Rochester woman Danielle Teal says kindness has changed her life and impacts her every decision. She believes that kindness is an underrated tool to motivate community change. Fueled by this passion, Teal founded the initiative Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere (CAKE) to publicly share local acts of kindness to normalize the behavior and to inspire acts of kindness on a larger level.
CAKE is a volunteer group in the community that utilizes social media “to motivate change and influence people to carry out acts of kindness,” Teal explained.
Some individuals strongly believe that acts of kindness should remain anonymous, which Teal says, CAKE supports. She hopes, however, that CAKE is changing any negative connotations associated with sharing acts of kindness publicly. Teal says studies demonstrate that both recipients and witnesses of public acts of kindness are inspired by that act, enough to often perform an act of kindness themselves.
“Our goal is to share public acts of kindness to create opportunities for people to do it collectively as a group in mass quantities and to really motivate and inspire change in the community to normalize kindness,” she said.
Acts of kindness don’t necessarily have to be big. They can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, volunteering, or just offering a stranger a genuine smile.
Kindness, Teal explained, also involves giving people grace and the space and forgiveness they need to navigate their feelings and experiences. This doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, she explained. However, Teal says we are all human and perfection does not exist.
While operating CAKE takes a large amount of effort, Teal’s driven by “the impact and the results from the recipients and watching a kindness initiative continue. It truly is a ripple effect and you can see it.” As a mom of two, she wants her daughters to be positive individuals who promote kindness.
“[Kindness] has changed the way I parent. It has changed the way I interact in a work environment. It’s changed me in the community. I am not perfect by any means,” Teal said. “I am absolutely not perfect. But I try to do my best every single day.”
Inspiring acts of kindness in others, however, does sometimes have hurdles. At times, when a call to action for a kindness initiative is shared there’s a large outpouring of support. Such is the case in the fall when seeking volunteers to pack Thanksgiving meals. However, Teal said, sometimes kindness is not seen as a viable option to resolve an issue or bring about change. She sees this gap particularly in leadership and teamwork.
Kindness and compassion, Teal said, are surprisingly effective tools to increase productivity and to influence team dynamics.
Kindness, she explained, promotes long term change.
“It makes people feel valued and it increases the bridge of connection to understanding. It cultivates a culture that makes people want to be a part of and that’s what makes things continue to be enhanced, to get better,” Teal explained.
Kindness, she said, matters.
“It’s not that [CAKE] is looking for the gratitude and it’s not that we are looking for the ‘thank you’s. It truly is the group and myself. We are not looking for anything in return,” Teal explained. “But when you see the impact that [kindness] really changes someone else’s day and it impacts them in a positive way and you know that it’s an enhancement in their life, that’s why it matters.”