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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Inspiration Stew: The Recipe

There is a new trend in business. It’s a sometimes-desperate scramble to pinpoint the latest trends in order to be on the forefront, the cutting edge, the winning team … in order to make lots and lots of money. But there may be a problem with this. There may be a problem because what appears to be one of the newest and most widespread trends (harnessed with awe-inspiring efficiency by the Obama campaign) is for individuals and small groups of passionate people to do good deeds with no concern for financial returns.

“We set up tables with cookies and candy in the park and give out Smile cards,” explained Shephali Patel, a 30-year-old volunteer with the Smile Card project. She is one of 20,000 volunteers who have been playing a form of global altruistic tag: You do a selfless “Radical Act of Kindness,” then leave a card encouraging the recipient to do something nice for someone else and pass the card along.

And this was just one of the examples of easy-to-do selfless service actions discussed at last night’s second meeting of an organization called Stay Inspired (see March 30th blog) held at Gallery 138 in New York City, where about 40 people gathered to eat good food and share ideas about how to remain inspired during hard times.

“Inspiration literally means to breathe life into something,” said Charlie Hess, the founder of Stay Inspired (link to be up and running soon). And the goal of inspirational action is not to get something back.

“Instead of savings, it is the circulation of the unconditional offerings within the community that leads to increase,” says Nipun Mehta, the founder of the Smile Project through his organization, Charity Focus. Unconditional offerings lead to an increase in connections and an increase in relationship strength.

The Stay Inspired invitation had promised a panel of inspiring people: Nipun Mehta, Laura Simms (storyteller and activist), Jullien Gordon (inspirational entrepreneur), and Brookie Maxwell (Gallery 138 founder, visual artist, activist). But the group quickly devolved into a bubbling, nutritious, and extremely tasty inspirational stew. Following is the recipe. Mange!

The Meat: Helping others helps you feel better — no matter what level of personal crisis you might be in.

The Vegetables: Good company. Find others who can add to your clear intention to do good. Hang out. Have pot luck dinners. Expand the circle by asking friends to bring friends.

The Cooking:
Pay it forward. Do small acts every day to make somebody else feel good. If you can, encourage them to do the same.

Keep track of your efforts. Save your “to-do” lists and re-read your efforts to buoy yourself up when you need it.

Listen to the inspiring stories of others.

Look for the beauty in everything and everybody.

Practice the daring activity of being present for others. When you’re distracted, angry, or impatient, take a pause and breathe, interrupting your negative impulses.

Make a “WWW” list at the end of each day of “What Went Well.”

For Procrastinating Cooks: Plan an event where you will be expected to do something. Set a time and date, and invite people. You may let yourself down, but it’s harder to let down a whole group of expectant people.

“Inspiration is a contact sport,” said an extremely pregnant woman at the end of the evening. “And now I have to go home and put the baby to bed.”

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