Here is what happens when you choose pizza over politics

To: America

From: Ricky Smith (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear America,

There are eight billion people in this world with all different politics, perspectives and opinions, leading to conflict, debate and at times, even violence.

Ricky promotes acts of kindness.

But if all eight billion people woke up and said, “You know what, once a month I will do one act of kindness,” – that would change the status of the world.

Six years ago I learned the true power of kindness. Down on my luck, I was living in Los Angeles and newly divorced. With only 20 bucks to my name, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

I thought to myself, “I am screwed. I should just tell my parents I am going to go home to Cleveland, get a nine-to-five job, grind and figure my life out.”

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Then, as a kind of screw you to the universe, I took the last 20 bucks I had and bought pizza for homeless people. As down as I was, we all gathered together, laughing and telling jokes over slices of pizza. I didn’t discuss the struggles in their lives nor did I reveal mine. Instead, with a little cheese, tomato sauce and a few new friends my whole mood change.

With their permission, I posted our pizza party on my social media. Within three hours, people in other cities began to get pizza for the homeless in their neighborhoods.

I was like, “Wow! That’s interesting.”[

If all eight billion people woke up and said, “You know what, once a month I will do one act of kindness,” – that would change the status of the world.

A couple of days later I thought how cool it would be if I traveled across the country with nothing but a cell phone and an ID, showing myself and others that you can impact society, change lives and bring kindness to others without needing much at all.

This woman said she hadn’t been kissed since her husband died in 2007. Ricky came to the rescue.

That concept evolved into the non-profit, RAKE, which stands for Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere. So far, we have gone on nine RAKE tours. Once a year we travel to 50 cities in 30 days, committing acts of kindness.

We hosted a senior prom at a senior citizen’s home with a DJ. Jokingly, we checked IDs at the door to make sure everyone was at least 21. Initially, we just wanted to have some fun but many of the senior citizens became very emotional because some rarely get visitors. The opportunity to dress up and dance the night away was a memorable and joyful experience in their lives.

Another time, I did a reverse birthday party at a Ronald McDonald House, a place that helps children battling illnesses. So, instead of receiving gifts for my birthday, I bought gifts and a cake for kids at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland.

Also, I started calling one friend a day to check up on them. I have learned that everybody is going through something. Often when I call, people will tell me how I reached out right on time because they were going through this or that.

Ricky uses humor as he spreads kindness.

I also try to practice kindness throughout my daily routine. It’s sometimes small and simple gestures: giving an umbrella to someone in the rain or buying a cup of coffee for the person next to me in line.

Throughout all my interactions, I try to make people laugh as much as possible. I’ve always been witty and funny. My purpose is not served if I don’t use comedy and humor to make people smile.

However, my mission is bigger than the jokes I tell and the acts of kindness I commit. I didn’t start RAKE to help people. I started RAKE to motivate and inspire people to want to help others.

I didn’t start RAKE to help people. I started RAKE to motivate and inspire people to want to help others.

That mission may have never been more effective than it was with a man I met in Cincinnati. I was popping in on a kid with cancer and a representative from the Ronald McDonald House asked if an adult named Revere, who was battling cancer, could come along. Of course, I agreed. That day we all had some fun with whoopie cushions and Revere particularly loved it. He and I hit it off right away and became friends.

Ricky smiles with his friend Revere.

Revere battled aggressive cancer, seeking uncomfortable treatments to save his life. Despite his illness, he was inspired to become an active part of the RAKE movement, consistently showing kindness to others.

He would text me a message like, “Bro, I’m feeling like crap but I’m going to go out and pay for somebody’s lunch or I’m going to go to a Ronald McDonald House and hang out with kids with cancer.”

His family told me RAKE probably added years to his life because it gave him a purpose. When he passed, his loved ones asked me to speak at his funeral. That’s the depth of the impact RAKE had on Revere.

And that’s the type of impact I am hoping RAKE can have on our society.

Ricky often spends time at Ronald McDonald Houses

In life, there is so much hustle and bustle, thinking about what we are going to eat, what we are going to wear or how we are going to pay our bills. We have stressors related to our health, our family or our finances. Then, many of us spend a lot of energy arguing about politics and perspectives. I want all of you to put all that aside and relax, take a breath and simply be more kind. When you do take the time to be kind, embrace the moment. Use it as a point of reflection.

I’m not a saint. I have vices. We are all imperfect people but what I have learned through RAKE is that no matter who you are or what challenge you are facing, you can still find a way to help somebody else. In the process, kindness will not only change the world, but it will also change your life.

Join the movement and be kind,

Ricky Smith
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