Deven : Thank you all. Welcome again for weekly Awakin call. Nicole will be our moderator and will guide us in conversation with guest speaker Bradley Stoll. Bradley, again, thank you for joining us and welcome to Awakin call. Bradley: Thank You Deven. Deven Your are welcome. Looking forward to the call.
Today's theme is living and teaching experiments in daily kindness. Nicole, the thought that came to me when I saw the theme 3-4 weeks ago, was the kindness challenge that I took on for myself. I was getting a daily e-mail for trying and doing something consciously in the areas of kindness. I was so new to that. One day I got an email that says call a pal/ friend that you have not talked to in a long, long time. What happened was in less than 10 minutes a list of 20 people formed that I could call and connect with. Some of them were buddies from elementary school! What an opportunity and what a journey to first of all find out in some cases where they are! But just in connecting back, the way it created the context for me was so powerful. When I think of kindness, just the idea and mindset is helping me calm down. And it is really reviving the emotions that are healing and nurturing and growing me from inside. So when I think of kindness, I think that it is really a huge help to myself. What are your thoughts on kindness? I know you experiment in kindness. Nicole: Really, just what I heard you share and what I think kindness epitomizes. You were thinking of people you want to connect with and create kindness with. And in the process of that you became really kind to yourself.
Sometimes we don't think about that. How can we be really kind to ourselves?
It is easier to think about kindness for others and it's fun. In the process of doing that we are actually being kind to ourselves as well. Creating more joy and gratitude in our own lives. That was a wonderful story. Deven : You put it together so well. It reminded of this one quote that I heard from Otto Sharmer, one of our Awakin caller about a month or so ago. He said, "To let go, to let in". I think what he was referring to was, when we try to connect and when we try to reach out, when you open up a new perspective a lot of things come in to us. That is so powerful.
Nicole, could you lead us in conversation with Bradley and Bradley, one more time thank you for joining the call. Bradley: You are welcome Nicole: In preparation for this call, not only did I get to go on a short walk with Bradley when he shared so many stories, I also did a little snooping into Bradley's life to know some of the unknown stories out there.There is no shortage of them. In fact there is no way we can get to all of these stories that I have come across. It has been such a joy hearing them. But what really occurred to me is that- Bradley, your entire life is steeped in kindness. And so much so it's down to your clothes!
When I saw you on Wednesday, you re wearing this beautiful shirt that says,"Being the change, changes the being ". It's just so wonderful to see kindness encapsulate everything, even down to your clothes. Bradley :I got that off of .. Actually I was watching a video that I think was put together by Servicespace. May be Nipun was involved in it. It was just interviewing a bunch of different people and someone had made that quote. I don't know where it originated. And I was just so touched by it. I sent it out to my niece, who I have been trying to get her to do some artwork. So I just sent it to her and said , " Oh, could you design something here?". So she came up with that and a cup for me and it is so beautiful. Nicole : I think that is a testament to how you got it into your life. From directly teaching math at a high school and also indirectly getting to teach kindness. And sometimes, actually even directly. You volunteer at Karma Kitchen regularly. What I have really noticed is that you choose to spend your time listening and observing the world and seeing where you can bring kindness to it. Whether that's a homeless person you met on the street, your student or your family. You just listen really well. And you built up that muscle to be able to lead out in this world in kindness. I am just so excited for us to jump in. Bradley : Thank you . Certainly my entire life hasn't been like this... Nicole : Right , well that's my first question! Bradley: I do need to work with the later one with the family. For some reason it has been easier, since I began this journey year and half ago, to begin with strangers and students. And we all have different perceptions about how things are going. I am working on the family part of it. Nicole : When did you know that it is kind of time to taken on kindness? Did you have a big "Aha" moment or was it something that you have been thinking about for a while? How did that process go? Coming into this part of your life? Bradley: I think it has been a bunch of little moments. Up until say this last year, whenever Thanksgiving would roll around, I would get a little moody, little bit depressed and at Christmas things didn't really get much better. It wasn't a deep depression, but it was more like guilt, for being privileged and for having what other people didn't have. The holiday times is when it really hit me. I never really did anything about it, other than wallow a little bit. I guess a little bit of selfpity. And then it was in 2013 I think when Nipun spoke at our high school graduation. He had mentioned this thing about KarmaKitchen. And I was kind of intrigued by that . When I got home I googled it and I thought, "I would like to volunteer here". I always wanted to volunteer somewhere and try and make a little bit of difference. But I got a hold of a place in Hayward and Karma kitchen was no longer in service there and so it just kind of fell on the way side.
