It started with one friend I happened to meet in front of my house one day…over the years he brought some more friends but in the last  few weeks every day someone brings someone new. I looked out in my back yard and before I knew it, there were about 20 kids, yep, 20.

And everyday I try to remember their names and we talk about school, and their families and every once in a while kindness. These kids play with my kids, and swing on the tree swing, ask me if they can have another clementine and tell me it’s okay my house is a mess when I apologize…and some days they just come to say hello and other days they stay…they are polite and kind, funny and some times a handful…and I am working my way through meeting their families, still so many to meet….and I love how our unintentional community rec center sort of unfolded together and the light they offer to me and my family.

It wasn’t long before I asked them if they wanted to go Ding Dong Ditchin’. They were totally in and yet still a little cautious. I thought back to the first time we went, and what a dark place I was in (even though you would never know in that old post). I was desperate to know kindness could change things for me, even if my world was falling apart…it was if I knew, somewhere deep, I had kindness… it would hold my hope for me when I was doubting and scared…or maybe it was just so dang fun, I just forgot all about my troubles.

Over the years as things got better, it just represented sheer joy and a thrill…and it turned into our signature act of kindness, which I so love. Even today, I’ll hear my friends talking or say, “Oh yeah, I got ding dong ditched….!!” and it always makes me smile, knowing how far kindness has traveled, and how we turned a prank into verbage of goodness.

…and I love how nervous I get just thinking about it, how my heart pounds, how hard we laugh, how we check to see if they got it…and how the rows of houses, apartments and places goes on and on…there will always be a need for anonymous kindness…

how it checks our perceptions and preconceived ideas about the world and each other, how it invites us to believe kindness is alive and stirs part of us to pass it on. I never, ever would have guessed what would come from one day of desperation and flowers and being with a gaggle of kids…but I am so, so grateful. It feels like I always return to the message my niece Madeleine wrote on the first card we ding dong ditched…Hope is never too far away.

Jack, February 2011

This boy and his bike…there was a deep love. I completely get it. The wind blowing on your face, going faster than your legs can take you, all of boyhood in its perfect freedom. I knew it was gonna be bad. I came home late Monday night to find our gate wide open, 2 boys bikes gone. They hadn’t been locked, I guess we felt so at home, guards were down….or maybe there were never any guards up and we are at home in every way, I dunno. I told him gently but he very dramatically ran to the porch just to make sure it was true. He burst into tears…it was the saddest cry from an 8 year old you’ve ever heard.

“I just don’t understand mom, why? Why would someone take my bike from me? I loved that bike so much mom, it was the one I learned to ride on. We had so, so many good times…” he went on remembering. His view of the world was rocked.

I didn’t care too much about the bikes, they were thrift store specials. One really good find (a Trek) but even that bike was too small for him now. My head goes straight to – the need must have been great to take them, on whatever level. And it’s just stuff, right? This is the story I tried to tell my boy to soothe his wounds, and he looked like he was trying to take it in…but it doesn’t change the fact that you are sad and disappointed.  I didn’t even try to take that away, because so often grief is a friend to us in times like these. It means we care and love…even for simple things like bicycles and memories.

I looked at the sidewalk art Lyra and I made on the morning the bikes were stolen. This Way To Love… and maybe my invitation was clear, if this was what someone needed- love, in whatever form. Every now and then I start to wonder if I live in a Kindness Wonderland (a la Alice), a place I have created in my head and heart. The one that Pollyanna dances in, far from cynicism and darkness, one that believes over and over again the good, that kindness can be found, no matter what. Sometimes, this way does require you to believe 6 impossible things before breakfast…and then there are moments when I start to wonder if I just fell down the hole, I must be mad.

Mad or not, my children will have to decide for themselves, and even I couldn’t blame them for any conclusions they were making that day. We walked to the park but that just reminded him of more riding adventures. We came home and he cried some more, it was so heartbreaking.  Less than an hour later there was a knock at the door.

