One Good Deed

We’ve been following One Good Deed, the blog of writer Erin McHugh as she chronicles the year she’s spending doing one good deed a day. Erin's blog has had all of us at thinking what we good deeds we could work into our lives daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. Since Erin’s now a pro at good deeds (and soon will have a book out based on her year of living "goodly"), we asked her to give us some hints on how parents and kids could get involved in her good deed movement and where she comes up with her ideas for daily deeds. Where did the idea for "One Good Deed" come from and what led you to start writing down your deeds/experiences?

Erin McHugh: One of the reasons was that I had spent many years as a political activist, and when I started my writing career, which meant working at night (after working all day), I found I just wasn't giving back enough. When i came up with the One Good Deed project, I knew it would help me get back on track…and of course, I hoped It would inspire other people to do the same. Since you are now a "One Good Deed" pro, can you give our parents some advice for how they can get their kids involved in "paying it forward?"

Erin McHugh: Well, I certainly think the best advice is setting the right example, and it's certainly the way I was brought up. Even as a kid, my mom would always say yes to door-to-door fundraising drives like the March of Dimes, the Jimmy Fund, and the like. And then she'd walk the route with me, while I actually rang the bell and did the ask. Believe me, i dragged my feet! But as a grownup, this became one of the most successful parts of my life: i turned out to be a great fundraiser. I've even hosted an event that raised over $1,000,000 — with the President of the United States as the guest of honor. A pretty big step up from Rotch Street in New Bedford! Have any of your deeds involved working with children (either along side of them or doing a deed to support them)?

Erin McHugh: You bet! I think my favorite was doing a personal Girl Scout cookie drive with a little girl named Ruby. It's her first year as a Brownie; I was a Scout right through high school, and I wanted her to get off to a good start — and get a merit badge! What's the biggest deed you've done thus far and what's the smallest?

Erin McHugh: I try to keep the Good Deeds fairly small, so that others reading my blog or upcoming book won't feel overwhelmed. But every once in a while I like to throw in a bit of a challenge, just to keep readers on the ball! One Saturday I spent the whole day at a public school, painting murals in the schoolyard. It wasn't something expensive, or particularly difficult, but it meant giving up an entire day off, and I wanted folks to see that wasn't really asking a lot.

The smallest was probably complimenting a woman on the bus on a sweater she was wearing. It was clear she'd waited all day for someone to notice, and it got one of the biggest responses from my blog readers. It's something everybody can do — even kids! Has this experience changed the way you see people and/or view the world? Has it changed you?

Erin McHugh: Here's what I find most revealing: everybody is thrilled and often a little stunned when you step into their lives for a moment and add something. And I swear it opens their eyes — at least for today — to do the same.

It continues to change me, because every Good Deed makes me feel proud that I'm putting myself out there, even in the tiniest of ways. It's like volunteerism's Dirty Little Secret: you always get more out of what you do than the organization you're working for! How/where do you find and decided which deeds to do?

Erin McHugh: Actually, it's become a little like working out, or training for something. When I'm getting ready for the day now, I find myself wondering if any upcoming event will present a chance to do a good deed. And believe it or not, it has moved to the front of my mind more and more: I'm always sort of subconsciously keeping my eyes open for the next Good Deed on the horizon!

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