Recently, I found myself in a heated discussion with someone else about the role “random” plays in the phrase “random acts of kindness” (also known as a RAK or RAOK.)
“You can’t call it a RAK if it’s not random. The fact that you are pre-planning the event takes away from the novelty of it being a true random act of kindness.”
My first instinct was to fight. To argue. To defend my position on RAKs: my purpose, my mission, my style. I was caught in the whirlwind of surprise and disbelief.
And then I laughed.
Yes, it’s true, I have been known to laugh at the most inappropriate times. Humor is probably my strongest defense mechanism and I use it without thinking. What a wonderful world we live in that we can have such petty disagreements as to whether or not a RAK could be random or pre-planned!
So I bring to you my last set of RAKs from the ISTE 2015 Conference – a set of TRULY random acts of kindness that made my heart happy:
Portable Battery Charger
As many of you know, Twitter is the social media of choice for technology conferences. Even if you’re not physically able to attend the conference, you can easily glean resources and make connections using the conference hashtag. To get an idea of the power of a PLN, search the hashtags #ISTE2015, #ISTE15, #notatiste15 and #notatiste. There’s a wealth of resources right at your fingertips!
When you physically attend a conference, the worst thing that could happen is your device shutting down from low battery. I hate when this happens, so I always come prepared. While waiting for the first Ignite session, I sent out a tweet referencing my portable battery chargers (I had three in my purse, ready to go at a moment’s notice) and the power strip peeking out of my purse. Several people read my tweet and commented back, then the conversation was lost in a sea of retweets, mentions, and hashtags.
A few hours later as we made our way back to the conference center to listen to the first Keynote speaker, I saw this tweet in my newsfeed:
Oh how funny! The tweet made me laugh, that someone actually remembered my previous comment. I tweeted out a photo of my charger case in response with the comment, “Hope you like pink!”
Suddenly it hit me. This guy really did need a charger! Going into a Keynote session with only 23% battery life? He wouldn’t even MAKE it to the main speaker in time. It was then that the joking over Twitter transformed into a true RAK as I set out to find him, tweeting my location and searching the crowd to find his group.
Yeah… 21,000 registered attendees and I was trying to find a guy I had never met. What were the chances?
Well, with a bit of perseverance, half a dozen tweets, and a great big dash of luck, we were able to connect and I gave him my portable charger to use. I walked away, thrilled! It was AWESOME to help someone else in their time of need, even if only for an extended battery life! I told him we had to take a selfie as proof (and no worries… we met up the next day when he not only gave me my charger back, but also gave me another I could add to my collection! A pay-it-forward RAK back!)
The best irony of all? The person in this photo is Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey), principal of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. After I snapped the selfie with my phone, he said, “I loved your Ignite session on Random Acts of Kindness last year.” His comment left me literally speechless! Little did he know, I started following his #leydenpride hashtag shortly after last year’s ISTE Conference, blown away by his school’s commitment to sharing kindness through Twitter. What a small world!
When we arrived in Philly on Saturday night, the weather was nasty: cold, wet, rainy. The umbrella I brought was little protection from the wind and driving rain that pounded sideways against my skin. My coworker, Heather, offered up her rain jacket and I accepted with glee! What a perfectly timed, completely random RAK!
Speaking of rain, a huge shout-out to Heather (@hcausey) and Stacie (@sctaylorITRT) who shared the driving responsibilities there and back in the midst of crazy traffic and endless rainstorms. These gals are AWESOME and you should definitely follow them on Twitter!
Happy Birthday Flash Mob
As we were traveling to dinner one evening in the city, we spotted our dear friend, Chris O’Neal (@onealchris), who now lives states away from our district. We immediately ran up and did a “Celebrity Selfie Flash Mob” (where we quickly gathered around him and snapped a photo). As we finished, he made the comment that it was an awesome birthday present (“What? Today is your BIRTHDAY?!?!”) so we immediately serenaded him with the Happy Birthday song right there on the streets of Philly. Totally random and so much fun!
The Liberty Bell
My oldest son is fascinated by coins. He has spent countless hours researching the images and words shown on coins and at a moment’s notice can give you a “Fun Fact of the Day” related to the history of any coin you find. When I told him I was traveling to Philadelphia, PA for the ISTE Conference, he said with amazement, “You mean where the Liberty Bell is? Did you know the half dollar has the Liberty Bell on it? And you get to see it for REAL?” To say he was excited for me to experience this little part of history was a grand understatement.
Due to the rain and our packed schedule (as well as hotel accommodations outside the city limits), it didn’t look like we would have time to visit the historical site. I tried to prep him the best I could when I called home the second day of the conference, but his disappointment was tangible, even states away.
And then… my amazing coworkers assembled one afternoon in the midst of rain storms and sun, grabbed me and said, “Let’s go!” We had no idea where we were walking; we took a turn right, then backtracked left, but eventually made it to the location of the famed symbol for independence. We made sure to take a photo to send back home to my son.
I have the best team EVER!
May I Take Your Photo?
It may seem like such a small RAK, offering to take someone else’s photo, but what a wonderful way to help someone else capture a memory forever. I caught my coworker, Casey (@cnugentITRT), offering such kindness to a group of strangers as we were leaving a restaurant and made sure to capture the moment for my own Smile File.
One of the busiest places at the ISTE Conference is the Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, all vying for your attention, hoping to reel you in with the latest and greatest tool or “must have” addition to your school or district. Many times vendors come prepared to entice with freebies, small trinkets to give away to say “Thanks” or promote their business.
While I know the end result for vendors is to walk away with sales and commissions, I am repeatedly impressed by their generosity. One vendor had these cute little bee shaped figures decorating their space. When I stopped to admire one, the sales rep said I could have one. I thanked her, but declined; my three kids would fight over who got to keep the toy. She simply smiled and gave me three of them, then handed me three foam airplane kits, too. Wow! How thoughtful!
I stopped at another vendor station, enticed by their PLN buttons I had seen other people wearing. When I explained that I was doing a PD presentation focused on expanding your PLN through socia media, she reached under the table and handed me an entire bag of buttons. Not one. Not two. Not even five. AN ENTIRE BAG! I was so giddy, I could barely contain my glee!
So much generosity. Sheets of stickers. Pointers. Keychains. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elementary teacher, you know they are desperate for any toy or knick-knack to stock their prize box or classroom store. These trinkets were treasures indeed!
I even had Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), the amazing co-moderator of #satchat and #njed messaging me to give me a ribbon for my badge, a Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today shirt, and some travel bags. He was so kind to go out of his way to connect with me in the midst of this enormous group of people just to pass along his kindness.
As you can see from the stories above, the truly random acts of kindness are just as meaningful as the ones that are pre-planned. Many of you do these types of RAKs on a regular basis and never give a thought to just how wonderful your actions are for the receiver. For me, conferences are a fantastic venue to notice unique opportunities to bless others.
And to round out all the RAKs, I even had another gal compliment me on my favorite skirt. 🙂