27 May 2007

Sunday Secret

It's Sunday, and as usual, PostSecret has posted their latest cards.

The above card is a very unusual way to spread happiness anonymously. But, um, whatever floats your boat!

23 May 2007

Toms Shoes: Feel good consumerism

The concept is simple, really. When you buy a pair of shoes, you also buy a needy child a pair of shoes.

Blake Mycoskie founded Toms Shoes after a vacation in Argentina. Struck by the extreme poverty and the fact that many children did not have shoes, he came up with a simple business plan. Mycoskie says:

I was overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little... And I was instantly struck with the desire – the responsibility – to do more... What if I took the traditional Argentine shoe, redesigned it for the U.S.A. and made a commitment to give one pair of shoes to a child in need for every one pair sold?
He's been at this since May 2006, and business is booming. With recent write-ups in Oprah Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and the L.A. Times (just to name a few), it's no wonder why hipsters, fashionistas, movie stars, and the every-day do-gooders are supporting Toms. The fact that this young company is doing so well is a miracle, really, since they made the brazen decision to give away 10,000 pairs before making a profit.

It is important to note that when you support Toms Shoes, you also support the company's credo of no sweatshop labor. All of the materials and products are produced and manufactured in Argentina under the strictest guidelines, ensuring both fair labor practices and minimal impact on the environment. The factory pays a a living wage, does not employ children, and is revitalizing its community, economically.

The coolest part? All the donated shoes are hand delivered and placed on the child's feet by loving volunteer workers. At least 18,000 pairs of shoes have been hand delivered to indigenous children in Argentina, and plans are being made to do shoe deliveries to the children living in the infamous garbage waste-town of La Chureca, Nicaragua as well as children in Africa.

If you'd like to do something kind and anonymous on a global scale and you could use a pair of excellently made and good-looking shoes, I recommend buying a pair of Toms so that a needy child can have shoes, too.

20 May 2007

Confession: Tell 'em how you feel

Every Sunday, PostSecret posts new post cards. If you haven't heard of PostSecret, you are missing out. It's an ongoing project in which people can anonymously send in their confessions on a post card that they themselves have decorated. Every card is poignant. Some are funny, some are sad, and all are intriguing. There are a couple of PostSecret books (which I own and love) as well as the blog with new posts updated every Sunday. I highly recommend checking them out.

So what does PostSecret have to do with Austin Anonymous? Well, I was thinking that it would be a great idea if everyone sent an anonymous post card to an acquaintance (a co-worker, a church friend, etc.) and give them words of wisdom or encouragement where they are in their life right now. The above post card was one of the cards on PostSecret today, and I love it. Those are words I definitely needed to hear, and it made me realize that it would be really cheap and easy to brighten a person's day with a simple postcard.

19 May 2007

Ideas & Inspiration

Here is a list of anonymous deeds you can perform with little or no money:

  • At toll lanes, pay for the vehicle behind you.
  • Buy a few extra stamps and leave them on the counter at the post office.
  • Mow some one's grass when they're not home.
  • Subscribe someone to a magazine you know they'd like.
  • Send someone a card with a handwritten note of general encouragement.
  • If you see someone dining alone, tell your waitress that you'd like to buy their dinner (or a dessert).
  • Wash some one's car.
  • Sweep some one's steps.
  • During finals week at a local college, put fresh baked cookies in a dorm's lobby. Leave a note saying "Good luck on finals! Have some free, fresh baked cookies!"
  • Make a CD of upbeat songs and mail it to a co-worker.
  • Top off about-to-expire parking meters.
  • If your work has coffee in the break room, buy some expensive, flavored creamers and leave them with the standard coffee.
  • Pay for a pizza and have it delivered somewhere.
  • Pay for some one's movie either at the theatre or in the video store.

18 May 2007

Publicity: 'Cause even blogs need it

I have come to realize that in order for this Kindness Experiment to take off, I'm going to have to promote the heck out of this blog. This was something I had not anticipated. I'm an optimist (obviously, right?), and I thought if I had a great idea, surely it would just take off on its own.

Yes, I do realize that I've only been at this blog thing for only five days, however, I realized yesterday that the more people who know about this site, the more people will circulate "You're It!" cards. The more people who circulate the "You're It!" cards, the more awareness is raised toward random acts of kindness.

More importantly, though, I'd like this site to be so well known that it can become a place where a needy family or an organization looking for volunteers can get their needs met.

Therefore, I'd like to offer the following:

  • If you're interested in pre-printed "You're It!" cards, please let me know. I will get you at least five cards and a few stickers, too. You can pass them out to your friends and tell them to do good-deeds. Then you can gab about your random acts of kindness over ice cream.
  • If you'd like to link this blog on your site, I will definitely return the favor.
  • If you email me a story about a senseless act of kindness (either about one in which you were the recipient or even about a time you performed an anonymous act of service), I will send you a hand written thank-you card. People never get snail mail anymore, and it's always a nice feeling when you check the mailbox and there's something in there for you that is not a bill. Who knows, maybe this part of the Kindness Experiment will spawn its own Letter Project. Wouldn't that be exciting?
Also, if any 'net veterans have some advice on how to amp up Austin traffic (to this blog, not on I-35), I would sincerely appreciate the advice. I can be reached at atx.anonymous @ gmail.com.