And then a little about a year ago one of my former students Visesh came to me. We were still in contact and he had told me about Awakin Wednesdays. He is like " Oh you should come on out ". So I thought sure, ok . I said, "when are you going to be there ?" Turns out that first Wednesday I was there, he wasn't there. And I was like -do I walk in? what do I do ? Looks like I put my shoes here. I don't know. And I was just so moved at that circle. The honesty, the insight and the non-judgment that 50 plus people had was just amazing. The house being opened up to these people. They have been doing this, at the time it was seventeen years. Some of the people I met there ...that, I guess was the big change. That really got me thinking about what it is that I am doing and what I want to do. Nicole: Can you share the story of one of the first steps you took to bring kindness into the world? Particularly called to have you share the story of making some sandwiches for the homeless.
Bradley: I will go back about 8 years first Nicole. My cousin Lori was homeless at the time, which, I didn't know. She was living up near Portland and was killed. The only reason, honestly, I found out about that was about a month before they had picture of her in the paper. The picture was of a wonderful lady named Kelly Gorby, who had given her newly purchased winter coat. It was in December. There just happened to be photographer nearby that snapped a picture of this. Lori was standing there with a sign saying that she was homeless and there is picture of Kelly handing over this jacket. That is the only reason that I found out about her even being killed. So that's kind of what drew me to the homeless people. That was eight years ago. And this was a cousin that I had grown up with. She had been in and out of jail for much of her adult life and rehab and I just felt a sense if guilt. What could I have done if I would have known? May be nothing.. May be something... .
So I had this desire and told my wife a year ago that I want to go live on the street and be on the street and be homeless for the weekend. Live and see what they go through every single day of their lives. And that wasn't met with as much enthusiasm as I had. It was met with a little fear and I guess I will talk about that a little later on .. anyway, she came up with a compromise . So Carol actually said "Why don’t we make some nutritious lunches and put them together and we will bring them out to San Francisco and we will hand them out to homeless?"
So we did this as a family. So we went and bought some lunchmeat, made some really good sandwiches and put some fruit in there and some water. we lugged all of our stuff to San Francisco. We just walked along and handed it out and every once in a while some one will ask us for 2.
" Oh, can I have another one? " .
"Sure. Have another one."
It didn't take long to realize that we could have brought a lot more. Because there is a lot of people that need a little help. But I also realized that there are other people in the area are also giving out lunches. There is a program in Hayward that is doing the same thing. Every weekend they go out and hand out lunches. There were a couple of young ladies that were sitting in the corner and were giving out coffee. They went to Starbucks, purchased their own coffee and were giving out to whoever wanted it. So it gave me hope that there are incredibly beautiful people in the world that are so giving and without expectation and doing it to do it .
Nicole : I think by design you are not seeking to...the world doesn't need to know that you are doing this .You just went out and gave these sandwiches. So many of these you did anonymously. So much so that I learned that there is a story that you brought someone home to your house. And you had to tell your wife about it recently because you had a feeling that it might be on this phone call. Share that story as well. Bradley: I had dropped my daughter off at dance practice in San Jose. On the way there, there was man on the side of the road. He had a shopping cart. So I went back and I was going to get a cup of coffee. There was a restaurant near by and so I said," Would you like to have breakfast?
I found that the less you have more trusting you are. He is like -
"Sure. I would love to have some breakfast " .
He said "I have got all this stuff in here. I can't leave it out because if I do, someone will steal it".
I said " well we will save it in my car so in that way it will be safe"
I brought him in. I did not have breakfast I bought him breakfast . We were just sitting there and talking to him and finding out a little bit of others lives and after he was done eating, I said "Would you like to get cleaned up?"
He is like "Sure".
I said, "Well, we live in Fremont. I can drive you home "
And the fact that he was trusting of me was pretty amazing. I think trust and kindness and respect kind of mingle together. It is hard for me to separate them. May be I am too trusting at times. But that's the way I am becoming I guess. So I drove him home. My son was there.
His name is James. He went in and took a shower and got all cleaned up. I got him a little drink. He just kind of sat on the kitchen table for a while.
I said," Well, I have to go back and pick up my daughter from dance lesson. He was ready to go back to where he is from.
On the drive back he fell asleep in the car. I mean it was a hot day otherwise I would have let him sleep in the car for a while. It was very hot. It was so sweet. Looking over him. He was so peaceful. It was kind of heart breaking to drop him off. He had like no where to go
But I am just trusting that things are going to be what they are going to be regardless. And good things are going to happen.
It was met with a little bit of fear. Carol was telling me. She mentioned this to some of her friends and some of them were like, " He did what?"
