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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween mustache

R and I went to a Halloween concert tonight. The headlining band was All the Pretty Horses, a local dark goth band featuring Venus, a transsexual who plays topless with breasts flying everywhere. It was an awesome show.

Everyone came in costume. R and I did our falcon and falconer duo again. We met another couple who were dressed as Luigi and Princess Peach. The Luigi guy had this big bushy mustache, and the main reason I started talking to them was so I could ask if his mustache was real! It was.

ONE GOOD DEED: Compliment "Luigi" on his fantastic natural mustache!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anwatin Friday

Another day volunteering at Anwatin. And another day when the students were complete trouble-makers. Oh well. You're dreaming if you expect students to behave like angels.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at Anwatin Middle School.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Boring but beneficial: every day is trash day!

So, due to my horrid Internet connection at home, I have not been able to record my good deeds. Now I don't remember so well what I did each day. However, I pick up trash every day no matter what. So I'm just gonna report picking up trash for each day that I can't remember doing anything else. Apologies for the monotony, but it's better than nothing!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Other people's junk mail

Why do they throw it on the floor in front of their mailbox? And why doesn't the apartment complex put a recycling bin there? So many questions, so few answers.

ONE GOOD DEED: Recycle the junk mail other people threw on the floor.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Compassionate listening

Lounging in bed this morning, my girlfriend R and I were talking when I suddenly noticed she was crying. She felt terribly embarrassed about something she did the night before. I was surprised because I thought it wasn't worth a shrug, but she was actually crying. I didn't know what to say, so I just listened and held her tight. I let her get her feelings out without feeling rushed or judged.

ONE GOOD DEED: Practice compassionate listening with R.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Volunteering at Anwatin Middle School

I've started doing a second volunteer teaching experience, this time at Anwatin Middle School in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. Anwatin, I must say, has some of the most unruly classes I have ever seen. It's almost enough to make me think twice about becoming a teacher. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and did some good teaching today.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer teach at Anwatin Middle School.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Victor Hugo for Victor Hugo

There's a student at my school whose name is nearly the same as the famous french author. The student's name is Victor Hugo O. So today I handed him a print-out of Victor Hugo's wikipedia page and the cover of Les Miserables. He laughed when he saw the pages.

ONE GOOD DEED: Introduce my student to his accidental namesake.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

R's senior thesis art project

Last night I asked my girlfriend R to show me the senior thesis project she did at MCAD (Minneapolis Academy of Art and Design). She has a tattoo based on some of the designs in her project, so I was curious to find out what it was.

When she showed me the project, I was blown away. It was both absurd and beautiful. She had carefully studied the stationary in a high school supplies closet and composed booklets and animations conveying the seemingly dry, boring contents of the closet. I don't know how she did it, but she made it come to life! A supplies closet--actually interesting! Who thinks to pay attention to supplies, much less the beauty of supplies? She had diagrams and illustrations and detailed text entries on everything from staplers to push pins. It was an absurdist dream, a real breath of fresh air.

I expressed how impressed I was. It seems like it shouldn't count as a good deed because I really was impressed, and I wasn't trying to do good. But her face lit up and I could tell it made her feel good to get such positive feedback.

ONE GOOD DEED: Gush over the creativity of R's art project.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trash walking to Wellstone

Nothing like a little good deed on the way to work.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash on the way to volunteering at Wellstone Intl High School.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trash after my Japanese midterm exam

My Japanese class had midterm exams today. Fortunately, it went okay. I think I got a good grade. After the exam, I felt like celebrating with a little of my favorite hobby...

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around campus after the exam.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A ride for my cousin E

The romantic evening at the cabin was fabulous -- all alone on the lake shore, in a cabin with no electricity, with only the crackle of the fireplace and each other to keep us warm.

On the way back we visited my aunt and uncle, who live up there. Their daughter was just finishing up work and needed a lift home, so we volunteered to do it. It gave us a good opportunity to talk to E alone in the car.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my cousin E a ride home from work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A trip to Ely, a bird for R

My girlfriend R and I went up to my grandparents' lakeside cabin near Ely. The trees were illuminated with fall colors as we made our way up to northern Minnesota.

When we got to Ely, we meandered around the town for a bit. R dashed into a nick nack shop and found a cute little porcelain bird. Later, after exploring the rest of the shop, she came back to buy it, only to find it was already sold! Who could have bought it?

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy a porcelain bird for R.

Friday, October 16, 2009

And again. Today there was a man with a severe disability that caused him to flail his limbs wildly. It was heartbreaking to see someone like that with no one to take care of him.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at a food center for the homeless and chemically dependent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Serving food at the House of Charity

There's something called the House of Charity on the street between my apartment and the lightrail station. This week I finally stopped in to find out what it was. It's both a home for homeless and chemically dependent people, and a food center for the public. Today and tomorrow are MEA days, which means no school, so I had nothing to do-- a perfect time to volunteer.

The other volunteers today were doing community service for minor offenses. I talked to a number of folks and heard their hard-times stories of mistakes they made in the past. I particularly enjoyed listening to W, who served time as an accomplice to murder, and now volunteers as a way to give back to the community.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at a food center for the homeless and chemically dependent.