One day, I hope this blog is a segment on the local evening news (instead of another story about violence). My biggest hope is that this movement will change our communities and the way that we interact with one another. I know that together, we can do it!

Thank you to the websites that I have already linked Austin Anonymous:
That Other Paper
The Austinist

To: Anonymous, From: Andrew

As promised, here is the playlist from the mix CD a thankful Andrew left for me at Half Price Books:

Tai Mahal: Chevrolet
Gong: You Can't Kill Me
Gong: Dynamite: I am Your Animal
Holy Modal Rounders: Indian War Whoop
Funkadelic: Super Stupid
Lightnin' Rod: Doriella de Fontaine
13th Floor Elevators: You're Gonna Miss Me
Atomic Rooster: Time Take My Life
Blue Cheer: Magnolia Caboose Babyfinger
The Modern Art: Forcefield Blues
Old Time Religion: Tigers in the Temple
R.L. Burnside: Jumper on the Line
He writes: "Sorry if you don't like rock, but most people do, and I don't know who you are!"

It's a great CD, and I do like rock, so you guessed correctly. And can I just say that mix CD's are a great way to brighten somone's day? Thank you for the CD, Andrew, and thanks for being Austin Anonymous' first successful mission.

17 May 2007

Our first letter of thanks: Purple Sweats and Gold Recliners

As you may know from the trusty sidebar over there, one of the goals of this blog is to thank anonymous do-gooders. I got the following in my inbox yesterday, and it's exactly what I'm talking about:

When I was getting my very first apartment as an adult out of college, I did like most poor recent graduates and went to the thrift store to look for cheap furniture. I spied two retro crushed velor recliners, and I pined for them. My best friend/ roommate and I only had $20 between us (the deposit and first month's rent was killing us on our waitress salary). We sat in the recliners to deliberate when we could have enough money to come back to pick up the recliners ($25 each).

As we were lamenting, a woman who worked at the store came up to us and asked, "Do you girls have a truck to take these recliners home?"

I said, "No, but we decided that we'll get them some other day."

The lady smiled. "A woman who wishes to remain anonymous just purchased those chairs for you. She said she remembered what it was like to be young and getting your first apartment away from home. Did you happen to see the woman in the purple sweats? She's who you should thank."

My roommate and I were aghast. Unfortunately, we didn't recall seeing a woman in purple sweats, but her kindness awed me. We couldn't believe that a total stranger would buy two kooky girls a pair of funky gold recliners. I was so happy that I cried.
The girl who wrote me the email didn't have a photo of her recliners, but she sent me a link to the above photo and said "our chairs look JUST LIKE the one on the right!!!". Coolness. I love the little old man, too. I hope someone bought him a recliner!

I love these stories, so keep 'em coming. To the Lady in the Purple Sweats, I hope one day someone returns the favor.

About this blog: FAQ style

Why do you call yourself Amélie Anonymous?
I want to remain as anonymous as possible. I have chosen Amélie as the patron saint of this website because in the movie Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, she becomes inspired to perform random acts of kindness for the strangers and loved ones around her. In enriching other people's lives, she found that her own became enriched.

Why do you wish to remain anonymous?
I want to be sure that I'm not doing this for my own glory. Often, people will do something small in hopes that others will say things like “She's so generous!” or “Wow, isn't she wonderful?”. And other times, people will do nice things for others and expect something in return. I wanted to be sure that neither of these things happened. I don't think people always need to be recognized for their gifts of service. Performing the gift of service is a gift within itself.

How did this website come about?
When I watch the news each evening there are always three or four reports about “senseless acts of violence”. While I'm not in denial that violence does occur, it is my belief that “senseless acts of kindness” occur, too. People just don't hear about them. By providing a local forum for people to thank others for anonymous acts of kindness, Austin can be reminded that there is still goodness in mankind.

What do you do?
For a living? Let's just say that my job is flexible enough for me that I can find adequate time to blog and read Craigslist. For fun? I do this and occasionally indulge in some online shopping.

Can you tell us anything more about you? How old are you?
I'm female and I live in Austin. That's all I can say. Of course, you're free to guess. My favorite so far is “i guess I have to assume that you are a ugly big fat girl”. Yes, that is very much a possibility! That's an email quote from a man who was unhappy that I would not tell him more about me and whether or not I'm single. But truth be told, I don't want my identity to be narrowed down any more than it already is by my writing style. I don't think the blog's purpose is dependent on my identity. Would it matter if I'm a 16-year-old student or an 80-year-old grandma? I say it doesn't matter at all.

What's the point of this? Do you really think it's going to make a difference?
In a cheesy way, kind of like that Haley Joel Osment/ Kevin Spacey movie (Pay it Forward), I sure hope so. In a non-cheesy way: the purpose of this blog is three-fold:

  • To make Austin a better place one kind act at a time.
  • To encourage others to take time out to do good.
  • To use this blog as a place to thank anonymous do-gooders.
How can I get involved?
Simple. Start doing nice things for people. Print out our “You're It!” cards to see how your good deed may have affected someone's day (or life). I will make pre-printed cards available for the public if there is enough public interest in them.

