Changing People’s Lives, One Challenge at a Time

By: KATHY MOSEBROOK

If you stopped using Facebook a while back, tired of endless arguing and petty sniping, you weren’t alone.  However, one man chose a different path.

“I was told a very long time ago that I am either part of the problem or part of the solution.”

Dennis Vasallo created The Kindness Challenge Facebook page to honor their son Dylan. Their son died tragically on August 4, 2015.  The legacy of “a wonderful giving spirit” lives on in their family.

In the face of unkindness and political division on social media, he considered his son.

“In addition to the things we have established and taken part in as a family, and have been blessed by the generosity and support of our family and friends, what simple kind things could we all do for the betterment of our world, society and ultimately our souls. The thought came, what if we had a kindness challenge?”

This was to be a challenge of a different sort – “Not to raise money or funds, but to raise awareness and lift up each other and our hearts.”

The challenge is simple:  Be kind daily.  It could be “something as simple as holding the door for someone, giving a word of support to someone, to much larger acts of kindness.”

The Facebook group started out as an open group, but as the group went viral, people came along to bicker and complain.  Deleting posts didn’t stop the problem. Instead of a wonderful tribute to their son, it was becoming a huge stress.

He really loved the group and wanted to keep it going, so he tried one more thing.  He closed the group.  It’s still easy to get in, but members watch to maintain a safe and stress-free space.

Clearly it’s working.  Only two and a half months old, he has over 120k members with new members added daily.  Clearly, he touched a nerve.

People post encouraging memes, such as you see in this article, as well as acts of kindness.  The acts of kindness are beautiful to read.  Yet sometimes the replies below the post show the best value of this page.  People drowning in life’s challenges posted how much it meant to read the act of kindness – it gave them hope to continue.

Those who have known deep loss themselves are particularly touched in this group, like Joe Cohen.

“She asked me if the pump she was on was self-service and I turned to her and said no but just go inside and pay and I will pump. She proceeded to say she only had but five dollars. By the time she returned her tank had $25 dollars in it. Something about her told me I had to do it.

One step further, she had her precious little niece in the car who was upset that she wasn’t able to have Wendy’s. Something that I had to do… Her ear-to-ear smile was priceless when her aunt told her she was able to go to Wendy’s.

Dennis, I lost the closest person in my life going on three years. Sometimes we rely on others people’s happiness to get us past the moment of sadness…”  Joe Cohen

 

In a world where people are happy to dump a bucket of ice-water on themselves and donate to a cause for a challenge, the Kindness Challenge doesn’t just encourage people, it’s changing lives.  Here’s how it changed one person’s day.

“I went to the post office tonight, to confirm I had enough postage on a package. The man behind the counter started yelling in front of everyone, “You can’t use these stamps, they were on an envelope.” I explained that yes, they were, however they were not postmarked so I could certainly use them since I simply removed them from something I didn’t mail.

He was desperate for an argument, and refused to take the package, which normally would have caused my righteous self to engage.  Instead, I said, “No problem, I’ll pay cash for whatever the package requires.”

His response? “Can you tell me how swollen my face looks?” A golf ball came to mind. He explained he had an abscess, couldn’t leave work and couldn’t get an appointment with the dentist and was in pain. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it sure does explain it.

I gave him some Motrin, my dentist’s name and number, and said, “Bye, Shrek.” All of us just cracked up.

We all carry so much sometimes and some of it is beyond our control. The kindness challenge is what forced me to consider my response, which we CAN control. It saved every person in that post office such negative energy.

Thank you and please know I thought of your son Dylan. Thank you for helping me bring laughter instead of fury to the moment through him.” Marion Frances Fischer

 

Other challenges are about donating or promoting a cause.  This one is different.  He wants to keep it simple.  Stress and promotion free.

“This group/page is not to be used to sell anything, offer any services, promote any causes … NO MATTER HOW WORTHY.”

He doesn’t expect his page to end world hunger or bring world peace.

“Maybe it can be a tiny step towards treating each other with some love, respect and above all kindness. I challenge all of my friends to join this group, to do the daily challenge, to invite others to join and maybe truly prove that love, respect and kindness is alive.”