Nicole : How long between it happening and you telling your wife. Bradley: It was a while. It was one of the things that I wanted to tell her and then I thought in my mind, no because she is not going to be happy with it … and rightfully so. She certainly had reasons to be upset with me. In the end, she was upset and I think I heard more of a disappointment that I didn't tell her right away. If I would have told her right away, I think it would have been more of anger. So I am working on having her regain trust in me a little bit . And she is fearful, I think sometimes of some of the things I might do. And like I said, it is just something that I have to work on. Nicole: I want to actually have you share one more story and then after that story I want to talk about how you keep going when the world is kind of not in that same place as you might be at the moment? Before we get to that I would love to hear about how you brought this into your school with your students? And there are so many stories that I heard, I am going to let you pick a story. The 21 day kindness challenge or the moments of silence you did at the start of classes or any other story of how you brought it into the school.
Bradley: I guess the moment of silence was one of my ... At the end of the year I decided that I was going to be very intentional and I was going to make it so that the students relax and calm down and gather their thoughts before we started an hectic day of learning math. So I wanted to do this beginning of each period. So initially its like- ok we are going to do this for 5 minutes. After the first period of the first day of the school year, I realized that 5 minutes was too long for them. So I and immediately shortened it down to 3 min. I didn't really implement this in the best way possible. I am going to try and do it again next year more effectively. So I told the students you can either participate or not. If they chose not to, they had to wait out in the hallway. And if they wanted to of course they come in. And majority of them took part in it. At least sat in the classroom. And I also wanted to be part of it. I didn't want to be someone who is looking over them to make sure they were doing it . So what happened was, one day I was being observed by department chair. I started the class as I always did. I took out my phone. I started up the app and said, " Ok, here is our 3 min of silence. " And after class he talked to me a little bit. And he said ," You know not every one was partaking in this." I said, " I know. Some do and some don't. But I did not want to force it on anyone."
I was given a couple of options. I either had to force everyone to participate, which I didn't want to do or I had to give alternate work for those who didn't want to participate, which I didn't want to do. I thought well if I give an assignment. Then they will do it so they don't have to do the assignment. But in the end I had expectation and I got to learn to kind of let go of that. But some good things have come of that. Because I have a couple of classes… I emailed all the students and said " Look, if you like to do this in class everyday let me know. I need everyone on board. " More than half of the students wrote me a note saying how much they appreciated it . When they wrote me Christmas cards they told me how much they appreciated it. So I know that it touched some students. And I still have one who once or twice a week, they will ask, can we have our 3 minutes of silence? And so we do it.
I had one student who would sit out in the hall way. He chose not to come inside the classroom. He wrote to me. He said you know, even though he didn't sit in the classroom, he really appreciated it because it just allowed him some time to himself for just a few minutes before we had to jump into academics. So I think for students who come to school and who like get here right at 8 0' clock, it is kind of nice to sort of relax for few minutes. So it was helpful. I have to take that as a victory for them and for the students and see where it goes.
I was recently reading about Dave Evans, a professor at Stanford who teaches a class, designing your life . I just thought "Oh! What a wonderful idea! Why do we wait till college to do this, when we are getting ready to get out of college?" So I wondered what that would look like in the high school. So I emailed Dave to get his thoughts on it. We will see if he will get back to me. But I also emailed some of our administrators. What would something like this look like?
I got into teaching because I love Math and that was actually the only reason because I enjoyed Math so much. I stay in teaching because I love students. Now I realize that it does not matter what I teach. If I could get involved in teaching something like this designing your life class, I would be thrilled to get involved in something like that.
Nicole : Between these stories, I hear you really leading with kindness first .It is just at the forefront of your priorities. And the world is kind of may be on a different priority. A different mindset. There is nothing wrong with that. But you still have to kind of play that dance with the world around you. How do you do that when the reaction may not be what you intended? I know you do a lot of anonymous acts of kindness. You just don't know what the outcome was . How do you keep going? Bradley: Nimo keeps me going sometimes. I listened to his album empty hands this morning again. "Being Kind" - that song blows me away. I recently read something on DailyGood.
"Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naivete."
