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[ Photo – CC Attribution – bobofung06]
This past week I did something that may sound a little bit crazy. I prefer to think of it as crazy-awesome. It is a random act of kindness or a pay-it-forward kind of thing. It is along the lines of the lovely little project that Frugal Portland has, called Nicer Notes. Nicer Notes are a way to add a little smile into life.
Wouldn’t it be great if you lived in a house that received lots of little treasures in the mail? Perhaps a gift card for a cup of coffee? Maybe a postcard, or a fun poem. A printed out copy of a meme or joke? A package of hot chocolate, or a note of encouragement? Maybe even a full-blown gift basket?!
Many of you will have heard of the concept of a debt snowball (I spend a crazy amount of time reading personal finance blogs). The concept is that you focus all of your efforts on paying off your highest cost debt, while paying the minimum on everything else. The more you pay down, the further your payments go towards principle, until you are knocking out debt left right and center. Like a snowball being rolled into a snowman, it grows and grows and grows until it is a thing of its own.
[CC Attribution – RandomDuck]
That may have seemed like a complete left turn in my thoughts, but I assure you it is not. All traditions start somewhere and I am attempting to start a new one. As a university student, I lived in what is affectionately known as the “student ghetto.” There are very few “real people” who live there. Due to that, (plus the landlord that I had), I can 99% guarantee that the current tenants and all future tenants at that address are students. The group living in the house will turn over every one to three years. It is a six person rental. That’s where the snowball part comes in.
I recently sent a gift basket to the house, along with the following message:
Dear Residents of [address],
Welcome back to a new semester. With this new semester, we’d like to start a new tradition. [school] is full of traditions, old and new. It is fun to see some that were started when we were there have continued on, and we’d like to make [school] even greater by starting another one. We thoroughly enjoyed living at [address], or the Malibu Mansion as it was known to us. We’d like to make it known as an awesome place to live from now on (or at least until the [adjacent building] expands) by starting a pay-it-forward tradition, perhaps with the moniker “Malibu Mail.” The premise is that past tenants send postcards, notes, free coffees, gag gifts, gift baskets or whatever you can think of, to whoever is living there at the time. Real mail makes everyone’s day a bit brighter and a steady stream of it even more so.
This gift basket should start it off with a bang. We really hope that you enjoy it and encourage you to send a little something back when you have moved on.
– Anne, [+ all of my housemates’ first names]
[my email address]
I really hope that it catches on, I think it would be fantastic to have a legacy which includes making a student rental house an awesome and well known place to live. If even a few people were to pay it forward each year, there would be a steady trickle and then a flood of lovely malibu mail, to make everyone smile.
There are a few similar letters to strangers type things out there, but I have never heard of anything quite like this before. I am a huge fan of giving back and building community, plus I love my alma mater. That said, for now I can only hope that others will enjoy what they have received and be encouraged to do the same.
Have you ever done a random act of kindness, or been on the receiving end? Is there an old address of yours that you could send a postcard with an inspirational quote to?
I am so happy to report that I received an awesome thank-you email the day after the gift basket was delivered! The email even included this line, which makes me very happy:
We love the idea of this tradition and would love to keep it going.
I am stoked and hope to keep this going for a good long time :-)