What's going on here?

I've made a commitment: to do one good deed per day. Large or small, it doesn't matter. Self-sacrificing or not, extraordinary or mundane, it doesn't matter. Just one thing every day, that's all.

The more I do good, the better I feel about myself. Truly, to benefit others is to benefit yourself. I hope this journal may inspire others who also yearn to do good. So join me on this journey, if you will, and think about the difference you can make in your own life.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A drunk lady in the cold

I'm feeling a little better, though not entirely recovered from the flu yet. But I was determined to meet my friends for New Years Eve.

The clock struck midnight and my friends and I were coming out of the movie theater at the Mall of America. As we were driving away, we drove past an odd lady hanging around outside. "What's she doing there?" The temperature was below zero degrees Farenheit and declining. "Awfully cold out." "She could die." "Do you think we should go back?"

Her face was rough and her glasses thick. She was so drunk she could barely walk. Fortunately, she was able to direct us to her house. Her name was Robin.

ONE GOOD DEED: Drive a drunk lady home on a very cold night.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not winter fit

Well, I am still messed up beyond recognition by this flu. But having spent the last two days in bed, I couldn't stand to stay in the house a minute longer. I took the car out to do some errands, and that's when I realized it didn't even have an ice scraper. It's funny--my parents spent most of their lives in Minnesota, but since moving to Arizona I guess they've lost some of that winter sensibility. Well, it gave me an even better reason to go to the store.

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy a winter windshield scraper for dad's car

Monday, December 29, 2008

A headlight out

There was a headlight out on the car my dad lent me to get here, and I'd intended to change it out myself as soon as I was well. But I can barely get out of bed. My uncle volunteered to do it for me.

ONE GOOD DEED: Arrange to have the headlight replaced in dad's car.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grandma's dishes

I've caught a nasty flu virus. I've been in bed all day. But tonight I drove into the twin cities to avoid the blizzard predicted for tomorrow. I got in late at night and very sick. Now I'm at my grandma and granddad's place. Before crawling to bed, I managed to do the dishes for grandma.

ONE GOOD DEED: Do Grandma's dishes

The family computer

After finding my parents' computer hobbling along in haggard condition, I spent the day today fixing their mouse, sweeping out viruses, and cleaning things up.

ONE GOOD DEED: Fix up the family computer.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cleaning the house

We had our last holidays family gathering today at my parents' house in Minnesota. While my parents were at church, I thought why not grab a broom.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up my parents' house for the family gathering

Correcting disinformation about bill 2433

While down in Arizona my dad and I ran into some guys who were all up in arms about a certain Senate bill 2433, which supposedly grants the UN control of our guns. My dad has been crying the sky is falling over this bill. Last night I took the time to look up the exact full-text of the bill itself, as well as the arguments by the pro-gun extremists. The bill appears to address global poverty alone. It's goal is linked to one of the points in the UN Millennium Declaration, other points of which do address gun control. But the bill is completely separate and does not seem to require (or suggest) signing onto the Milliennium Declaration in order to enact it. Apparently the fear is that if we concede one point to the UN, we will soon concede all points. This is paranoia. Fortunately, my dad listened to reason.

ONE GOOD DEED: Stop the spread of disinformation via my dad.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas on the plane

My parents and I flew up to Minnesota today to see the rest of the family. We exchanged lots of gifts, but my favorite was on the flight. The lady next to me seemed interested in the book I was reading, The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. When we were getting off the plane, I asked if she'd like to read it. When she said yes, I replied, "Merry Christmas."