I think I probably fall into the later part of the statement, some one would call me naive. I guess I want to be a little bit careful. A lot of it goes back to things that I have gotten from Nimo . Be careful of the impact you want to make.But make sure you are impacting each and every day.You are right that most of the acts of kindness that I do... I will post them on Kindspring where I got this sort of anonymity and so I enjoy that. Typically, regardless of what they are, I don't like talking about them much, except here. So I just think with nearly 7 billion people we have in the world and trillions have walked this earth one time or another. Every body is capable of kindness. It's whether or not we choose to do it. May be it is just a band aid that I am doing or may be not. I mean, the only thing that I can affect and change is myself. If my acts change someone else so be it. If they don't,that's ok too. It's just who I have to be. Every thing I do, I mean it's not the way other people have to be. I talk a lot about the intent with some of my students and about philanthropy. What was their intent? Was their intent to get their name in the paper, to get publicity? Some feel that intent doesn't matter. And some feel it does. Certainly we need people like Bill Gates. To give of themselves and to give of their money. But then as Preeta was saying, some of the greatest men or women of the world no one will ever know about them . Nicole: When you said the name Bill Gates, my brain instantly went to this idea . It brought up the image of the person who is unattainable. And with whom I can never have a conversation with. And his impact is in a whole another realm. And yet, there is something about having a conversation with you and the impact that it has, just hearing your story. I don't think I even know a tenth of your story. And I really love what you are saying. That it is a choice and you have chosen kindness. That's what works for you . That's all you really can change. If you want to see kindness in the world, you have to be the kindness. It is apparent that you just live that every single day. So I feel called to just say thank you. Bradley : You are welcome. I will tell you another story that happened. My daughter saw spider in our bathroom. She called me. She won't call Carol. Because,Carol is afraid of spiders. She said " Dad, can you take of the spider? " And so I went in there. She said, " Take him outside. Don't Kill him ". So I grabbed the spider and took his legs and brought him outside and set him down. May be a couple weeks later, Carol saw a spider. I went and got it and set him outside. She kind of made a comment. "Oh, so we are killing spiders anymore? " I said , If we can avoid, I guess .The other night there was a mosquito in the house. She didn't ask me to take care of it. She actually took care of it herself. She swatted it. Just last night she asked me, " So are you not going to kill mosquitoes anymore?" I said, " Well, if I can catch it and let it outside then I think that would be my choice. And we talked about mosquitoes carrying diseases. She said, " I hope that if we weren't around that you wouldn't let the mosquito get away." I said, " I don't want to get bit by mosquito any more than you do " In the end I would probably swat it and take care of it." I really want to see all living things the same way. No different from me. That's hard to do sometimes. It's gotten me eating less meat that's for sure.
Someone is commenting on face book. In another country and it was directed at Americans I think. It said something to the effect. You are criticising me eating a dog, while you are sitting there eating your chicken. Over here we see those animals completely differently and yet, imagine someone who has a chicken as a pet. I mean people do. I still eat chicken. I have cut out beef and I have cut out a few things. And I certainly eat less meat. but it just shows we all have out lines that we draw on a different place and especially when it comes to life. We kind of decide which life we respect and which one we won't. I kind of want to get away from that place. Just like I don't want to decide who deserves kindness and who doesn't. I just don't want to sit and think - Does this person deserves my kindness or not? Do they deserve my respect or not? Do they deserve my trust or not ? I just want to offer those as gift. Nicole : You know, it sparked something for me . I was recently given $100 to pay it forward. It changed my whole day. I was traveling and I was in a different city. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Who deserves this? Where can my money have the biggest impact? Kind of half way through my day, I realized that I was so stuck in my thought of thinking about who might deserve it more. And then all of a sudden I just said, "you know what, I am giving it to the next person that comes along.. I am just going to see what happens. I don't care if it is a business man who does not need it or homeless person." It ended up being a cab driver, who had gifted me a free ride. He had seen me smiling for blocks at people. It just started to rain. It ended up being serendipitous but I really love what you are saying. Who am I to say who deserves kindness? Everyone deserves kindness.
Could you share 1-2 more of your stories. I will let you choose. Bradley: Nipun was talking the other day . I heard him say about the gift of life that our mothers gave us carrying us around for nine months. He was talking about that in Karma Kitchen. So when I got home, I wrote a letter to my mom. I talk to her, but I have never written a letter in probably 35- 40 years. So I wrote her, what was for me a pretty long letter and thanked her basically for that and asked a lot of questions.
Sometimes I talk about rubbing off on my children and those regards, I do have an expectation and I really do want to impact them. But I do want to be careful about how that works. Any way, my son, he went to see Fast and Furious 7 or 8 which ever one is on last night . It was an opening night. Theatre was rather full. And so when I picked him up from the movies, he gets inside the car and says, " I did an act of kindness at the theatre."I was like "What did you do?"
He said," I was sitting down, and I had an empty seat on either side of me which I like."
He likes putting his arms out and likes having that space.
" Then two people walked in and they needed a place to sit. So Branden looked up and said, "I will move down if you would like to sit here '
They said "Thank you " and he did that.
Would he have done that otherwise? I don't know. In the end I guess it doesn't matter. But the fact that he did it made me so hopeful. It was one of the best gifts he could give me.
