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Matt Beem
President, Kinetic Companies, Inc.

Good deeds are often contagious

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

It’s fun catching people doing good things.

I fingered Joe, our 12-year-old, two weeks ago. He and Maggie, 10, had just returned from church camp and were abuzz with optimism about the difference they could make in the world.

As I turned onto our block, I noticed Joe walking down the side street. Something about the snapshot struck me, so I stopped, put the car in reverse and backed up to take a second look.

There he was, picking up newspapers and throwing them onto porches. One house after another. This was more than a random occurrence; there was intentionality in Joe’s good deed.

We exchanged waves, and he continued down the street. I drove on home, not wanting to squelch his Robin Hooding by making too big a deal of it. Later that evening, I asked Joe about his newspaper shuttling project.

“They told us at camp to try to do one good thing every day,” he said. “They said that if each person does something small that’s good, it will make a big difference.” So, he said, he’d decided to take advantage of the walk to a buddy’s house to check that day’s Good Samaritan task off his list.

I’ve explored in recent columns the importance of giving money to good causes. Of equal importance are the things we do each day that make a difference to those around us.

We can all do the math:

n If one person does one good thing each day of the year, they’ll do 365 good deeds.

n If each person in a family of four does a good turn every day, they’ll do 1,460 good deeds annually.

n If there are 15 homes on a block with an average of three people living in each of them, 16,425 good deeds are possible over the course of a year.

Maggie, our 10-year-old, has always had a heart for the less fortunate. She loves animals and says she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. To fuel her passion, she eagerly awaits the opportunity each summer to attend day camp at the zoo, appropriately dubbed Zoo School at the Kansas City Zoo.

This summer, Maggie attended zoo camp at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. She was spending the week with a friend who moved to Omaha several years ago, and they decided zoo camp would be a fun place to spend their days together.

Maggie returned home with a mission: To save polar bears. Without regard for whether her neighbors knew about their vulnerabilities, she decorated a collection box and went from door to door on the block collecting money.

To date, she’s raised nearly $20. Maggie has plans to expand her collection radius and says she’ll take the collection box to church and other places she goes this summer.

During breakfast recently, Tom, our 5-year-old, asked why our neighbor across the street always puts our newspaper on our front porch when he walks his dog in the morning. I said I wasn’t sure.

“Bob’s a nice man,” I said. “He’s done it since your mom and I bought the house 14 years ago.”

Then it struck me; Tom’s question had sparked one of my own. I asked Joe, who was across the kitchen table, why he’d decided to throw newspapers onto people’s porches after returning from church camp.

“I don’t know,” he said. “They told us to do something good every day, and Mr. Buckley always puts our paper on our porch, so that’s what I decided to do.”

Another one caught in the act.

Matt Beem is president of Kinetic Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.

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