ONE GOOD DEED: Give away a book to a stranger on the plane.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Salvation Army

While last-minute Christmas shopping, I spotted a lady ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. After five years in Japan, it brought back the distinctive sense of American department stores.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate to the Salvation Army

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mom and dad's business

Mom and dad have a cropdusting business, and this weekend they were sending out flyers to customers. Hundreds had to be folded, stuffed into envelopes, addressed, and stamped. I spent the afternoon helping out.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help mom and dad with their business flyers

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trash around Mesa

I'm at my parents' winter home in Mesa, Arizona. When I got up this morning I thought I'd go for a walk, and asked for a plastic bag. My mom said, "Are you gonna pick up trash?" How did she know I was going to do that? "We're a lot alike," she said.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around Mesa, Arizona.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Confronting my dad

Today's deed was not a happy one. Last night my dad came to pick me up from the airport. My mom and a few friends were in the car too. It soon became apparent that my dad was hammered. When I asked my mom about it this morning, she made excuses for him like "I didn't think he was as drunk as he was." It was textbook enabler-type behavior. I guess no one would stand up to him if not me. When I talked to him about it, he said "So, you're the boss of me now?"

ONE GOOD DEED: Confront my dad about his drinking problem.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Landing cards

I flew back to the states to visit the family for Christmas. It was 28 hours of travel time all together. When the attendant came around handing out the landing cards for customs, the guy next to me was asleep. We had talked before and I knew he needed one for U.S. citizens, so I asked for two and left him for his to find when he woke up. There were a bunch of other small deeds too. Little things are important too.

ONE GOOD DEED: Take care of my fellow passenger's landing card while he slept.

Seats on the train

Winter vacation has come, and I'm heading home for Christmas. I rode the train to a friend's house near the airport. I had a longer ride and a lot more luggage than most, but I let others have a seat first. I stood most of the way.

ONE GOOD DEED: Let others have the seats on the train.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The gym teacher's chair

At the morning meeting at school, the gym teacher next to me stood up. I saw his chair roll back and twirl around. The teacher was absent-mindedly fiddling with something and didn't notice. I quickly replaced the chair under him. Sure enough, he sat down without a glance. He never knew how close he had come to breaking his tailbone.

ONE GOOD DEED: Save the gym teacher from embarrassment and injury by replacing his chair.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A charity CD for a neighbor's grandchildren

Back at the conference in Sapporo, I bought a CD from some people who were raising money for charity. The CD had children's songs in both Japanese and Egyptian, and the cause was for cultural exchange between Japan and Egypt. Today I gave the CD to my neighbor, who has small grandchildren.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a charity CD to a neighbor

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas present emergency

My friend mentioned that she was running out of time and had no idea where to look for a present. She was looking for a Japanese cookbook in English (in Japan, not easy to find in English). It so happened I had just the thing lying around at home unused.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a friend the cookbook she wanted to give as a Christmas present

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trash in a neighboring town

I taught at a school in a neighboring town today. Snow now blankets the ground, but there was still a bit of trash visible.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in a neighboring town

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A funeral

Last Wednesday there was some terrible news. My friend's father, a Buddhist temple priest, had hanged himself. Ceremonies were held for him last night and today. I've written in detail about the ceremonies here. My friend was in tears, just barely holding it together. I comforted her as best I could.

ONE GOOD DEED: Show my support at the funeral of my friend's father.

Kyrgyzstan New Zealand Rural Trust

Today a friend introduced me to this new charity. It's a New Zealand organization that helps poor rural folk in Kyrgyzstan help themselves. What's more, the Morgan Family Charitable Foundation matches all donations with equal donations, so you effectively give double.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate to the Kyrgyzstan New Zealand Rural Trust.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Heifer International

Today I made one of my regular donations to Heifer International, a highly recommended charity. They give support in the form of livestock to needy families in developing countries. The recipient is then obligated to help others by donating offspring and passing on knowledge.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate to Heifer International.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do you speak English?

Today a guy from an office one floor down hesitantly approached me with a strange letter in hand. It was all in English.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help a Japanese understand his English correspondence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Condolences for the family altar

Recently another person in my apartment building lost her mother. I'm not close to her, but I wanted to give something as a condolence. Upon consulting a friend, I found a good thing to do in Japan is give flowers or sweets. These are placed upon the butsudan, or Buddhist family altar, as offerings to the departed.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a neighbor sweets as condolences for a lost parent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cookies at work

When I got back to the Board of Education office after classes, the room was dull and quiet. I stepped out to pay some bills at the convenience store (you can do that in Japan), and came back with a bag of cookies.

