• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

HOW STICKY NOTES CHANGED A SMALL TOWN IN ARIZONA…FOREVER!

Updated: Feb 17


The world can be a tough place and life isn’t always easy, so it’s very important to always keep in mind the positive parts of life. And there is no better example of the goodness in our world than random acts of kindness performed by complete strangers. The following story has been floating around the internet for years, but I’d like to share it again as the story is genuinely important.  It is the story of friendship and how one small act of kindness can change someone else’s life forever.  Read ‘The Story of Kyle’ and help keep hope alive.

“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd”. I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend the next afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about 10 feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives”. He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I had never hung out with a private school kid before. His name was Kyle. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day!” He just laughed and handed me half the books.  Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.  When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going to study business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said. As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach … but mostly your friends.  I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.  I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker, so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”  I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did, I realize its depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life”

At the Women’s Wanderlust Retreat this week I decided to teach the 7 Steps to Happiness adopted by Shawn Achor, Harvard Psychologist, and the Happiness Advantage. The Seven Steps are:  1. Meditation — Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. 2. Gratitude — Taking the time to feel grateful for what you have puts you in a positive state of mind.  3. Random Acts of Kindness — The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people! 4. Body, Mind & Spirit — Movement, Diet, Continually Learning and Spirituality “The body that moves is a mind that groves” ~ Jim Kwik 5. Positive Writing — Research has also shown that writing can increase peoples’ positive emotions and moods.  6. Relationships — having close friends or a romantic partner to share our experiences with can add even more meaning to a wonderful life.  7. Laughter — reduce stress, boost our mood, improve our immune system and relieve pain. We had many “aha” moments over the three days we spent together learning the “Seven Steps to Happiness” but step number Four “Random Act of Kindness” was the one that really made a significant impact in the lives of these women as well as the community of Cottonwood.  With each step, I would explain the scientific research behind each step as well as how they could implement these steps into their daily lives plus, I would give them an assignment, so they could apply this new knowledge and tools into practice right away. For number Four “Random Acts of Kindness” I handed out a pack of Post-it notes to each person and asked them to spend five minutes writing positive, inspirational statements on them.  I challenged the women to go out that afternoon with their Post-it notes and to leave kind notes everywhere we go. Anywhere or person that needs a little kindness, inspiration, and love, for example, your waiter or waitress, a random person walking down the street, an office, a bus stop, a gas pump, a parked car, a shop….

Here are a few phrases written on the Post-it notes: • You know who’s awesome? Read that first word again. • You Rock! • Hey, you’re great. • You’re appreciated • Smile…you are loved • Psst…you’re awesome • You’re Amazing • Shine Bright • Thank you for what you do • Laugh out loud The positive response from the community was even more than I could have imagined. We handed a note to our waitress, and she almost started to cry, saying “ thank you…I really needed this today.”

We handed a note to a woman walking down the street, and she was so moved she started to cry, a happy cry. This went on many times over and over. It was astonishing how something so simple could positively impact a person’s life and emotional well-being.

That night we all went to dinner at a local restaurant, and our waiter was kind of a jerk. Not paying attention to our order, getting pissed when we sent something back and irritated when we moved to a bigger table.

Then we handed him a sticky note, and he melted. You could see his face and eyes just change in that split second. He was so thankful then proceed to tell us they were shorthanded, and he had more tables than he could handle.

He was so frustrated until he received the note.  We continued to pass out the sticky notes to the wait staff, patrons and guest at the restaurant always having the same response of happiness and smiles as they read their note.

The experience was so incredible and transforming as a group we plan to meet once a month to go out into our community and hand out inspirational post-it notes so we can continue to bring people happiness and kindness. “The truth that science is revealing is that small positive changes can change the trajectory of our life.” Shawn Achor, Positive Psychologist. Acts of kindness go both ways…should you receive one, be grateful…should you give one, it could change their life as much as yours.

Are you ready to be happy?


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Barbara Murphy-Shannon is a Mindset Business Coach for Women Entrepreneurs. She puts out a weekly blog, offers workshops and retreats. Barbara@barbaramurphyshannon.com



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