[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="209" caption="Not this kind of guerilla."][/caption]
I have become enamored by the concept of guerrilla movements. The Princeton Dictionary defines a guerrilla as "a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment." Typically, the term guerrilla refers to warfare. People who fight with guns and bombs to inspire fear and terror in the enemy. I prefer a broader interpretation of the definition, where any tool or medium might be used to inspire any emotion.
During February 2010, the Washington DC area experienced what came to be known as "The Snowpocolypse." Almost 4 feet of snow over the course of a weekend paralyzed most of the area. Events like this are stressful and dreaded by most adults, but to an equal intensity excite kids and teenagers everywhere because it means two things: 1) No school, and 2) snow shovels come out and it's time to make some money.
This has become a normal part of life, and no one is really opposed to kids making a bit of money by doing some hard physical labor. But my friends and I had another idea. We adopted a guerrilla shoveling strategy: We'd pick a house (often one we knew had older residents), swarm up, shovel the driveway (because there were six of us, we'd clear a driveway in 2 or 3
minutes), and then we'd quickly evacuate out of sight. We wouldn't knock on the door, we wouldn't charge them or even tell them who shoveled their driveway. We did this throughout the neighborhood (We got caught only once. It took us 5 minutes to convince her we really weren't looking for money. At this point, she came out and gave us apples and ginger ale. We decided this was a valid payment and graciously accepted it). I found out later that we apparently hit the editor of the community newsletter. She saw us running away, saw what we had done, and was inspired to write a whole article called "Snow Angels." An excerpt from the article she wrote:
"I was left with much more than a cleared driveway. More importantly, I was left...
...with a greater faith in the character of the upcoming generation,
...with a hope, that the example of their kindness be recognized and spread,
...and with a sense of charity, that we all recognize the generosity of others and continue to pay forward the good will which we are blessed."
Since then, I've become interested in this concept of anonymity - doing good not only without expecting to be thanked, but by making it impossible to be personally thanked (or at least very difficult). During a conversation last night with Jesse Danger, I was hit with an idea. I call it "Guerrilla Compliments."
I took a pad of Post-it notes and wrote a short, positive message on each. Some were cliche sounding
mood-boosters (The world is beautiful, and you are too), some were positive suggestions (Dreams are not just for when you are asleep), and others were calls-to-action (Make moves, not excuses). I wrote about 15 unique messages, stuffed them in my pocket, and went to campus for the day.
I've used about half of the notes I wrote so far. A few places that I've put Post-it notes today: Snuck one into a girl's open backpack. On a janitor's floor scrubbing machine. The 5th tray from the top of the stack of food trays in the dining hall. Each time, I take a picture of the post it note (on the target if possible, although most times I take the picture earlier so I can decide on a target at the last second), and then post it to Twitter through Twitpic with a description of where I just put it. I'm tagging each post with the hashtag #guerrillacompliments.
I hope that people are surprised when they find a yellow Post-it note somewhere they weren't expecting. And I am hoping that this surprise will encourage them to read, consider, and really embrace what is written on it. Maybe they will just throw the note away without reading it. But maybe one of these will brighten someone's day. Maybe it will inspire them to engage in their own spontaneous act of kindness. Maybe the encouraging Post-it notes telling people that "The only difference between dreams and reality is action" will cause someone to stop hesitating and take some action to change their lives. So many people go days, weeks, or months without a single positive or encouraging word said to them.
Lets change that.
Guerrilla soldiers fight a stronger force by sabotage and harassment. Lets be guerrilla soldiers, waging a war against unhappiness, with Post-its and pens as our weapons. If you want to join my war, I welcome you to show support by posting your own attacks on unhappiness to Twitter with the hashtag #guerrillacompliments. Don't have a Twitter? Then don't worry about it. The important goal here is to get out, and do good.
I'm going to inspire hope and joy where ever I strike. And I will strike every day. Will you?