a little might seem trivial. Driving up to a stoplight, as I passed by a driver, I noticed he suddenly realized he needed to get over into my lane. But it was too late. I watched to see if he could get in behind me, but the driver behind me refused to make space. So he was stuck in the wrong lane beside me waiting at the red light. I reached out my window and made a hand signal: cross over in front of me when the light changes. He did and waved his thanks. A few minutes later, I noticed that I had a smile on my face, and I hadn't even used one of the smile cards I had in my shirt pocket!

--Richard, editor Works & Conversation

Reader Comments
sewingsphynx wrote: At all times those smile cards serve as an inspiration to do good. The ripple effect is alive and well!

sheetal wrote: dear richard
random acts of kindness have a way of becoming a way of life once practiced often...
glad its become a way for you,

tambu wrote: Thanks for passing on the love, Richard!

Join in the fun! Get your smile cards, read up on some kindness ideas, and get started!

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