For Christmas Carol and the kids gave me a letter. They made a donation to Servicespace and wrote a letter with the donation. They gave me a photocopy of it. And funny thing is , they actually took a photo of it and put it on the Servicespace feed. Carol didn't know that was going to happen. When I told her that what happened Carol was like, oh geez...
It was such a sweet gesture. She said, "I talked to the kids We know what a difference Servicespace made in your life." She gave me a blessing to do a 10 day which she knows that I have been wanting to do. So sometime in the future I will be able to do that.
A big thing on my list, I guess that I don't mention enough of is forgiveness. Forgiveness’ that I have been given is phenomenal for some of the things that I have done. Dating back to when I was an young child. I mean all the way back to 2 or 3 years old when I would play with fire and matches. I started fires. I didn't burn any buildings down but I could have. Those are some of the acts of kindness that I can't certainly minimize. Nicole: We have couple of web chats thanking you for your honesty and how it is refreshing and inspiring. You inevitably have in leading a life of kindness, you end up getting to have conversation of kindness with other people. So not only do they have your example, they also have the conversation they probably might not otherwise have had to contemplate for themselves and in their own lives. So thank you. Deven:What a conversation! An incredible experience! One of our callers emailed us their thought. It is so inspiring to see that. It is from "C" C : I am finding Bradley's honesty very refreshing. Being new to making kindness a priority, I have also found it to be true that it is easier to start with strangers, than to involve family or even tell them what you have done. Glad to know that I am not alone. Thank you. Deven : I would agree with "C", Bradley, your honesty and the way you are really sharing your journey is so inspirational. Mish : This is Mish in New York city. I just want to say Bradley that I too have been totally struck by your openess and honesty to the point that I have been crying of and on during the call.
I am familiar with you from your posts at Servicespace. And I just wanted to briefly say that for me the kindness, the strong desire to be kind and to do no harm puts the brakes on my reactivity. Prior to joining Kindspring, I was very fiery and reactive. Not being reactive is a kindness for myself. God knows for my nervous system and for everyone around me! Finding kindspring and immersing myself into the community was the catalyst or if you will, my awakening. I mean I was a nice person and was kind, but no where near as I am now. Kindness consciousness became my inner compass. You experience every life encounter from your heart space Takes you from "me" consciousness to "we" consciousness. How we think and how we act. Kindspring for me is just the day sharing. It inspires us. It teaches us. It increases our kindness consciousness. It is like taking a graduate course in how to be the best person you can be. Thank you so much for sharing yourself today. I have to stop talking now because I'm crying again. Thank you. Bradley : Thank you Mish. I appreciate your call. I also enjoy reading all of your posts on Kindspring . I look at my life... I haven't always been this way. I can break it up into periods.. probably up until my mid 20's, I would not say that I was a mean person, but I certainly wasn't concerned about others. It was just pretty much me and few friends. I didn't think about others. Hardly at all. Then it was just my family after I got married and my children.
Even then, what about...there are other people still. It is not just about me and my family. It's everyone. I truly believe that we are all connected to one another. Because of that we should treat each other in that manner. So thank you very much.
Mindyjourney : Hello. This is Mindyjourney also from Kindspring. Thank you very much to all for this beautiful call. Bradley, I admired your posts on Servicespace and also on Kindspring. I don't remember your tag, but I remember your post during a challenge about your students and how you are bringing kindness to your class room. I appreciate everyone's effort here. I would like to say that I have also been transformed through this space of kindness the last year and half. I have always been some what kind. Tried to be. But not very confident. I would take other people's opinion into myself. But now I know that the kindness is the link and love that we share. My father-in-law after he transitioned came to me in a dream and said , " It's the love that connects us all." I keep that in mind in every thing I do. I try to. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I wrote to you before I left , my concerns, and what can we do for the homeless people ? You had some ideas but mostly, it was to open my heart and to listen.
While we were on vacation there, we stayed at a hotel along Fisherman's Wharf. Very touristy, but there were lot of homeless people. I made a special effort to order an extra breakfast sandwich or something and to give it to a person in need. Not only to do that but to look them in the eye and shake their hands and really connect. Thank you for all that you do. God bless you. Bradley : Thank you Mindy. I remember the email a while back and I am glad you are able to connect. I think that's the one thing that I really want to try do more of and work on . Just sitting there and being present with those that really need it. I met a family yesterday as I was driving around. As my wife says," Driving around looking for homeless people?"
