Friday April 18th 2014

Do Good: Paige Sawyer’s 365 random acts of kindness

By: Shannon Bryan

Paige Sawyer, 19, of Cumberland, posts an inspirational card to a board at North Dam Mill in Biddeford. It’s one of many random acts of kindness she’s blogging about at 365randomactsofkindness2013.blogspot.com.
The card reads: “If you’re looking for a sign: This is it.”

It’s easy to want to do good. But then there’s the alarm that fails to wake you up on time and that guy who cuts you off on Congress Street and then the panicked realization that your essential-for-life cell phone is in your other coat pocket, all the way back home.

Generously paying for a stranger’s coffee just isn’t going to happen today.

Life distracts us like that. Those personal woes – the small ones, the big ones, the ones that we humans sometimes blow out of proportion – tend to keep our attention focused blindingly inward.

But 19-year-old Paige Sawyer is doing her darnedest to look around. On January 1, the University of New England student launched a blog called “365 Random Acts of Kindness.” The premise is simple: Do something kind for someone else. Every Day. For the entire year.

Maybe it’s moving a wind-swept garbage can out of the road before someone careens into it. Maybe it’s scraping the ice from a stranger’s car windshield. Maybe it’s giving away clothes, giving a hug, or dropping all of her pocket change into a coffee shop tip jar.

One of the cards Paige has left tucked under the windshield wiper of cars in local parking lots.

They’re small acts, sure. But here’s the thing about small acts: They have a wonderful tendency to multiply.

“If everyone donated 50 cents in the checkout line, those cans would be overflowing,” she said. “If everyone got inspired to do something like that, it could inspire a lot of change.” No pun intended.

Paige said she was inspired by the traditional new years resolution. But while the rest of us resolved to eat less chocolate or pay down our credit cards, Paige made a resolution to help other people. (For the record, paying down your credit cards is still a really, really good idea.)

“There’s a lot of negative stuff in the media,” she said. All that news – from school tragedies to fiscal cliffs – can wear a person down. “People need a little glimmer of hope.”

Paige’s blog is a little glimmer: “Only 45 page views a day,” she joked. But it isn’t really about the blog. It’s about the people she interacts with, the people her deeds affect. It’s about the way small things grow into bigger things.

So she printed out cards with inspirational quotes and tucked them under the windshield wipers of random cars in a UNE parking lot. She rounded up empty ink cartridges and donated them to HART (some charitable organizations collect the empties and exchange them for money – between $0.50 and $5.00 per cartridge depending on the size and brand). She sent a thank you letter to someone whose influence made her life better. (“And none of that email crap. A HAND WRITTEN note,” she wrote in the post.)

“I think a lot of people think, if you’re going to do a random act of kindness, it has to be big or pose some big significance,” Paige said. “If everyone just did something little every day, there wouldn’t be a need for the big stuff. It all kind of adds up.”

As for the blog, she doesn’t expect that it’ll sweep the nation like so many laughing baby videos. “I’d just like it to get people inspired.”

Well, Paige, I know one person who paid a stranger’s toll only minutes after meeting you. So mission accomplished.

Follow Paige, get inspired: 365randomactsofkindness2013.blogspot.com