Please Help Someone Smile Today

Ever get an idea you think is so awesome you can’t wait to get started on it and the idea keeps you awake because you thought of it at night and then you wake up thinking about it again, but you’re too lazy to get out of bed to google it so you just lay there and the idea gets bigger and bigger and you get more and more excited?

Ever do that? Me too.

 

Here's me and my Dad in San Francisco celebrating the day the cable cars came back on line.

I wanted to create a Make A Difference Day and have this day on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. My Dad’s last name was Madden (see how that would work? M.A.D.-MADden) -I thought it would be awesome to create this day and inspire people to do something to make a difference in the world. I’ve done things to honor my Dad every year on the anniversary of his death (You can read about Pledge-A-Post here and here) and thought I’d come up with something extra cool this year -something I could do every year as a tradition. 

When I finally got out of bed, I googled this Make A Difference creation I’d expanded in my mind and found out it’s already been done. And it’s been done right and big and I would probably get sued if I tried to start my own Make A Difference day. The folks at USAToday declared the fourth Saturday in October as Make A Difference Day twenty years ago in 1992. They’ve got a cool logo, merchandise and are sponsored by the incredible Newman’s Own Brand. See? It’s big.

Oh well.

I can still ask you to make a difference today. I just won’t have a logo, make a website, and use capital letters like a title when I write about it here. I want you to make a difference because you never know who might need it. You never know how it might help.

Twenty three years ago today, my Dad decided he was done. He took his own his life and left us behind to figure out what to do with the muddy, confusing loss that is suicide. I’m not saying a small gesture like what I’m asking of you is what would have saved my Dad. His decision came from a mixed cocktail of mental illness, addiction, an abusive childhood, and bad choices. He needed a heck of a lot more than a smile.

But that’s not my point. I’m just asking everyone to be a little kinder, a little gentler today. You never know what someone is going through and a bit of kindness goes a long way. Maybe a smile wouldn’t have made a difference for my Dad, but it might be just what someone else needs who is struggling through the day.

I’ve relied on kindness so many times from friends and strangers as I’ve struggled to make sense of what my Dad did. The little gestures add up to make a difference.

So I’m asking you to perform some random acts of kindness:

  • Don’t honk, even if the driver deserves it.
  • Put your phone away while you’re driving. You know you shouldn’t be doing that.
  • Pay for someone’s toll or parking or coffee. Wouldn’t you love it if someone did that for you?
  • Smile. Please -just put a smile on your face for the day -people smile back!
  • Talk to someone who needs a friend.
  • Listen to someone who wants to talk.
  • Pick up that trash you see on the ground. Okay -not the scary, mushy trash, but that piece of paper? Just pick that up.
  • Give someone a hug. You get one in return -bonus!
  • Offer to help if it looks like someone needs it.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Donate money to a charity. Don’t know who to donate to? Here are some of my favorite philanthropic folks: The National Suicide Prevention LifelineThe Tony Hawk Foundation, The Progeria Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The American Cancer Society, Help a Mother Out
  • Play.
  • Say yes if it helps.
  • Say no if that’s what would help instead.
  • Hold the door open for the next person.
  • Let someone go in front of you in line if they have a fussy child with them or just three items in their basket or they’re looking at their watch and are clearly in a hurry.
  • Say excuse me.
  • Say please.
  • Say thank you.
  • Tell someone they did a great job, they’re wonderful, they look nice, or they make you want to be a better person.

You know all of these things could make a difference. Every little bit helps. Ripples can spread in ways you never knew were possible.

Please do this in honor of my Dad or anyone you know who committed suicide -and do it for all of us who are left here with each other as Survivors of Suicide. After writing about my Dad here and here, I learned more people have been affected by this than I realized. It’s just not something we talk about. Suicide is messy and grieving from it is difficult and isolating and private. Kindness counts when someone is trying to make sense of something so senseless.

If you’re a survivor, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know the pain is debilitating and it’s a horribly difficult grieving process. If you’re thinking of taking your own life, stop reading this and call someone to get help: 1-800-273-HELP is the number for Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Start there. You’re important and deserve to feel better than you do right now.

We’re all in this together and we all matter. We all can make a difference.

Two more things -please -would you let me know what you did -or plan to do -today that makes a difference for someone? I’d love to hear how you created a change in the world. And finally, please spread the word. It would make me so joyous if this message of kindness was passed around.

Thanks so much for your help, your love, and your support through the years. You all have made a difference in ways you’ll never know. Blessings to you and yours. And to me and mine, too, while I’m at it.

