The Smile Project is a youth empowerment nonprofit organization that promotes kindness and happiness in educational institutions and beyond. It is run by my dear friend, Liz Buechele. May 20th was Liz's 26th birthday. Each year on her birthday, she does something unique and exciting to spread kindness. For her 25th birthday, her goal was to have 25 people in 25 different cities doing something kind. Ultimately, she more than exceeded her goal.
For her 24th birthday, she spent all 24 hours of the day spreading kindness around New York City. She, with the help of some friends, posted encouraging notes around the city, baked cookies to pass out, served breakfast at the NYC Rescue Mission, helped clean up the MacArthur Park, visited churches, volunteered at New Alternatives serving dinner to LGBTQ community members experiencing homelessness, and more.
This year, her 26th birthday came at an obviously unprecedented time. She had to come up with creative ways to safely spread happiness. So, she created a list of 26 Acts of Digital Joy. Some things from the list include tying balloons to the mailbox and writing a thank you card to your post office worker, emailing a nonprofit organization to see how you can help, cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner for your housemate(s), and so much more.
The Smile Project posted about it in the days before her birthday so that friends, family, and followers could participate. She asked that participants choose one item on the list to complete and post a picture or video of them doing it followed by the list of the 26 acts so that the word and kindness could spread.
I chose to complete the fourth task, which was to post a short video thanking healthcare workers and other heroes of this time and share it with SOS (Summer Of Service) San Antonio. SOS San Antonio focuses on the belief that young people have the ability to positively impact the world.
I loved participating because it was such a simple yet powerful statement. I have so much love for The Smile Project and am humbled and grateful to be able to help in the positive impact that The Smile Project has on youth.
Of all 26 ideas that Liz and company came up with, she says that #26 was her favorite, "tell someone you love them". She said, "Indirectly, I spent the entirety of my 26th birthday on the receiving end of love. Everyone who donated $26 to a COVID relief fund, everyone who wrote a thank-you card to a frontline worker, everyone who went out of their way to do something kind, was living love".
Following her birthday, she posted a letter that discussed turning 26 and how there are no set guidelines for what 26 should look like. She said that the most important thing to do before you turn 26 is "whatever you want". But what resonated most with me was the "unsolicited advice" that she gave, "...do something kind today. Do something that makes you look like love. Rinse & repeat indefinitely."
Since reading that a few days ago, I have been reminding myself to "look like love". I am sure Liz will never forget her 26th digital birthday, and I, too, will never forget the advice that came out of it: to look like love.