When I saw the name of the Meetup group, it was enough to spark my interest : Spark Good. One of my goals this year is to surround myself with positive people doing positive things, so joining Spark Good seemed like a wonderful idea. I went to my first meeting at a Washington, DC coffee house on Capitol Hill. The basement meeting room slowly started to fill with people of all ages, races & backgrounds. We shared a common interest: helping others.
The organization’s website states, “Sparks provide a 5-week opportunity for people to experiment with self-challenge by taking initiative and healthy risk in their business, university or faith community.” We were told by the organizers that we could choose Sparks that helped to improve ourselves or the lives of others.
For my first Spark, I chose something fairly personal to improve my life and the lives of drivers around me: Road Rage. I consider myself a peaceful person, but sometimes rush-hour traffic gets the best of me and I actually honk at drivers who are impatient and driving erratically. I decided that I wanted to live up to the affirmation, “I am at peace with myself & the world around me.” So, for one week, I controlled my self-perceived road rage by not honking at anyone, taking my time & giving everyone the right of way. It actually worked! I felt calmer as I drove around the DC/MD/VA area that week. I wish I could say the feeling has lasted, but it has not. At least not entirely. I think I have found a happy medium, though. I am definitely more calm in the car and I still try to give people the right of way. That, in itself, is a form of success.
My second Spark focused on my immediate neighborhood. I thought about posting flyers or delivering them to my neighbors announcing a neighborhood clean-up, but decided to do it on my own. I realized there was a need, while walking my dad’s dog each day. We would pass trash on every block, so much so, that I wanted to carry a garbage bag with me. So, on this particular Saturday morning, with plastic garbage bags in hand, I proceeded to pick up trash wherever I could find it. I found fast-food wrappers (sometimes with half-eaten food still inside), plastic & glass bottles, bottle caps, paper, straws, cigarettes, anything you could imagine. Yes, I wore gloves and thank goodness I didn’t find any needles (another volunteer had warned me about watching out for needles). The task took me less than an hour and I only filled one bag. Luckily, I have a neighbor who picks up garbage on a regular basis, so he probably made my job easy.
Unfortunately, my work schedule changed that week, so I wasn’t able to attend the remaining meetings, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find ways to help others. At the first meeting, one of the organizers handed out envelopes filled with cash. We didn’t know how much was inside until we opened each envelope. I waited until I got home to open mine. It contained $20. We were supposed to try to make the money multiply while helping others at the same time. I couldn’t immediately decide, so my seven day quest turned into an entire month. I gathered ideas from friends and finally decided to donate the money to a project called Trail. It’s a 27-day 670km walk of the length of Sri Lanka to celebrate peace, the end of war there in 2009 and to raise $2-million to build a pediatric cancer ward at Jaffna General Hospital. A former classmate of mine organized the walk, after promising himself he would walk the length of his country when the war was over. I felt even though $20 wasn’t a lot of money, it would help a larger effort that would affect thousands of children someday.
Although, I only performed three Sparks, I feel this was an excellent learning experience for me. The project helped me to not only think about others, but actually follow through with helping them. I think this was a great way to continue my random acts of kindness. I wasn’t looking for recognition, only a way to make a difference. As Spark Good asks, “What’s one risk I can take this week to make my world a better place or myself a better person?” I now realize that I need to ask this question every week for the rest of my life… maybe even every day.