ONE GOOD DEED: Share cookies with coworkers at the office.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A birthday emergency

Today I emailed my Japanese teacher about my test. She emailed back complaining it was her birthday but everyone was too busy to have a party. So I immediately sent her a cute ecard.

ONE GOOD DEED: Send emergency birthday card.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The proctor's chalk mess

I took a Japanese language proficiency test today. It's only available once a year, and I had to go all the way to Sapporo and stay in a hotel overnight in order to take it. So I was under a bit of pressure and not thinking much about anything but the test.

About half-way through, a test proctor dropped a piece of chalk, and it shattered into pieces. He was so busy that he hastily grabbed a new piece of chalk and continued his work. Later, during the lunch break, I saw that the broken chalk was still lying there. The proctor was out, so I cleaned it up. Just as I was finishing the proctor came back. He was grateful, and a little embarrassed at having forgotten about it.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up the busy proctor's chalk mess.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My friend's mistake

Today was a full day, despite being Saturday. We had a local area English speech contest (one of my students won first place!). Then I had to bus into Sapporo to take a Japanese language proficiency test the following morning.

Between all this, I got a call from a friend. She'd made a big mistake at her job, and was feeling like a pile of crap. I did my best to offer a listening ear and cheer her up. The call was cut short, but I heard a change in her voice. I hope it was a good change.

ONE GOOD DEED: Console a friend who made a mistake at work

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gift for the techie who helps everybody at work

There's a certain guy at the town hall (same building as my Board of Education office) who is a dedicated technology lover. Everyone goes to him whenever they have computer problems, even though it has nothing to do with his job. The guy has helped me out more than a half dozen times. So today I bought a six-pack of beer and delivered it to his house.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a gift to the guy who freely helps everybody.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trash on the Route to/from Work

Today I picked up trash on the way home from work. This is starting to get repetitious. Not that cleaning the earth of refuse isn't a worthy task, but it's not going to make for a very interesting blog if I do the same thing every day. I'm going to have to get more creative, and keep my eyes peeled for opportunities throughout the workday.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash on the route to/from work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Neighborhood Trash

I got back from the conference late last night and had a very busy work day today. I didn't get home till nine in the evening. Dead tired, I was tempted to give up my promise already. Then I remembered how much trash tends to accumulate around the garbage pick-up stations. Snatching up a bag and my warmest coat, I trudged out into the frosty Hokkaido evening.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around neighborhood garbage stations.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Charity brownies for my neighbor

Today I decided to buy a gift to show my appreciation for a neighbor who always cooks me dinner and helps me anytime I need it. At the conference in Sapporo some teachers were having a bake sale to raise money for a Habitat for Humanity project in India. When I bit into one of the brownies, I nearly had a joygasm. That's when I decided to make this my good deed for the day. I bought one for each member of my neighbor's household.

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy charity brownies and give them to a neighbor I appreciate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Trash in rushing traffic

After conceiving the idea for this blog, I went to bed last night flush with inspiration. So much so, in fact, that I couldn't get to sleep. When the alarm clock sounded, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. But I dragged myself out of bed, looked in the mirror and said, "Today I'm going to do one good deed."

But I wondered if I would keep my promise. I was at a teachers conference in Sapporo, with a full day's schedule, and I just might forget my goal the moment I walked out of the hotel room. So as I stepped out for a quick run to the convenience store before seminars, I kept my eyes peeled for opportunities.

No sooner than I hit the sidewalk, I spotted a mass of garbage strewn across a busy lane. A murder of crows scavenged it between waves of traffic. Ah-ha! I thought, and quickly gathered up the trash. Rotten cabbages slimed my fingers as I replaced the trash under the net meant to protect it till the garbageman's pickup. The crows still eyed the mound but at least they would no longer endanger drivers or themselves.

Meanwhile, I strode on to the store, confident in a deed well done and quite eager to wash my hands.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean a mound of refuse from a lane of rushing traffic.