I opened the door and literally gasped. The whole street, men, women, kids, babies, with the same gates wide open and gathered ’round stood there with two new bikes…and now I was the one who burst into tears.

They said they wanted Jack to know the world was still good. …and my world was rocked. That people would love my family this way, that the impossible thought of great kindness was real, that we would be humbled and so deeply touched by it…over and over again, that any shred of doubt would be replaced with such assurance, stronger than before. The fact that we get to live next to these people, side by side, every day- this is the greatest kindness.

We didn’t know how we could ever thank them, although Jack suggested ding dong ditching them his entire savings, we settled on some homemade chocolate chip cookies and thank you notes. When all was said and done, Jack told me he thought in the end maybe everyone got what they needed- the person who took his bike, his lesson about the world and his new bike, and our family.

…and I’m pretty sure I know the way to love, thank you to our street for reminding me, it’s all right here, Wonderland and all.

Remember I told you about getting to lead a kindness mission for the lovely summer e-class on rest, play and the power of kindness? So very excited to be partnering with the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab for this very special Guerrilla Goodness mission! It isn’t too late to join all the goodness going on in the lab!

It was a hot summer day 2 years ago, almost as steaming as our recent days. I was enormously pregnant and found myself with five kids picking sunflowers in a field and delivering them to random doors all over Richmond. The first ding dong ditch opened my heart to experience the power of kindness in a time when I needed it most. I hope this mission and kindness does the same for you. Let’s do The Great Ding Dong Ditch together!

Here’s how it works:

During the weekend of June 30- July 7th our mission is to Ding Dong Ditch a house (or many) with kindness. What is Ding Dong Ditchin’ you ask? Simply leave something nice on a doorstep, ring the doorbell (or knock) and run away as fast as you can. This can be someone you know or don’t know but the excitement is doing this act of kindness anonymously. It almost always leads to racing hearts, laughing hard and high fives for us. I hope it will be as much fun for you!

Good things to leave:

Flowers
We usually write a note explaining it is an act of kindness so we don’t create some awful secret admirer scenario.

Cash
Any amount is fine, it’s best to put it in an envelope to keep it safe and so you can leave a note.

A Sign
You can leave a sign draped down the steps for someone to find or tape it to a porch.
Ideas- you are amazing! (it’s true)
have a great day!
believe in love!
you are beautiful!

Ding Dongs
This cupcake sort of treat can be found at your local grocery store. This is my kid’s favorite to DDD their friends.
We leave a note saying, “You’ve been Ding Dong ditched!” and then we eat some ourselves. Big hit!

other simple ideas-
Card or note of encouragement
Small work of art
Gift card or certificate
A Mixed CD

Things you should know:

This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Something simple can mean a lot.

The best part is the mystery, I love imagining who might live in the house I am ditching. I always throw a little request out into the wind that the intention of my heart and the kindness will be well received.

If the whole idea totally freaks you out, you can start small. Ding dong ditch someone you know. You can even just leave your kindness when they aren’t home and then build to the big DDD later when you feel more confident in what you are doing and the process. DDD secret- I am STILL nervous every time, but I think that is part of the rush and joy.

If you get caught, introduce yourself and tell the person what you are doing. I have never been caught directly but have done other projects where we directly handed out flowers to strangers and had to explain. I have also had to explain to onlookers or protective neighbors. You may get a variety of responses but most people appreciate the effort and intention.

It’s best to go in pairs for safety, to have a get-a-way driver and mostly because it’s hella fun to share. Only DDD in neighborhoods and areas you are familiar with and feel comfortable in. I also do not DDD in any yard where dogs are not leashed or behind fences. I should let you know, in years of doing this, I have never had a negative experience or felt unsafe. This is just good common sense stuff to remember.

Go forth, ding dong ditch and have the time of your life! Kindness has you now!

You can upload pictures from your GG adventures at the GG Flickr Pool. Let us see all the joy!

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