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It started with a blog post. Danielle Teal, a web production specialist at Mayo Clinic, had written about her New Year's resolution to do one simple act of kindness every day of the year. A friend was so inspired by Teal's post that she decided she'd try to do the same, each week. That, in turn, "re-inspired" Teal, who wondered if they could turn this whole "random act of kindness" thing into something a little bigger.
Fast forward to a Friday in May, when Teal and a group of other random Mayo Clinic do-gooders spent their collective lunch break around Mayo's Rochester campus handing out flowers, candy, toys, hugs and smiles to anyone who'd take them.
Teal says she began assembling what she dubbed a "random act of kindness flash mob" by sending out an email to some of her "Mayo peeps." She then took to Mayo's internal social and collaboration network, Yammer, and before long, they had something of a movement. "We had people at the Mayo Clinic Florida site doing it, too," she says. Others who couldn't be there committed to random acts of kindness whenever they could.
When the kindness crew came together to prep the flowers they planned to hand out, a woman walked by and commented on how beautiful the flowers were. Teal picked out a flower she'd just trimmed and handed it to the woman, telling her, "This one's for you!" The woman looked at Teal and said, "You have no idea what this means to me. Right before I arrived to work, I had to have eight shots for my neck." Teal then hugged her and says as the woman walked away, "I could see she had tears in her eyes as she held the flower close to her."
The woman immediately re-paid the group’s favor by giving her flower to a man who had fallen down on an escalator. And another man approached Teal, asked for a flower, and said, "My wife is having a transfusion right now. I’d like to take it to her. It would really brighten her day." The group also gave candy and a small toy to a young boy asking in return that he'd bring kindness to his school each day.
Teal says the majority of Mayo employees the group approached politely declined, asking that whatever the group was handing out be "given to a patient instead." And Teal says that attitude is just one of the many reasons she feels "humbled to work at Mayo Clinic."
As the group made its way around downtown Rochester, Teal says most of those they encountered willingly accepted the gifts without question, while others looked at them with a bit of, well, skepticism. "We assumed they were wondering what the pitch or gimmick was," Teal says. "It seems in our culture, we've come to suspect kindness as having ulterior motives." That's exactly the kind of thing the group had hoped to change, says Alison Rentschler, who also works at Mayo and joined the fun. "This was my small way of helping people and showing kindness," she says. "Whether it was to encourage them, make them smile, give them hope that spring was coming (by giving away flowers the day after Minnesota got 12-plus inches of snow!), or just tell them to have a great day."
The response was so positive (and rewarding for participants) that Teal and others are now talking about getting out and practicing their own unique brand of random kindness on a monthly basis. The RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) team plans to host events in the future and continue to spread the smiles!