A friend of mine was feeling down in the dumps last semester, both from his mind-numbing job and too many general classes. Everything he did was self-serving, and he was becoming a stagnant pool of himself. One day on the way home from school, he drove gloomily past a massive grocery store parking lot, and watched as a healthy woman on her cell phone unloaded her Diet Coke into the rear of her SUV, looked back and forth from behind her windshield-sized sunglasses, then coolly shoved the shopping cart away into oblivion.
He couldn't believe it. Twenty yards away from her car was the metal cart depository. Thirty yards away was the entrance to the store. He swerved maniacally into the lot and parked noisily as the woman puttered distractedly off. His door flew open, and he seized the cart, steering it into the correct place with vigor.
He looked around and noticed at least twenty shopping carts strewn helter-skelter amongst the vehicles. This was the product of a self-centered society, and embarrassment overcame him. He got back into his car, sat, thought for a moment, then hopped back out. Deftly moving around the parking lot, he steered each cart back to its home. After about fifteen minutes, he paused next to his car and admired the uncluttered parking lot, sweating contentedly.
Pretty soon, he started noticing other missing squares in the quilt of common decency, and he stopped to patch them up. Another funny thing happened: the holes in his own self were being filled every time he stopped to make something better. One day, he walked behind a wall of bushes bordering a building on campus, and picked up every piece of trash. It took him more than one go, but between his classes, he managed to get all of it done.
No one noticed, of course, but that was part of what made it feel so good. He would swoop down onto a needy scene, like a jolly ninja, and poof away with a HI-YAH! and a flash of smoke, leaving the area clean and beautiful. And not only were these acts therapeutic, they genuinely made the world better. In fact, these little acts of service became so common, he began to plan them. Every day, he would pick out a half hour and write down "Ninja Service" in his planner.
So, Grasshopper, it is time to learn the ways of the Service Ninja. The rules are simple. First, like the true ninja, you must stay invisible. Second, any small act is great, but the bigger the service, the bigger the impact. And finally, make sure you're not doing something unwanted ("Hey! You there! Stop pruning my prize azaleas!").
Here are a few other ideas:
1. Walk into a restaurant, point out a random family, and pay for their meal anonymously.
2. Read twenty different blogs you normally wouldn't care about and leave positive comments on all of them.
3. Find a street and de-litter the whole thing.
4. Smile at each person you walk past on campus for a day.
5. Hold an international summit standardizing terms for nuclear disarmament and AIDS prevention worldwide.
6. Sit outside a busy building on campus as class gets out and hold the door open until everyone is settled.
Now, these are just a few ideas, and they may not all be within your reach, unless you are Oprah. But the thing is, some of them are. So, what are you waiting for? Ninja...attack! HI-YAH!