`Debbie and Wayne were mother and father and Marcus was the son. The son was of the same age as my son who is in sophomore year in high school. They were homeless. They had about 10 shopping carts with stuff. The son had a guitar and was trying to teach himself how to play. They had all this. So I asked them, "How do you move along ? "They said " we sort of leap frog "
I asked them "Would you like some lunch?"
They said "Sure"
It so happened that there was a pizza place near by. I went and got a pizza and 4 glasses of water. They had a pugh dog. Cute little dog but he barked a lot.
While they were eating we chatted a little bit. And then I sat down on the side walk silently and closed my eyes and just tried to wish them all good things. I just sat there for 5 minutes, quietly and they might have been looking at me oddly. I don't know. I was just trying to give off this aura of positive feelings all to them in hopes that they will find what they need.
I don't want to sort of hand something to someone and walk away. I want to connect with them and hear their story and may be one day we will really solve some of the issues and really help them and give them what they need . I think that is one of my goals next year. How I want to start my classes is, kind of coming in and saying " What do you need from me today? What is it that I can do for you?" Rather than, thinking that I know what they need. Deven : Awesome. I love that expression. "All good things.” I think I saw it first time in an email reply I got from Pavi. I was so inspired by that Audrey : Hi Bradley this is Audrey , Hi Deven and Nicole . It is great to be on this call and great to hear all these stories. I actually had 2 questions. My first question was, when I am with you, you are constantly seeing opportunities to do something for someone else . whether it is running out of your way to hold the door open for someone, or paying for something sweet for the person in front of your line, or even just smiling and greeting people and picking up trash. I was wondering, have you ever felt inspired to do an act of kindness and then kind of be surprised by the result or the reaction of the response and how did you respond to that ?
My second question is, what is a recent moment of kindness that you have experienced? What is the latest snap shot in to your window of experiences? Bradley: Now I got to improvise, ha ?
I guess .... Let's see ...
I get one every evening, when I get to go out on a walk with my wife. When we get to be by ourselves. Last night we were able to get another walk in. That gives us time to be alone and to talk . It was a full moon last night ...
one of the desserts she makes is honey cake . When she got back she was only going to bake 1 batch. It was for some friends. All 3 loaves were going to go to them. She knows I love it . So afterward she is like, "May be I will make 2 batches ". In fact she was going to make one this morning. I mean that was very sweet for me. Because now I will be able to go home and have a slice of it when I am done here.
As far as being surprised .. I guess .. this wasn't an act of kindness. It was more of an experiment that that I did in SanFrancisco. I had a little sign and I had a bucket next to me. I had made some homemade book marks and I put $50 in there. I was kind of experimenting to see how people would react and what they would do. The sign said, "If you need some money take some and if you want to leave some money leave some. Whatever is left in the end I am going to donate." I started off with $50 and I was blind folded. I just sat there. I could hear people coming up. I was being silent . One gentleman came up. This moved me . He is reading this and he is like " Is this for real ? " He is going through and said "Fair enough, Ya. There is $50 dollars in here. "He says, "I don't need this now" and he puts back. At that point, I was like, here is man who could clearly use it for himself but he left for someone else. So at that point I was feeling really good. I thought people were going to come by and dropping money in and I will have so much more to give away at the end. Another gentleman comes up and he is reading it and He is like $50 dollars and he walks away. it was half an hour into it . And i was going to sit there for 2 hours . But then my mind went into this negative place and at the end I took my blind fold off and looked in sure enough all the money was gone. I didn't feel bad that the money was gone. Because that was it's purpose. It was going to go anyway. What I took away from it was… I was with the gentleman who left it. There are these people in the world that aren't going to take things just because they are there. They are going to realize- I don't need this right now. Someone else may need it more than I do. So I was surprised in a couple of different ways. Deven : Thank You. It is such a sweet thought that people actually are being more mindful and start thinking a little bit more when they are put in the realm of kindness. Kozo: Hey Bradley, it is Makala Kozo.
Bradley : Hey , how are you Makala?
Kozo: Good. I just wanted echo whatever you have been saying. Your vulnerability and authenticity, it really touches my heart. I wanted to ask you.. it's funny that you told the story about the gentleman who picked the money. It seems to me that in your mid 20's, you weren't thinking about other people. I just get this impression that men have a harder time with kindness and compassion than women. I guess the best example that I could give you right now is, last Karmakitchen we had 14 volunteers and only 3 of them were men. You know, 11 of them were women. I wanted to ask you, how did you make that shift from being that 26 year old who only thought about yourself to doing these amazing acts of kindness which you do now?
