Do you believe that one kind act can change a person’s world? My name is Chun Rosenkranz and I absolutely do.
At the age of twenty-five, my father had completed a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University, and subsequently was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in history. I, on the other hand, passed my twenty-fifth year journaling in a composition notebook, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a jail cell. My addiction to opiates had left me incarcerated and hopeless, surrendering to the belief that I deserved nothing more than this self inflicted purgatory. But as it goes in all of the magical stories, something incredible happened. I became the recipient of an act of unconditional kindness that would change the course of my life forever. The simplicity of one person reaching out to another will change that person’s world, even if the giver cannot see it in the moment. It was there on a cold floor, caged and clothed in an orange jumpsuit, that the idea for the I’ll Be There Project was born. This project is the culmination of a journey that speaks to the transformative and infinite capacity of kindness and the profound possibilities that surface when individuals are empowered.
I’ll Be There’s mission is to inspire ordinary people to create hope through intentional acts of kindness. It is a growing movement of humans seeking connection to each other through creative and empathic acts. We are ordinary people that have come to understand a simple truth: that there is no real separation between ourselves and others. We are one interconnected organism that symbiotically dances in unison and we need each other in order to thrive. Now, before you discard that statement as some obnoxious neo-hippie platitude, look around at our current political climate and ask yourself if there was ever a more necessary time in our lives to reach out and be there for each other. No one is going to come and save us from ourselves. We must do it and we must do it together. As my friend Dr. Jean Houston often says, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
I founded this movement with the intention of seeing and showing up for people who are often relegated to the fringes of our periphery. Right now, as you read this, we are walking the streets performing simple acts of kindness. We are handing out warm winter clothing and sharing meals with people experiencing homelessness. We are going to children’s shelters and bringing toys and coloring supplies. I’ll Be There members are going into nursing homes and chatting with lonely senior citizens, listening to their stories and making each other laugh. Two weeks ago we brought toys and balloons to children in pediatric cancer wards in hospitals around New York. The possibilities for kindness are infinite. All around us, there are countless opportunities to touch the lives of others and inspire hope…and it’s actually a lot of fun!
Last week I had the privilege gifting a wheelchair accessible van to the Porpiglia family in Florida. Their daughter Tina has had seizures since birth, leaving her wheelchair bound. Tina’s parents were having to carry her into the car and lift the wheelchair up into the trunk every time the family wished to leave the house. Tears fell down my eyes as I saw the joy and gratitude in their faces when I showed them their new van, complete with an automatic wheelchair ramp. It felt as if my life had purpose and meaning. I’m not sure who was more touched, the Porpiglia’s or myself. But that is the miraculous byproduct of kindness, it changes both the giver and the receiver.
You might be thinking that you don’t have the money to gift a van to a family or the time to spend a few hours in a senior center. Not to worry. Be creative! Acts of kindness can be as big or small as you like. One of my favorites is to purchase an extra umbrella and bring it with me on a rainy day. I look for that one person who has forgotten theirs and then surprise them with the umbrella. I can’t wait for you to experience the shock on their face, immediately followed by overwhelming gratitude. I promise you, both of you will leave that moment filled to the brim with a sense of compassion and connection.
So…are you in? Here’s how it works. Each journey begins with an individual performing an act of kindness and posting it on social media using the hashtag #illbethereproject. We share our acts so that we can be inspired by each other and create a sense of community. Some of you may not be comfortable taking a picture of the act or there may not be an opportunity. If that is so, please write a brief story about the experience and use our hashtag. Many of us have felt alone and saddened by last year’s election and are looking for a way to push back at the wave of otherness that has arisen. This is our chance. This simple initial act begins to dispel the sense of hopelessness and has the potential to catalyze a wave of compassion that will ripple through communities around the world. We are one human family and we have made it our mission to be there for each other.
Chun Rosenkranz is the founder of the I’ll Be There Project and this year’s Activist In Residence at RedFlag.org. Any small act counts. If you’re inspired to act share a story here on Red Flag Magazine (email firstname.lastname@example.org) or instigate others to spread intentional acts of kindness by posting the creative ways you touch peoples lives to social media with the hashtag #illbethereproject.
For more info visit I’llbethere.org or check out this video featured by Upworthy