I meet Adam Benton on Monday morning over hot chocolate and chai latte. We don’t talk business. Our mission is simple: kindness.
Our tools: uplifting greeting cards and money to buy a cup of coffee — anonymously — for eight unsuspecting customers.
Adam is the Kansas City creative mind behind the Acts of Good journal, a diary designed to spread the love among 12 people. The first person does something nice by gifting the diary. The recipient writes about the experience, pays it forward and passes the journal along. This happens again and again until the book comes back to the first person — a keepsake of kindness. “Good Morning America” called the journal a way to reboot your life.
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It inspired me. Last month I paid for a woman’s groceries. In an effort to spread the love, every month this year I’ll join Kansas Citians as they give the gift of good.
“When people think about doing good for others, they don’t know where to start,” Adam says. “Sometimes they try to think about who is having a rough time in their life, and that’s great to reach out to those in need. But you never know what people are going through. Someone shouldn’t have to qualify for kindness.”
He spreads eight greeting cards — Hello Happiness Cards — across the bar where we’re seated at Kaldi’s Coffee on the Country Club Plaza. The cards, designed in KC, were created to encourage others. One says, “You are Loved.” Another reads, “I believe in you.” My favorite: “You are magic.”
“We’re going to split these cards up and write notes in them,” he tells me. “We should be daily joy-spreaders. That doesn’t mean we have to give monumental gifts or perform monetary acts. We can give compliments. There is so much we can do to make ‘good’ the new ‘greed.’ ”
So we write. One of his notes reads, “Please, Please, Please smile!” I write in mine, “Let your light shine.” We hand them to the cashier. The next eight customers will get a card and the message that their order has been paid. The cashiers are ecstatic.
“This is fun,” one says. “People are really going to love us today,” says the other.
We quietly sit back and watch. The first four customers are a group of lawyers, Kaldi’s regulars. When they find out the coffee is free, the first question: “Is it customer appreciation day?”
All of the men, corporate types suited to the nines, are smiling and laughing as they open their cards. “It may not be 70 degrees out but this sure feels good,” one says. Another says, “It almost feels like Tuesday.”
They walk out like schoolboys: carefree and overjoyed. All it took was a card of affirmation and a cup of coffee. We’re all buzzed off the moment.
“Everyone can stand to be told they look good, they are loved and cared for,” Adam says. “It’s the little things.”
The last person to get one of our cards is 25-year-old Taylor Scholle. She’s taking a little break before her workday at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant. She shows all of her pearly whites when told her latte is free. She reads her card, lets out a little giggle and then sits next to us.
I just have to talk to her. After remaining anonymous for an hour, we reveal ourselves.
“What a happy little Monday surprise,” she says. “It made me smile. I feel like I should give back in some way to make someone else’s day.”
That’s exactly what Adam hoped for — a chain reaction of giving.
“Kindness should be a part of our daily routine like exercise,” he says. “We can plant the seed for happiness.”
OK, gardeners. How will you grow goodness today?