Friday, September 01, 2006

The Kindness Experiment


This Table Talk is not sponsored. To dedicate a future Table Talk, write tabletalk@jsli.org


Last Mother's Day, inspired my compassionate mother, I started a kindness experiment.

I gave 100 people 1/2 of a blue index card. I gave them the following challenge:

“Can you think of five people with whom you know you should be more in contact? Could be a neighbor, a cousin, a former co-worker, anyone! Please write their names on this card and stick it in your wallet. Then, next time you find yourself in line at the grocery store trying not to look at the magazines, pull out this card and your cellphone and make a call. Let them know that you’ve been thinking of them, find out what’s going on in their life.”

Lately I’ve been phoning my “research subjects” to find out if they’ve been using the card.

+ 60% are using the card weekly.
+ 30% agree that they should be using the card.

I’ve heard some inspiring stories. Some are picking up the phone and getting in touch with distant cousins; some are inviting people for Friday night dinner, others are talking to their neighbors more. Several have started or joined weekly Jewish study-groups in order to bring people together.

What about the other 10 percent? They consist of two sorts: the introverts who just don’t like doing this sort of thing, and the extroverts who were already maxed-out on their relationships. So to both of these, I have started to challenge them to teach five other people about the blue card. So far, everyone has accepted the challenge.

For your table: Can you name 5 people whom you know you should be more in touch with? Can you inspire someone else to name 5?

If you agree that this is a good idea, and would like to commit to making your own “Blue Card”, please let me know and I’ll volunteer to nudnik you in a few weeks about it.

+ + +

I would like to offer you the opportunity to hear my newest audio recording,

The Art of Amazement Part 3: Being Good (Or: the Art of Not Caring What They Think).

Based on Chapter 7 of the book, it was recorded in a studio last winter, and I am now seeking criticism before producing the CDs for amazon.com. The mp3 beta-version can be streamed or downloaded here.

Your feedback would be most appreciated!

(PS – there is an opportunity to dedicate this CD in honor or memory of a loved one).


Shabbat Shalom.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the blue card, and I think that I will try it myself.

As a statistician, I feel compelled to point out that what you describe in the post is a before-after study, not an experiment. Experiments randomly assign some people to the cards and others to a comparison condition, and compare the two groups.

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

I didn't say it was a scientific experiment, I called it a kindness experiment. But I appreciate your kind effort to boost my vocabulary!