Generosity and kindness in a digital age

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. Henry James

Over the last eight weeks I have been blogging about the experiences my wife and I had on our road trip across Alaska and part of the US South West. The blog’s raison d’etre, though, has always been to garner followers who will join me on a quest.

We generally don’t do presents, but each year, I find myself wanting to find that perfect gift for my wife’s birthday: it can’t cost a lot (we aren’t really into over-spending); it mustn’t be wasteful; it must be interesting and, finally, it has to be something she wouldn’t (or couldn’t) buy for herself, but would love. Wow! As you can imagine, I have yet to achieve this gift nirvana. Until now…

Travel
Travel

Lying awake one night, I thought about what we love most: travelling to and experiencing new places – particularly ones with scenic natural beauty. Right at the top of the list is the US National Parks system – hence the blog’s content. I also thought about the fact that the time between trips can often seem interminably long – causing outbursts of “I wish we were in (insert desired location)!” I came to the conclusion that this year, not only would there be a gift, but it would be awesome! I would contact random strangers via social media and ask them to send postcards of beautiful places to me, and then I would package these up as a box full of gift perfection!

I hoped to get a chain going, whereby people shared the blog with their social circle and the chain would grow from there. I thought that blog followers would just pass the idea along. What actually happened was far more interesting.

I had written Part One of my “Denali” series and the post was publicised on Twitter. A company called Flow397 (check them out if you like the Parks system) favourited and commented on the tweet, saying that they couldn’t wait for Part Two. We got chatting and they suggested putting a link to the blog in my handle – I did. After that, I stumbled upon a company (also on Twitter) that made t-shirts. I had one of their t-shirts and told them so. This company is called American Backcountry (AB), and they host something called #HikerChat. HikerChat is a community of people who are really into the outdoors and AB shared the blog with them.

Explore
Explore

This “share” happened while I was asleep (AB & HikerChat are based in the US, I am in Australia). When I woke up and checked the blog stats, traffic had more than doubled overnight! You can imagine my surprise. The HikerChat community had read the retweet and clicked through to the blog. Had it stopped there, I’d have been happy – but it didn’t stop.

One member of the group, Paulina, took it one step further: she wrote a post on her own blog and made the suggestion that people could use her as a “middleman” of sorts, sending cards to her and she would send them on to me. Sounds like nothing, but what she did was to take on a role, in someone else’s game, and help out a complete stranger. I think that is amazing. Once Paulina had got this particular ball rolling, others started to join the party. I found that, through retweets, the message was spreading faster than by using just my own contacts.

Share
Share

I guess all of this is me trying to say that, in connecting with strangers (who I may never see or even speak to) I have found that people love the idea of just being nice. I love this, and, even better, I think my wife will love it – and that is what makes this the best gift ever!

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