Treating my cousin R to a movie

My cousin R has been down on his luck for some time now. He helped me with my car engine a bit yesterday, so in return I treated him to dinner and then a movie he wanted to see. I was indifferent toward it but he was really excited. We saw It Might Get Loud, a rockumentary about three guitarists: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes). It consisted largely of their dry, off-hand comments, mixed with a few stories of how they developed their unique sounds. There were a few interesting parts for me. As a writer, I could identify with some details of their creative process. For example, Jimmy Page mentioned how he knew there was a threshold to volume, so he focused on trying to get more sustain out of his guitar. It may seem like a tiny little detail that no one would notice or care that much about, but he cared and he put his heart and soul into it. I feel that way with much of my spiritual writing, pushing the boundaries of seemingly insignificant nuances that actually mean the world to you. So, long story short, I came away with a few nuggets to think about. My cousin, on the other hand, who is a musician himself, was totally blown away by the movie. Music buffs go see it.

By the way-- yes, my cousin R and my girlfriend R are two different people (just in case the pronouns weren't enough to tip you off!).

ONE GOOD DEED: Treat my cousin R to a movie.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trash in the streets

With one fluid motion, walking and picking up trash, walking and throwing it in the bin.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while walking in the streets.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scary guy at McDonalds

At McDonalds today there was a homeless vagrant, quite drunk, with a huge build and a demon-like gravelly voice. He just wanted to talk to people it seemed, but it made everyone intimidated and frightened. The atmosphere was tense. Nobody wanted to look at him. I was a bit intimidated myself. But when he asked where he could sit, I pointed out a few empty chairs for him. There, he was able to have his lunch more or less in peace, apart from the occasional outbursts of profanity directed at no one.

ONE GOOD DEED: Look past appearances to be courteous and kind to a stranger.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A lazy Sunday with R

Without really planning it, my girlfriend R and I ended up hanging all afternoon and on into the evening. We relaxed in the apartment, went shopping at Ikea, had dinner together at Famous Dave's, and then saw Zombieland with Woody Harrelson. What was great about it was how we kept doing little things for each other, treating each other to this and then that, helping each other out with things-- a circular flow of good deeds.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give and receive in a relaxed flow of mutual good deeds with R.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Making syrup with my "rival"

So my girlfriend R and I went to the birthday party of the guy she was dating immediately previous to me. Awkward! Or at least you'd think so. When we arrived, he was trying to make a minty mixed drink of some kind when we arrived. He couldn't get the syrup right. I had the instinct to say something like, "Ha, ha! She's mine now, sucker!"

But we made syrup together instead.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bond with my girlfriend's ex-lover instead of getting into a fight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trash while waiting for the bus

Standing around, waiting for the bus-- a perfect time to pick up that trash you've been staring at!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while waiting for the bus.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A wonderful night with R

Not all good deeds are self-sacrifice and public bravado. Some good deeds are private, known only to one person, when you give yourself over to them entirely, attending to their every need, their every pleasure, making them feel loved, making them feel wanted.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give all of myself over in a wonderful night with my girlfriend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Treacherously going out with an ex-girlfriend

Things have been going great with R, but she and I share circles of friends with an ex-girlfriend of mine (whose name also starts with R--we'll have to call her Rh). We'd be bound to run into her now and again. So when Rh called and wanted to hang out with me for old time's sake, I wasn't sure what to do. Did Rh just want to be friends, or was she looking to start something up again? Would R be jealous? Would Rh act out later if I snubbed her? Hm... what to do?

I decided to go for a casual night out with Rh, and snuck R's name into the first conversation-- to make clear that I was in a relationship and not looking to rekindle anything. After that, the night went smooth--just friends.

The good deed in the situation was finding a way to avoid hurting anybody's feelings. R, knowing that Rh just wanted to be friends, didn't have to feel threatened. Rh, knowing about R, got a clear message and didn't have to feel snubbed. And I feel comfortable now too.

Yikes, some good deeds are complicated.

ONE GOOD DEED: Find a way for both my current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend to be feel at ease with the current situation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Trash on the way to Wellstone

On the way to Wellstone International, the high school for immigrant students where I'm volunteer teaching-- as good a time as any.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pickup trash on the way to Wellstone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Humanist Manifesto for R

R thinks Humanism might be the closest thing to her spiritual orientation, so she was intrigued by the manifesto on my shelf.

ONE GOOD DEED: Let R borrow my copy of The Humanist Manifesto by Paul Kurtz

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Helping R get her car home

My girlfriend R has been borrowing her parents' Lincoln for the longest time and needed to get it back to them. I proposed a road trip. So last night we went through a huge rigamarole to get the car running again after sitting for three months, and then today we returned to her parents' place out west. We had lunch with her folks, whom I hadn't seen in forever-- her mom just happens to be my high school art teacher! R showed me her art, and her mom gave me some photocopies of my old high school sketches. I hadn't seen them in more than ten years! What a blast from the past.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help R get her car back to her parents' place.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And the book goes to... R

I found a book in the rain on Thursday, though it had hardly taken on any water. Sometimes the universe gives you things, and then you have to figure out what to do with them. I tried a couple of people who might like it, but in the end I give to my girlfriend R-- who I did not think would like it. But she wanted it, so there you have it. It left me as unexpectedly as it had come.

The book was Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give R the book I found in the rain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A ride home for my uncle after his back surgery

I visited my grandparents today, and it just so happened that my uncle was staying there, recuperating after his back surgery. He's not supposed to drive for a week after the surgery, so I offered him a ride back to his home in St Bonifacius (about an hour away).

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my uncle a ride home after his back surgery.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A book lost in the rain

It was raining cats and dogs on the way to work this morning. As I hurried toward the lightrail station, I noticed a novel humbly soaking in a sidewalk puddle. I snatched it up like any other piece of trash, but this one I might have to find a special home for...

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up a litter--a novel--from the sidewalk.