Onward!

Comments (34)

  1. Ann

    What a beautiful beautiful idea.

    One of my closest friend’s mom is dying from cancer right now. She told her daughter “Be Kind. It’s the most important thing.”

    Carrying this in my heart today, thank you.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s Mom, Ann. I’m sending kind thoughts and hugs your way. Thank you for your kind words here and support through the years. Xo

      Reply
  2. Christine aka @chancesmommy

    This post made me cry! You are such a beautiful person, lady!!! Such a beautiful post and a beautiful idea. Sharing this now :) xoxo

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Hugs to you and thank you!!

      Reply
  3. molly campbell

    You are a wonderful person. I am glad to say I know you! This is just such a terrific idea, and I know your father would be very proud. I will try to accomplish at least a few of the things on the list today. xoxo

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Thank you for always making me smile, dear!

      Reply
  4. BusyDad

    I see you do all of the above every day I have ever spent with you. What a great idea!

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Thanks so much, Jim -I could say the same for when we’ve been able to hang out together. And I hope it happens again SOOOON!

      Reply
  5. molly campbell

    My husband, as you probably know, is a Stroke survivor, and he does EVERYTHING on the list, every day. Well, playing the accordion doesn’t bring ME joy, but apparently there are a lot of folks out there who like it! One more hug!

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Your husband is every bit as wonderful and amazing as you are. No wonder you enjoy making the world a better place together. Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Kim Tracy Prince

    Eileen, this is beautiful. I’m proud to share it and shout it from the rooftops.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Right on! Thanks for being so supportive of all my efforts and ideas!

      Reply
  7. Joann

    Eileen – thinking of you today. Hugs and smiles to you! One year since my mom passed away, and although under different circumsatnaces than your dad, it’s still a tough pill to swallow. So working on trying to think of all the good and not dwelling on the loss. Take care.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Thanks, Joann -the first year is so hard -I hope you’re being kind to yourself and doing all the things that help as you get through it. Holding memories close helps, but it still hurts to miss the person, doesn’t it? I’m so sorry and send hugs to you.

      Reply
  8. Cynthia

    After all these years, you still never cease to amaze me! You and John are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met and I’d be honored to make a difference today and any other day

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      You’re just too kind, Dear! John and I were just remembering going to the water park with you at Magic Mountain forever ago!! (Holy cow -that was a long time from now!) Thank you for posting here -I know you make people smile EVERY DAY!

      Reply
  9. Slack

    Eileen,

    I first have to say.. I LOVE the 80s ‘dooo’ you are sporting in the pic with your dad!!!!! Looks like the old Farrah Fawcett feathered look!! Not to miss the Golden Gate sweathsirt or sweater too!!! :-)

    I hadn’t read your post yet, so wasn’t doing this specifically for you, but I’d say it counts (and I will still try and do at least one more thing later today too)… I took our dog Maori this morning to our local elementary school for her first visit (to this facility) as a therapy dog to visit the special needs kids. We met with the coordinator, and then she walked us into 3 different classrooms of kids and almost all of them were very happy to see Maori for the first time! She got lots of pets, a few hugs, and even a few kisses! All without snacking on some little kids fingers that still had food (or even boogers) on them!!!

    Anyway, it was a pretty cool experience, even more so than some of the other people/places I’ve visited with her. So i thought this would count.

    Great post. Great idea. and a great way to honor your dad!

    A

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Oh Andy –
      First I have to answer -yes, I rocked that feathered hair like anyone else would back in 1983! And thank you for noticing!
      Second -I am so thrilled you shared the story of taking Maori in to the Special Needs kids. (Of course you did this, because you are so amazing!) I loved reading this and of course, it made me cry. Thank you for all your efforts to make our world a better place.
      Hugs to you and your fab family! xo

      Reply
  10. Deb Rox

    I’ve been saying those nice things I usually think but don’t always say. Great reminder. And I like how you say: Say yes if it helps. Say no if that’s what would help instead. Really, if we just think of exchanges as ways of making ease for everyone, things would be a lot more pleasant and connected. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Thank YOU, Deb, for putting in the extra effort in honor of my Dad. It’s so easy to forget about what might help when trying to talk with people. Putting someone else at ease usually helps in any conversation, doens’t it? You seem to do it with me each time our paths have crossed. Thanks for that, too!

      Reply
  11. Kim

    Beautiful post and idea! I’m sending extra hugs your way today. I feel so blessed to have “met” you and can’t wait to meet IRL! Before reading your post I had already smiled at a whole bunch of people and paid someone’s meter that was about to run out :). You’ve given me lots of great ideas and I’ll try to get the word out!!