Bradley: Great question Makala. A lot of it comes from I think the people that are around me. Not unlike yourself. I do think the major shift has come in the last couple of years. But also being a teacher and the affect that my students have had on me and realizing that in both positive and negative ways, I can impact their lives. So the question is then how do I want to do that? To be a better teacher I think I needed this . Not only to be a better human being, but to be a better teacher, to be a better father, to be a better husband . Everything. It was just something that I needed to do. There is really no alternate path to take. It is interesting that there were certainly lot more women than men there. I think part of it is that men typically have a different role in their life and the way they have been brought up. I actually was brought up more by women than men. My mother raised me until I was seven. And then when I went to live with my dad, it was my step mother pretty much who raised me. I grew up in a household with a lot of sisters. I was closer to all my sisters than I was to my brothers until I moved into adulthood. All of that has helped shape me. May be lead certainly to where I am at today. I don't know if that completely answers your question. It has been a lot of things. Even into my 30's it was more about me finding enjoyment. We did a lot of things as a family and it was more about ... It wasn't quite as deep and meaningful as I think it could have been. Those are all those things that I still need to work on.
Deven : Beautiful. Bradley there are a couple of questions that came over email.
Radha, one of our volunteer wrote this :
Thank you Bradley for being such a kind light in this world.
I have a 14 year old daughter. Sometimes when I try to introduce the ideas of kindness, compassion in school I often get a response saying " Mom people don't care about that ". I see her practice small acts of kindness outside of school. I sense a fear of judgment from her peers and hesitate to put herself out there. Given that you work with kids, do you see this and how do you guide them ? Bradley : Great question . At my own school, I see kids doing kind acts all the time. One particular student, who will regularly go out and pick up trash during his free period when he sees it. He doesn't just walk past, but picks it up and throws it away. Students will hold doors open for the people and so i think I have been very fortunate there. I always go back to the fact ... and so many have reflected on this.. Yesterday I was reading ... What they were trying to say was, it doesn't do any good to preach to students about kindness or anything else for that matter. What works is leading by example. They see what we do and that is how they are going to be. So as a teacher, I just try and bring that in intentionally everyday. Some days I am not as successful as others, but over the past few months what I have seen is, and it could have just been my perception. But what I have seen is .. I haven't seen much litter on the ground . I have seen kids hold doors open more often. I have seen people smile more often and say hello. Even if it just me walking by a student and saying good morning . It's a tough thing for a student certainly to do. We have clubs in our campus that are geared towards kindness if you will. There are some people who know when the birthdays of all the students are. They will put notes on their lockers. Some thing very simple like that. So you know may be your daughter could start a kindness club. I think there is one at Mitty high school. They have something along those lines also. It's tough being a teenager. There is no doubt about it. I think there is no act of kindness that is too small. Just smiling at somebody, that's an act of kindness. Just saying good morning, and calling them by their names. So some people do this and don't realize the effects they are having. So we just have to take heart in that. Deven : Kindness club in high school. I didn't even think about it before. What an idea! I love that. I am happy to know that some of the schools actually have that going as well. Question sent in email : When you see selfishness around you in the world does it sometimes depress you? If so, what tools do you use to uplift yourself again? Bradley : One thing that I have actually tried to do is to avoid some of the major media markets. Because, it is very depressing. I stopped reading Yahoo news and I try and surround myself with positive things. In fact the other day Carol had mentioned to me about what happened in Kenya. I was like I have no idea. She told me the story. The whole idea that ... the belief that I want to have is that there is goodness in everybody. And then you see some of the horrendous things that happen, and I just wonder, ok, there is goodness in these people, but where is it ? What has happened to people that .. you are brought into the world with a beautiful act of kindness. And then somewhere along the lines you get filled with hate. Where is it that we are going wrong? What is happening? So what I try to do is divorce myself from that a little bit. Ignorance is bliss. Some times I try to find someone to talk to about it. Is there any reason that could be made out of this? What good is going to come out of this? And then a lot times I'll just ... ok , it's time to listen to Empty Hands again. I am going to bury myself in this music and listen to this. And then I go out and do an act of kindness and try and get back to that space that I want to be in. Because that makes me feel much better
Nicole : I am noticing a pattern that you speak of and I have heard other people speak of too. Sometimes when you face the negativity, your body, or your mind want to be protected or close of and turn of. What I heard you say is that instead of doing that you choose kindness. You choose to be open. It actually is a conscious choice. Bradley: I must say, I don't always succeed. There are many, many times that I fail. I just reflect on that and I try and learn from it. Nicole : You still are in that conversation with yourself. You are really choosing to be in that conversation. It really resonates with me that instead of reacting and turning in , you choose to turn outwards.
D: What inspired me so much Bradley... it's like a before and after story to me. You started this only 2 years ago. What a journey! What a message! Bradley, what is the shift that you are seeing in yourself? How do you see yourself now compared to 2 years ago when you embarked on this special journey.
