From Darkness to Kindness
A Bit About Audrey
Kindness can come from the dark places. For Audrey, kindness took over when her life exploded. She and her husband owned a general contracting business and had bought their house in the heyday. Everything was perfect. Then the market for contractors crashed as building and renovating homes dropped to the bottom of everyone’s priority list. “We couldn’t afford our mortgage anymore. It was just the worst case scenario,” Audrey says. “We had to short sell the home that we had lived in for ten years.”
On top of losing their home and struggling to keep their business afloat, tragedy struck. “At the same time, my father was diagnosed with terminal brain and lung cancer. And then, just to add insult to injury, my dog died,” says Audrey. “And I got really, really sad, just beyond sad.”
When you’re in a deep, dark place, Audrey believes you can either go deeper into the darkness, or you can refuse and bring yourself back to the light. “I had had enough,” she says. “You have to make the choice, and that’s what we try to do now.” She gathered her three children up, took them to the waterfront in Alexandria, Virginia, and started handing out free wishes to people. They brought pennies to throw into the fountain, crafted wish feathers in little baggies, and handed out cards that said ‘wish on a star.’ It hurt her feelings how many people thought she was trying to sell them something or had a hidden ulterior motive, but that annoyance and hurt motivated her even more. Being kind to people made her feel good.
How Galya Got Involved
Galya and Audrey had been neighbors before Audrey had to move. They’d known each other for many years, but had lost contact after the move. Galya and her husband, Todor, own a business in web app design and development, and her husband was having a meeting in the house. Wanting to escape, Galya headed out to a coffee shop that she’d never been to before. She saw Audrey enter the shop, go to the counter, and buy herself a cup of coffee, and she heard Audrey put $20 towards paying for other people’s coffees.
It wasn’t Galya’s first experience with Audrey’s kindness. “What’s really awesome about Audrey and what I really like is she inspires people by telling her story on social media,” says Galya. “She was very real about everything that was going on in her life.” Galya had seen Audrey posting about her acts of kindness on social media as well. “She’s doing all these really great things to find a purpose, to be proactive, and to really turn all the negativity into something positive,” she says.
She flagged Audrey down and the women sat together until Todor showed up. After catching up with her and hearing about her kindness initiative, they knew they had to help. Within a week, they had built her a website and taught her how to update and handle it. “I think when you are proactive, when you want to do good, things just kind of align your way,” says Galya. “I think it was meant to be.”
Happy Orange Project
The backbone of Happy Orange Project is like-minded people coming together with a vision. “We spread simple acts of kindness within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” says Galya.
Recently, they attended a fundraising event at MGM National Harbor for Chance for Life. They have icebreaking activities to get people networking. One such activity is the Kindness Wheel, which Todor built. It has about eight sections, with each section containing an act of kindness that you have to do right then and there. Perhaps it’s to take a drink to someone you don’t know, or to give a kindness card to a new person.
Going into companies and getting HR on board is a great area. Jobs aren’t always fun, but if your coworkers feel a bit like family, it can become enjoyable. “The majority of our time during the week is spent there, so why not create a place where everybody flourishes?” Galya says. “Then the business flourishes as well.”
Schools are another great place for kindness. Kids are so anxious, and it may have a lot to do with marketing and media. In Audrey’s house, they don’t typically turn on the news in the morning, but when she recently turned the TV on to check the weather, there was news of a shooting. “Why does it have to be 7:05 and my poor little eight-year-old, that’s the first thing that is blasted in his face?” Audrey says. “It’s unnecessary.” Children can also be very harsh with each other. Happy Orange Project has begun working with the Girl Scouts and are hoping to get into pep rallies to teach children of all ages the importance of being kind.
The Baby Beanie Project
One recent project that made a huge impact was the Baby Beanie Project. Audrey found out through a friend on social media that a hospital needed beanies to keep babies’ heads warm, especially babies in the NICU. Audrey and Galya hoped to gather 100 beanies in six weeks’ time. They gathered nearly 400.
In addition to keeping 400 tiny heads warm, they also helped a senior living facility for the memory-impaired at the same time. They went to the facility and asked if any of the women there who enjoyed knitting or crocheting wanted to craft baby beanies. Not only did the women like knitting and crocheting, they had their very own yarn club in the facility. By the time the beanie drive was over, the memory-impaired women could remember the campaign from week to week, and they alone crafted over 100 baby beanies. “We were able to make a huge impact and get so many people to contribute, and it was so inspiring,” Galya says.
Happy Orange Project also recently held a Friendsgiving with No Kid Hungry and raised $2,686, over $1,000 of which was in a single night.
People think they have to do big things to make big change. They’re wrong. “It doesn’t have to be these major, huge, life-changing things,” Audrey says. “It’s simple.”
Something as simple as recognizing a cashier’s name and thanking them in the grocery store can make their day. “Just be kind,” says Galya.
Find Happy Orange Project on their website. “Go to our website, sign up for our newsletter to keep involved, and sign up for initiatives,” says Audrey.