    {big squeeze}
    Kim

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      I love paying meters that are about to run out! My kids love to put the money in for others -they know it’s such a pleasant surprise. Of course you would do this! Hugs to you all days and always, dear -I love our weekly momchat connection and I’m always wishing you were closer -I’m jealous of your neighbor, Pam! ;)

      Reply
  12. Heather

    Eileen, I just think you are someone so special. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s something I’ve said to Ellie and to Lee, just randomly…WOW, that Eileen is something else! Such a graceful spirit!

    I wanted to let you know that I picked up a random loose-on-the-road dog and then the boys and I did detective work until we found the owner. The owner then met me in her yard when we returned the dog and what do you know? I KNEW HER. She was so relieved and so grateful. Such a good lesson for the boys. I did that while thinking of you and your dad and all the others who need kindness.

    xoxo

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Finding a lost dog is fabulous and so kind of you to take the effort to track down the owner -I know she and the pup appreciated it! And thank you for your kind words -you can sound cheesy any time you want if that’s the stuff you’re sayin’! ;) (And I feel the same way about you -see how that works? Love it!) I hope I get to hug you in person sooooon. xo

      Reply
  13. Matias Campino

    Sometimes I forget how good you are.

    This is fantastic idea, and I hope it spreads. Imagine seeing a stranger picking up some garbage! Also, thank you for an absorbing and honest post. I will make a difference today, as your family did for me.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Oh, Matt! You couldn’t possibly forget how good I am!!!! ;) Seriosly, though -thank you -and this attitude is EXACTLY why I reached out to all of you in the coffee shop that day -it was a win-win gesture for all of us! Hugs to you always, dear!

      Reply
  14. San Diego Momma

    Just really beautiful and too often forgotten.
    I spent the morning yelling at my kids and I forget how much a simple smile can ease anger.
    I will smile today and take a moment to breathe before I react.
    XOXO

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Ahhh, those kinds of mornings -don’t we all have those?!? My kids say I get “yelly” when I get like that. Nice. I’m so glad this turned things around -thank you so much for letting me know how this helped!

      Reply
  15. MommaKiss

    I hold the door for people all the time and have absolutely let someone pass me in line when they are clearly in a rush behind me. If it’s that important, go ahead please :)

    This is an incredible reminder, and here’s hoping I can continue to make someone smile. Every day.

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      It’s the little things that all add up to a bigger feeling, isn’t it? Well done and thank you for all your kind support of my efforts!

      Reply
  16. Suebob

    You have inspired me beyond just one day. On the 12th, I had a great time being kind and helpful, but you started me thinking I needed to do even more. I went and bought 6 five-dollar Starbucks cards with the idea of giving them to homeless folks on our Main Street, because there is a Starbucks right there and I figured they could use a hot cup of coffee and a place to use the restroom. As luck would have it, I didn’t see any homeless people on my way down the street (very rare).

    So today, I was at my cash-only gas station. The attendant is about 20 and has the most wonderful, positive attitude. Her smile is a constant. I’m always happy to see her, and today was no exception. She gave me a big smile and greeted me warmly. I went out and pumped my gas, then thought “Should I?”

    So I went back in, handed her 2 Starbucks cards, and told her they were for her for always being so positive and friendly. She was OVERJOYED. She said “I was having a REALLY bad day and I needed this!” (I would have never known she was having a bad day, because she is so sweet and happy-looking).

    But this isn’t about me. It’s about your inspiration and the memory of your dad. All of those things combined to make one beautiful girl’s day a little brighter. So yay, team!

    Reply
    1. Eileen (Post author)

      Seeing this absolutely makes my day! I’m so grateful you shared this story here -this is EXACTLY what I was hoping for. Isn’t it amazing what we learn when we reach out in these ways? How amazing that she was having a bad day and you wouldn’t have known it. (That’s how my Dad muddled through many days.) I know she shared this story with others and I’m sure she will remember your gesture for a looooong time. Thank you SO MUCH, Suebob! Well done!

      Reply
  17. Karen Duggan

    Eileen,

    I have been so crazy busy, I am just now seeing this post a week later… I am inspired by your clarity and love and plain old-fashioned goodness! I am going to be conscious of making a difference tomorrow throughout the day. It might be a big piece of work, because I am driving to and from LA in one day — but I am up for the challenge!!

    xox
    karen

    Reply
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