B: I feel much more calm within myself. I usually get angry a lot faster. I would come to anger. I don't feel that as much. I just feel inner peace that things are going to be ok regardless of what happens. We are where we are supposed to be or I am where I am supposed to me at any given time. I am not really afraid. Not that I am in a hurry to die at all. May be it would be different if I were in that position. But I don't fear death as much I used to before. I am letting go of a lot of things that I used to be attached to. Lot of material goods. I don't have the wants that I had before. For me it is kind of freeing. And for others it is hard to accept. Again I am not trying to change anyone else per se and say that this is how you should be or you shouldn't have this or you shouldn't do this. It's just that I don't want that. We all just respect what the other wants. Deven: Facing fear and letting things go and controlling anger, I wish I heard you few years ago.
Your reply Bradley, connected me with one response we had on a Kindspring call that we had a few months ago. Birju, one of our volunteers, brought a very powerful perspective to kindness. Based on reading and research and work he has been doing, he says that our emotional region of the brain, the Amygdala is wired to fight or flight response. It is wired to react to fear. And when we start the act of kindness and when we pay attention to our thoughts, it is actually rewiring our emotional brain in completely different way. That is so powerful. That is liberating actually that you are able to control and channel that tremendous energy in a positive way. Nicole : I would love to hear a story of your time in Karmakitchen or one of your story in the top ten list. Bradley : I will tell another story that had to do with fear and put me in a different place. I was in San Jose one evening. My daughter had a dance that she had to go to. So it was around 8.30 -9 pm . I brought my jacket with me . There was a man on the street and it was kind of chilly. He looked about my size. I asked him, ,"Would you like a jacket ?" He said, "I don't have any money to pay for it."
I said, " No. it's a gift." I took it off and gave him my jacket. I went down with the intention of giving it away and I was just glad that I could. It was a beautiful interaction.
After that, I am walking and someone says something to me behind me. May be I didn't hear them and they thought I was ignoring them. I don't know. Then they yelled at me. I could hear them now and I am not going to say what they said. They threw out a few not so nice words at me. I turned around and I saw a young man, may be in his mid to early 20's. May be he had a little bit to drink, or may be he was on drugs. He certainly wasn't in a good place. And at that instant, I mean there was fear within me. I just went from this place of beautiful positive interaction and now being confronted with this. I didn't know what to do. Kindness was no longer on my mind. I just kept walking. Started walking a little faster. And then he started running after me. I said now ok, this can't possibly end well. And he was still yelling. I just told him, "Look, I wasn't looking for any trouble." Anyways, he finally stopped and I kept walking and I was kind of shaking. I couldn't help but think what I could have done differently to may be help him out. I don't know what caused any of the interaction quite honestly. Because, may be he said something or he thought I was ignoring him, when in fact I just didn't hear him. Or may be it was something completely different.
For all I know, he saw me give the jacket to the guy and he got mad that I didn't give it to him. I don't know. In hind sight, I should have stopped and met him with kindness and compassion. I was telling people this and they are like "No, you did the right thing. You got out of there." It certainly was safer thing, I guess. I kept thinking, what would Pancho do? Pancho would have stopped right there and held space with him. I thought I am not quite there yet. That is certainly one of the instances where the fear took over. I think that's part of the problem with what happens. Most of what we do, we act out of fear not out of a place of trust. Question is how do we get there? How do we get to trust, respect and kindness? It is a journey
Nicole : Thank you for sharing that story. That was beautifully expressed. Just how much shows up in every day. You went from one space to another space. It just resonates with me and I know it resonates with so many people. In the face of that, you don't stop. You continue to have that conversation with yourself. It sounds like, you seek to get to a point where you can have more kindness in the face of that fear, even personal fear. That is the next steps for you. But you just don't stop, because you went through a scary situation. Right? This is just a beautiful call. Bradley, thank you for sharing your stories and your life with us so openly. I know there will be many, many ripples that come from this.
I also want to thank Deven and the whole team that is making this call happen. As well as all the callers.
Deven : Thank You Nicole
Bradley I wanted to ask you, on behalf of service space volunteers, is there a way we can help you in this incredible journey that you are pursuing ?
Bradley: I get so much support right now from Audrey offering up to whole circles. In the near future what I would really love to see happen is, Servicespace coming to our school. Everyone in Servicespace right now does incredible things. For me it is about three things. Respect, trust and kindness. The three are not unrelated from one another. Everyone in Servicespace is already there. So I just say go out and dedicate an act of kindness.
Deven : What a thought ! Thank You Bradley!
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