NOTE: I'll keep updating the frequently asked questions as more and more questions come in. If you have anything to ask me, please feel free to send me a message to atx [dot] anonymous [at] gmail [dot] com.

16 May 2007

Mission 1: Operation Pen Bouquet

Mission Objective: To secretly deliver a pen bouquet to Andrew.
Target: Andrew, an unwitting victim of a pen robbery.
Operation specs:
3 May 2007, Thursday- Andrew posts a missed connection ad against pen thievery after his own pen was accidentally stolen. He writes:

I never lend people pens, because they never give them back. However, I was willing to take a chance on your returning my pen, as I was sitting next to you. Yet, somehow when I looked up, you were gone, and so was my pen.

I realize it's just a pen, but dammit, dont say "May I BORROW a pen" if you plan on walking away with it.
3 May 2007, Thursday- On behalf of all who accidentally steal pens, I email Andrew and offer to replace said pen, saying:
I didn't take your pen, but I would like to give you one on behalf of all people who accidentally take pens. I will email you back with a secret location where you can pick up your new pen.

The Missed Connection Fairy
6 May 2007, Sunday- Andrew returns the correspondence and inquires where he can find his new pen. He writes:
Where is this location? I needed a pen the other day and did not have one.
13 May 2007, Sunday- We agree that I would hide a new pen at Half Price Books on Lamar. He offers to leave a mix CD. I write:
This is going to be so much fun! I will hide a pen some where in Half Price Books. I will hide it on Wednesday. After I plant it, I will send you an email.
15 May 2007, Tuesday- I go to Office Max and Target to search for the perfect pen. I end up choosing seven different pens.

16 May 2007, Wednesday- Pens were successfully delivered along with a "You're It!" card. Specific location of pens were told via email. I randomly chose to hide the pens behind some philosophy books. I write:
The pens are at Half Price Books on Lamar.
5555 N. Lamar & Koenig
Austin, TX 78751-1073

They are in the philosophy section behind a bunch of bright pink books called "The Mediocrity" by Dominique Lecourt. I hope you get there soon! A woman was reshelfing the books when I left. There's a little card for you, too.
16 May 2007, Wednesday- Pens were successfully received, as the following emails confirms:
Email 1- (Prior to picking up the pens) I know exactly where that is. What's funny, is that I love philosophy. I am putting songs onto this CD right now, and then I am going to head down there in about 30 minutes.

Email 2 (58 minutes later, after the pens were picked up) A green pen? Green is my favorite color!
Operation Pen Bouquet status: Mission accomplished.

I'll pick up the mix CD from its super secret location tomorrow. As soon as I give it a listen, I'll post the playlist online. Who knows. It may be the first official soundtrack to Austin Anonymous.

Promotional item: An online tag

I am getting ready to do the pen drop, but in the meantime, here's another goodie for you. If you'd like to help promote this blog, you can post this nifty Austin Anoymous tag to your Myspace or Virb or Blogger or Xanga or whatever social networking site you're using right now.

Example: Speaking of the military...

I received an email from a man named Chris yesterday. He shared with me a completely do-able way his family performs their own senseless acts of kindness:

"Its not so random, but every time my family and I are out eating, or i am out by myself, and there are servicemen, or women, we buy their meal.

It doesn't matter if there is one or ten.

we have bought a meal for a serviceman and his pregnant wife, a group of 5 on temp leave before going overseas.

two nights ago, at Chili's, we bought for a Army First Lt. on leave and away from his family.

Most of the time its anonymous, but occasionally the wait staff tells them, and we approach them and thank them for their service and sacrifice for our freedom.

sometimes they cannot believe it, some have cried, but not one has ever said no and been too proud.

if my kids are with us, they thank them as well, and shake their hands.

we get their names and my wife and i pray for them.

Its only money, and its not our money to spend, but Gods, but we have made a huge difference in their life for one moment. And i know they will not forget it."
I'm sure they won't forget it, either. I still remember the time I was dining alone and someone bought me dessert. It made my day! Also, my favorite Craigslist story, ever, was a post from a woman whose dinner tab was paid on Thanksgiving.

Thank you, Chris, for keeping the Kindness Revolution alive.

[photo credit: bumpoowilly]

Needed: queen mattress for military veteran

Imagine coming home from service in Iraq and everything in your apartment has been stolen. Not only that, but so was your spouse! That'd be the cherry on top of a fantastic year, wouldn't it?

The following was on Craigslist yesterday:

I am just returning home from iraq and REALLY need a mattress. I am looking for a queen size mattress set. I dont have much money, but i can trade a brand new palm pilot with all the accessories and an expansion card worth over $280.00 My husband ran off with a girl he got pregnant, left our apartment open and EVERYTHING was stolen. I could use the help, thanks
She's not looking for a new husband; the girl just wants a mattress set. She and I exchanged some emails, and she has access to a truck. If anyone wants to donate a mattress to this veteran, please contact her. If you wish to stay anonymous, feel free to contact me and I'll relay the information.
[photo credit: dave gorman]